Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr. head ‘Up, Up and Away’ to Palace Theatre
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. are marking more than 50 years of making beautiful music together, from their days as founding members of the popular band Fifth Dimension through their ongoing career as a duo.
They also are celebrating 50 years of marriage, having tied the knot on July 26, 1969.
“We always talk about friendship. You’ve got to enjoy each other’s company,” McCoo says. “We enjoy each other’s old crazy jokes,” Davis adds.
“You have to like your partner. When you run into those challenges, and we all do, you have to want to make things work out,” his wife says.
Playing together, staying together
The couple will bring their concert tour to Greensburg’s The Palace Theatre on Aug. 16.
As part of the Fifth Dimension, McCoo, 75, and Davis, 81, gave the world of pop music songs including “Up, Up and Away,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Worst That Could Happen,” “Wedding Bell Blues” and “One Less Bell to Answer.”
After leaving the group in 1975, they achieved success as a duo with the number one Billboard hit “You Don’t Have to be a Star (to Be in My Show).” The song earned the couple a Grammy, and they enjoyed a CBS television series with “The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. Show.” In addition, Davis performed gospel music and McCoo hosted television’s “Solid Gold.”
Over the years, their music has earned the couple seven Grammy awards and 15 gold and three platinum records.
Getting to ‘together’
“When I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a singer — well, I knew I could sing. When I was about 5 years old, in kindergarten, I was singing with a high voice. I loved it. In my ears, I was making these pretty sounds,” Davis says, laughing.
By high school, he was enjoying the feedback from singing with groups in his native St. Louis.
“I started to feel like this is something I love, and it’s my passion,” he says.
McCoo grew up in New Jersey with a physician father who had a musical background of his own.
“Before medical school, he and a couple of fellows called themselves The Jones Boys. They performed with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra,” she says. Her father, she says, loved “group singing.”
“When I was a little girl, my mother, sisters and father would gather around the piano and learn church music. I was the youngest, so they gave me the melodies to sing,” McCoo says.
Looking for a record deal, Davis arrived in Los Angeles in the 1960s. “My grandfather said, ‘Junior, if you really want to have a career in music, you have to go where the music is,’” Davis recalls.
He soon met McCoo, whose family had moved to the West Coast when she was a child. He, McCoo and a friend they had in common, LaMonte McLemore, all became part of the Fifth Dimension.
“The Fifth Dimension had a lot of success. Then music started changing. … We couldn’t agree on where we wanted to go,” McCoo says.
The two anticipated solo careers, but changed their minds after marrying.
“We thought, if we do that, I could be on the East Coast, he could be on the West Coast. Our marriage could suffer,” McCoo says.
Instead, they recorded “You Don’t Have to be a Star,” and have been performing and recording ever since. The two are pleased to find an audience for music from the “peace and love” era. “It’s interesting how things come around and go around. … Do we ever need some peace and love and togetherness,” McCoo says.
Still starring in their show
In between tour dates, the California couple continues to record.
“We have been in the studio, working on a project. We do have something ‘under wraps’ coming out,” Davis says.
Fans may get a taste of some new music on this concert tour.
The majority of audiences are fans who grew up listening to their music, they say.
“We always feel like people want to hear the hits they know us from, and we definitely do those,” McCoo says.
“We do still get younger people from time to time, and we are always delighted they are there,” she adds.
They sometimes do tributes to artists from their era, putting their own spin on the songs. “Songs we wish we had done,” Davis says.
“We think about retiring, but we haven’t gotten there yet,” Davis says. “Look at B.J. Thomas, Tony Bennett, Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, Judy Collins — a lot of people from our era are still out there,” McCoo adds.
“We have been blessed with our voices, our health, we are able to sing and hit our notes. It’s our passion. It’s why we keep on doing it,” Davis says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .