Brooklyn, New York
Beverly Ross was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in New Jersey. She began to write songs while still a student, contributing to musical productions at her high school and winning competitions. She also began hanging around the Brill Building when she would visit a cousin in in the city, hoping for a chance to write professionally. Eventually, R&B songwriter Julius Dixon gave her a break and helped her to make her first connections in the business. Not yet out of high school in New Jersey, Ross would sometimes miss class on Fridays to be around during the week to pitch her songs.
She had her first charting single in 1955 with “Dim, Dim the Lights,” best known from the recording by Bill Haley and His Comets. Other major songs she wrote or co-wrote included “Lollipop” (the Chordettes, 1958), “The Girl of My Best Friend” (Elvis Presley, 1959), “Candy Man” (Roy Orbison, 1961), and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (Leslie Gore, 1963). Ross became a staff songwriter at Hill & Range and worked with other high-profile songwriters of the era, including Jeff Barry. While at Hill & Range, she met Phil Spector, and she writes in her memoir I Was the First Woman Phil Spector Killed that her interactions with Spector eventually led her to “[walk] out (on the greatest opportunity of my life) from something I’d been dreaming of happening.”
Ross also occasionally performed or recorded her own songs. She was half of the interracial duo “Ronald and Ruby” (with Lee Morris), which first recorded “Lollipop” in 1958. She also did a brief stint as a solo singer for Columbia Records, where she recorded “Stop Laughing at Me” and “Headlights”; she also appeared on American Bandstand to promote that single.
Ross may have retired from the New York scene quite young, but her songs from that time remain popular, frequently appearing in movie and television soundtracks—”Lollipop” alone has been heard everywhere from an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2007) to the animated film Chicken Little (2005). Ross divides her time between New York and Nashville and continues to work on a variety of projects in the entertainment industry.
[With Julius Dixon as] Ronald & Ruby, “Lollipop” / “Fickle Baby.” RCA Victor 47-7174 (1958).
Beverly Ross, “About,” Beverly Ross: Iconic Songwriter and Architect of Rock ’N Roll, https://web.archive.org/web/20190203234114/http://www.beverlyross.info/.
Beverly Ross, I Was the First Woman Phil Spector Killed! By the Girl who Wrote “Lollipop” (Beverly Ross LLC, 2013).
Interview with the author, 23 October 2018.