Former Golden Gloves boxer and gospel singer, Roy Hamilton's "Hurt" (Crane - Jacobs) hit the top ten on the R&B charts in 1954. According to Wikipedia his first R&B hit was "You'll Never Walk Alone" a copy of that was sold by a sailor to Gerry Marsden and he and the group The Pacemakers recorded it with much success.
Timi Yuro (Timotea Auro) had talent and vocal power at the tender age of 14. So much that the voice coach for Frankie Laine gave her free lessons. Grammy winner Timi Yuro's cover hit number four on Billboard's Top One Hundred and top forty R&B in 1961. Timi opened for Frank Sinatra on his 1962 Australian tour.