The unforgettable Billy Fury
As a tribute show heads to Lowestoft and Cromer Derek James remembers our own Elvis Presley – the talented Billy Fury who died three decades ago aged just 42.
I wonder if Billy Fury would still be singing his way into our hearts – if he had had a stronger heart? I like to think so. He was a great talent and one of the pioneers of British rock ‘n’ roll, A man who made a lot of people very happy and a man who had so much more to give.
Billy (Ronald William Wycherley from Liverpool) contracted rheumatic fever when he was a boy. This damaged his heart and contributed to his death at such an early age – but his music lives on. His name and his music is far from forgotten and now The Billy Fury Years’ 30th Anniversary Special is taking to the road and on some dates the renowned drummer Clem Cattini, who played with Billy, will be joining the show.
Described as “the best Fury since Fury” Michael King and his collection of talented musicians take you on a journey through the musical career of one of Britain’s best loved rock ‘n’ roll legends His raunchy stage act ruffled a few feathers in the England of the 1950s, but the kids loved rockin’ Billy and he had his first hit, Maybe Tomorrow, in 1959.
Appearances on television shows such as Oh Boy helped to make him famous, and the hits continued. He came to Great Yarmouth in 1962 and he returned a few years later to make a movie, I’ve Gotta A Horse which also featured The Bachelors. The hits continued during the 1960s but he had to have heart surgery and was eventually forced to stop touring. He remained popular after his hits stopped. People loved Billy.
In the 1970s he popped up in That’ll Be the Day, with David Essex and Ringo Starr, and went back on the road with Marty Wilde, but his health got worse and there was another heart operation. By the early 1980s he was making another comeback to promote a new album, but it all proved too much for him. His last public appearance was at Northampton in December, 1982.
After his death a track issued postumously called Forget Him became his last single chart hit. We will never forget Billy.
The Billy Fury Years 30th Anniverary Special will be playing at Lowestoft Marina on March 10 (01502 533200) and Cromer Pier Pavilion on April 5 (01263 512495).
The Eastern Evening News review of Billy Fury’s concert at the Norwood Rooms in Norwich in October, 1982 by reporter James Ruddy – three months before his death – makes for sad reading.
Former chart star Billy Fury gave everything on stage in Norwich last night…and it proved too much for him. Totally exhausted, the 41-year-old singer left the stage after completing 45 minutes of his scheduled 50-minute spot. More than 800 people had cheered the fair-headed Sixties idol, who has been suffering from heart disease, through a string of his favourites.
Leather-suited and noticably thin, he had turned up on his second stint of his comeback tour to promote new material, including his latest single Devil or Angel. But much of the audience at this special concert, sponsored on behalf of the Evening News X-ray 100 Appeal by Go Continental Travel, Norwich, had come for the nostalgia. They weren’t disappointed.
Fury concentrated on slow numbers like It’s Only Make Believe, I’ll Never Find Another You, Last Night Was Made For Love, and Ray Charles’ Unchain My Heart. It was a standard rocker, though, which finally sent him reaching for his jacket and heading for his dressing room. As streams of fans queued for autographs for over an hour, Fury told me: “I was drained, finished. It took me fully five minutes to recover. There are a lot of songs I would have loved to have done.
“But I guess Johnny B Good really finished me. It was always a toughie.” The man who describes himself as a “healthy wreck” admits he now looks only at six months ahead at a time. “I’m trying to cram in as much as I can…”
This review appeared on October 19, 1982. On January 28, 1983, Billy died.