Born in Belhaven, North Carolina, she moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York at a young age. As a teenager, she worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd's individual dancing style, so they wrote "The Loco-Motion" for her and had her record it as a demo .
Music producer Don Kirshner of Dimension Records was impressed by the song and Boyd's voice and had it released. The song reached #1 in the United States in 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.