Second Tenor, Baritone and Lead
Joseph Billingslea, Jr. was born in Hamtramck, Michigan on
November 14, 1937. Before his first birthday, his parents
moved to Detroit, where Joe grew up and attended school. He
sang with the boys' choir while attending Chadsey High School.
After graduation, Joe enlisted in the United States Air Force.
While stationed in Maine, Joe formed a vocal group with four
other airmen called the Revere Tone Five. (The name was taken
from the brand of tape recorder that they used for recording).
After receiving an honorable discharge following his four-year
stint, Joe returned to Detroit.
Upon his return, Joe was invited by an old high school friend,
Billy Gordon, to join his singing group, The Majestics. In
1958, the group disbanded, so Joe and Billy decided to form
a new vocal group. Joe placed a want-ad in the local newspaper
looking for singers. Billy Hoggs responded to the ad and became
the group's third member. At Hoggs' recommendation, his friend
Billy Rollins, became the fourth member of a group they named
The Blenders. Within weeks, Rollins was replaced
with another friend of Hoggs, Leroy Fair. In 1959, Hubert
Johnson was added, making the group a quintet. At Joe's suggestion,
the group renamed itself "THE CONTOURS."
Within days of the name change, THE CONTOURS signed a recording
contract with Motown Records. The group's first two records
in 1960 and 1961 on the Motown label didn't get much airplay
outside the Midwest. However, in 1962 the group made music
history with the million-seller, "Do You Love Me",
recorded on Motown's newest label, Gordy. Joe continued to
sing with THE CONTOURS for two more years, racking up a number
of chart hits on the way. In 1964, Joe (and every other member
except Billy Gordon) left the group over creative differences
Joe took a job for Chrysler Corporation at the Dodge Truck
Plant in Warren, Michigan. A year later, he was elected UAW
Chief Steward; a position he held until he resigned in 1968
to join the Wayne County Sheriff's Department. In 1977, he
put his years of law enforcement experience to work by joining
the Detroit Correctional Department (DeHoCo), eventually reaching
the rank of Sergeant.
In the early seventies, Joe reconstituted THE CONTOURS and
the group began playing weekends in the greater Detroit area,
with occasional dates outside Michigan, including a few international
dates. While leading The Contours, he continued to work his
day job and in November 1985 he was assigned to the Detroit
Police Department, 9th Floor Lockup.
In 1987, the release of the movie, "Dirty Dancing"
created an interest in THE CONTOURS' music from a new generation.
The 1988 re-release of "Do You Love Me" from the
movie's soundtrack soared on the charts, eventually going
multi-platinum at level 4.0. The movie's success prompted
the "Dirty Dancing Tour," originally scheduled to
be three months long. Joe took a leave of absence from the
Detroit Police Department to participate. However, the tour
became so popular that promoters expanded it to ten months.
THE CONTOURS traveled around the country, through Europe and
to Joe's favorite place on the tour, Australia.
In 1989, Joe decided to resign from the Detroit Police Department
to devote all of his time to THE CONTOURS and his singing
career. He continues to perform to this day. He is married
and has eight children - five boys and three girls.
Joe is grateful for his long musical career and he never
forgets those responsible for making him a successful entertainer.