Vera began his singing career in 1962 as a member of the Resolutions. He went on to write several songs throughout the early 1960s, writing for the likes of Barbara Lewis, Fats Domino, The Shirelles and Ricky Nelson. He also wrote the garage band classic, "Don't Look Back," by the Remains.
In 1967 Vera penned a song entitled "Storybook Children" and brought it to Atlantic Records. The decision to place former gospel singer Judy Clay with Vera in a white-black duet to record the song was a commercial and artistic success and a subsequent album by Vera and Clay remains a highpoint for soul duet partnerships. He would have a solo hit later that same year with the Bobby Goldsboro penned "With Pen In Hand" which was also the name of his next album.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s Vera focused on songwriting including "I Really Got the Feeling" which was a number 1 hit for Dolly Parton. He also participated in several archival and music preservation projects, including fronting the band at the 1972 Reunion concert of Dion & the Belmonts.
Living in Los Angeles, and writing songs for Warner Brothers, Vera and his old friend, bass player Chuck Fiore decided to put together a band to play the local club scene. Modeling their band on 1950s Rock and roll bands, The Beaters were born. They featured a horn section, as well as a pedal steel guitar, along with drums, piano, Fiore's bass, and Vera's lead guitar and vocals. As a result of the buzz the band generated, Alfa Records offered them a recording contract. They recorded the band live, and in 1981 yielded the minor hit "I Can Take Care Of Myself", which reached #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., and "At This Moment" charted at #79, but this song would rechart several years later.
By 1982 Alfa Records was out of business, but Vera and the Beaters continued to play the clubs of Southern California. In 1985 a producer from the TV show Family Ties was in the audience to hear the band play "At This Moment". It was aired in the fall of 1985 as a backdrop for romantic interludes between characters Alex (Michael J. Fox) and Ellen (Tracy Pollan). Viewers responded by clamoring for the song, and in 1986 Rhino records re-released the recording on a 'Best of' record. The single was a number one hit and stayed on the charts for 15 weeks.
Before "At This Moment", Vera had a small career in movies and television including appearances in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and soap opera Days of Our Lives. "At This Moment" propelled his movie career as he and the Beaters were featured prominently in the Bruce Willis movie Blind Date. He would go on to star in a TV series, Wiseguy and would have several other roles on shows such as Baywatch, Boy Meets World, and Beverly Hills 90210. These roles would lead him into composing theme songs for TV shows, such as Empty Nest and King of Queens, as well as voice acting on Cartoon Network cartoons. He served as band leader on Rick Dees' short-lived late night talk show "Into the Night" on ABC in the early 1990s.
Currently the Beaters are still playing the California club scene, and Vera continues his work as a music historian. He has helped produce, archive, and write liner notes for over 200 reissue albums and sets, from artists such as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles, Louis Prima, and more.
Billy Vera also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.