Hyland was born in Woodhaven, Queens, New York City. He studied guitar and clarinet as a child, and sang in his church choir. When aged 14 he co-founded the harmony group the Delfis, which recorded a demo but failed to secure a recording contract. Hyland was eventually signed by Kapp Records as a solo artist, issuing his debut single, "Rosemary", in late 1959. The label employed the Brill Building songwriting duo of Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance to work with Hyland on the follow-up, "Four Little Heels (The Clickety Clack Song)", which was a minor hit, and the songwriting duo continued to work with Hyland.
Thus in August 1960, Hyland scored his first and biggest hit single at the age of 16, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini", written by Vance and Pockriss. It was a novelty song that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, (#8 in the UK) and sold almost a million copies in the first two months of its release, and over two million copies in total.
Hyland moved on to ABC-Paramount Records, where he began working with the songwriting and production team of Gary Geld and Peter Udell, and further hits followed with "Let Me Belong to You" and "I'll Never Stop Wanting You".
Hyland's other major hit during this period was 1962's "Sealed with a Kiss", which reached #3 in 1962 on both the American and UK Singles Chart. It stayed on the US pop chart for eleven weeks. In 1975, "Sealed With a Kiss" was reissued as a single in the UK and became a surprise #7 hit (the song, revived by Australian Jason Donovan, charted #1 in the UK in 1989). Another 1962 hit was "Ginny Come Lately", which reached #21 on the U.S. chart and #5 in the UK. Hyland's 1962 Top 30 hit "Warmed-Over Kisses (Leftover Love)" incorporated elements of country music into his work, which continued with singles including "I May Not Live to See Tomorrow" and "I'm Afraid to Go Home" and on the 1964 album Country Meets Folk. This approach was out of step with the changes brought about by British Invasion bands. Hyland's commercial success became limited, but he continued in that vein and had further hits with "The Joker Went Wild" and "Run, Run, Look and See", working with producer Snuff Garrett and session musicians including J. J. Cale and Leon Russell.
Hyland appeared on national television programs such as American Bandstand and The Jackie Gleason Show, and toured both internationally and around America with Dick Clark in the Caravan of Stars. The caravan was in Dallas, Texas on the day of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. To commemorate the event, Hyland wrote the song "Mail Order Gun", which he recorded and eventually released on his 1970 eponymous album.
From 1963 through 1969, Hyland scored several minor hits, but none reached higher than #20 ("The Joker Went Wild") on the U.S. pop chart. An album released in 1964 featured numbers that hearkened back to the 1950s including such hits as "Pledging My Love" and "Moments to Remember"—at a time when The Beatles were sweeping the pop music world with a very different style. Hyland afterward shifted into a phase of recording country music and folk rock styles. Songs such as "I'm Afraid To Go Home" and "Two Brothers" had an American Civil War theme. Hyland played harmonica on a few numbers.
Hyland attempted several departures from the norm, including the psychedelic single "Get the Message" (#91 on the U.S. pop chart), and "Holiday for Clowns" (#94), but despite their more contemporary arrangements, they failed to get much airplay. He went on to chart just two more Top 40 hits, "Gypsy Woman" written by Curtis Mayfield, and a cover of "Lonely Teardrops" in 1971. Hyland recorded them in 1970, and Del Shannon produced the tracks. "Gypsy Woman" reached #3 on the 1970 U.S. pop chart, making it the second-biggest hit of his career, selling over one million copies, and being certified gold by the RIAA in January 1971. Two of his previous hits, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" and "Sealed with a Kiss" were also awarded gold discs.
By 1977 Hyland and his family had settled in New Orleans, and in 1979 the In a State of Bayou album, on which he had worked with Allen Toussaint, was issued by the Private Stock label.
While recording three duets (modern versions of his hits) with Dutch singer Albert West in 1988, Hyland performed on TV shows in Germany, Belgium and a Dutch TV special in Aruba.
Today, Hyland continues to tour internationally with his son Bodi, who assists on drums from time to time.
From 1960 to 1977, Hyland recorded a total of eleven albums for several different record companies. A twelfth album, Young Years, was a reissue. They included Leader Records, ABC-Paramount Records, Philips Records, Dot Records and Uni Records. Over the years, these record labels were consolidated and the recordings are now controlled by Universal Music. Universal has yet to release a CD compilation that includes all of Hyland's charted singles, invariably omitting a handful of minor singles that made the Billboard Top 100 (or the Bubbling Under chart).1967 – Leader Records ("Itsy Bitsy...") owner Kapp Records sold to MCA, Inc. and becomes co-owned with Uni Records ("Gypsy Woman").
1974 – Dot Records ("Tragedy") sold to ABC Records ("Sealed with a Kiss")
1979 – MCA Records buys ABC Records
1998 – MCA parent Universal Music buys Philips Records ("The Joker Went Wild") owner PolyGram completing the catalog consolidation
1961 The Bashful Blonde
1962 Let Me Belong to You
1962 Sealed with a Kiss
1963 Country Meets Folk
1964 Here's to Our Love
1965 Rockin' Folk
1966 The Joker Went Wild
1967 Young Years (a reissue of Here's to Our Love)
1969 Stay and Love Me All Summer
1970 Brian Hyland
1977 In a State of Bayou
1987 Sealed with a Kiss
1994 Greatest Hits
2002 Blue Christmas
2007 Basic Lady
2009 Triple Threat Vol. 1
2010 Triple Threat Vol. 2
2010 Another Blue Christmas (EP)
2011 Triple Threat Vol. 3
Brian Hyland was a cousin (by marriage) of Louis Feinberg, aka "Larry Fine" of the Three Stooges.