Bill Isles, Co-Founder of Chart-Topping R&B Group 'The O'Jays', Dies at 78

Mary Scott
Apr 09, 2019
10:25 A.M.
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Bill Isles, a co-founder of the R&B chart-topping group “The O’Jays,” has died of cancer at the age of 78. Isles passed away on March 28.

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Born William Carvan Isles II, Bill passed on at his Oceanside, California home surrounded by family members, according to what his son, Duane Isles, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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In 1958, Bill found fame with “The Mascots,” a singing group he co-founded with childhood friends when they were in high school.

“Of all the thousands of congregants I’ve had the privilege of pastoring over the past three decades, Billy Isles was one of the most memorable."

By 1961 when they released their first single, the friends were known as “The Triumphs,” and two years later, the group took on the name by which they’re popularly known today.

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After their 1961 track, Bill went on to lend his trademark baritone to other “O’Jays” hits like “Lonely Drifter” in 1963 and “Lipstick Traces” in 1965.

Bill left the group soon after “Lipstick Traces” to start a family with his wife, Laural but, according to Duane, the late legend continued to work as a tour manager for “The O’Jays” from 1971 to 1974.

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Bill would later move to his latest Oceanside residence in the early ‘80s and establish a family business that he was devoted to until the mid-1990s. He finally retired from consultancy gigs around 2000 but continued to sing in the church choir.

Sean Mitchell, the senior pastor of New Venture Christian Fellowship where Bill sang in the choir, described him as “exceptional, not only with his voice but with his buoyancy on stage.”

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Sean added:

“Of all the thousands of congregants I’ve had the privilege of pastoring over the past three decades, Billy Isles was one of the most memorable, loving and consistently upbeat and talented individuals I have had the privilege of knowing. He was a lover of music and a lover of God, and he combined both of those on stage in extraordinary fashion.”

The funeral service for Bill held on April 6 at the New Venture Christian Fellowship, and he was laid to rest at Eternal Hills Memorial Park.

Bill is survived by his wife Laural, four sons, three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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