William Ballard Doggett was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother, a church pianist, introduced him to music when he was 9 years old. By the time he was 15, he had joined a Philadelphia area combo, playing local theaters and clubs while attending high school.
He later sold his band to Lucky Millinder, and worked during the 1930s and early 1940s for both Millinder and arranger Jimmy Mundy. In 1942 he was hired as The Ink Spots' pianist and arranger.
In 1949, he replaced Wild Bill Davis in Louis Jordan's Tympany Five. It was there that he first achieved success playing the Hammond organ and he is also reputed to have written one of Jordan's biggest hits, Saturday Night Fish Fry, for which Jordan claimed the writing credit.
In 1951, he organized his own trio and began recording for King Records. His best known recording is Honky Tonk, a rhythm and blues hit of 1956 which sold four million copies, and which he co-wrote with Billy Butler. He won the Cash Box award for best rhythm and blues performer in 1957, 1958, and 1959. He also arranged for many bandleaders and performers, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton. He continued to play and arrange until he died of a heart attack in New York City.
As a jazz player Doggett started in swing music and later played soul jazz, a field in which rhythm and blues organists were highly sought after.