Our

Billy

My Billy Fury Story


I was born in the summer of 1962 at the height of Billy Fury’s popularity. So it wasn’t for another 14 years that I would soon discover our very own home grown icon. When I was eight in 1970 I discovered the music of Elvis Presley when I first heard that voice I knew it was gonna be a lifelong adventure, The more I discovered about Elvis and his music the more I wanted to discover about his contempories. In 1976 I saw a picture that would have a lasting effect on my life…it was Elvis and a guy who looked similar yet different in his own way. It was in a fan club magazine The Elvis monthly. The photo was of Elvis and as I would soon discover Billy Fury. I Didn’t have a clue who he was yet I was drawn to the photo and on a mission to find out more. The article in the monthly was of course about the the famous meeting on the set of Elvis’s movie Girls, Girls, Girls, and where Billy saw Elvis record two songs… The UK Christmas No’ 1 of 1962 Return to Sender and the fantastic Because of Love that Billy Loved and what’s more couldn’t wait to get back to the UK to record it.

Discovering Billy

Billy Fury. I remember thinking at 14 years of age WOW what a cool name, who is this man? I did my research which was very minimal in those days, no internet, pop music channels etc, just good ol’ radio Luxembourg and my local record shop.

I couldn’t wait to visit and with my pocket money I had been saving up, I went along to find as much music as I could of Mr Fury. Bare in mind at this point I hadn’t even heard what he sounded like, did he sound like Elvis? I soon discovered absolutely not, this was another guy in a class of his own. As I looked through the albums in the store I reached F and searched through looking for anything Fury and there it was this great rock n roll face looking at me.


I could see not one but two albums staring at me as though to say, here I am buy me. The two albums I recall were Billy and a rather smaller album…The Sound of Fury. Unfortunately I only had enough for one album. Which one do I buy, oh no I thought which one?, I vaguely remember asking the guy behind the counter which one should I buy as I could only afford one, He was amused at the fact that I was buying a Billy album as I had told him I’ve never heard him sing plus the fact that it wasn’t Elvis as it was always Elvis he said. I told him the story about reading my Elvis monthly and reading all about Billy and I said he only comes from down the road I said.

I was in my hometown of Manchester, and Liverpool isn’t far away I said. I think he said he lives in London now or there about, but I don’t remember much more about the conversation, but I do remember I had enough money to buy The Sound of Fury and the latest Elvis single Suspicion a re-release from the early sixties but I had never heard it before. I told the guy in the record store id be back soon for the other Billy album. I rushed home and put the album on my record player that my parents had bought me the Christmas before. hoping it would play as It was smaller than all my Elvis albums. What happened next absolutely floored me. What the hell is that sound. I loved the echo effect of Billy’s voice and as we all now know and I later found out it was a take on getting the old Memphis Sun sound in the UK. At that time I didn’t even know what the sun sound was. As far as I knew the sun was in the sky and that was that lol. I absolutely loved it and believe me it didn’t take long to wear that album out. I still have it but I daren’t try to play it. I asked my parents about Billy and they told me how popular he was and all about his songs including Halfway to Paradise… er Halfway to where? There was so much I had to learn and I knew that I would learn one way or another.


Album Collecting

It took me another few weeks before I had enough money to buy the other album, I rushed back to the store and it was closed, oh no I remember thinking then realized it was lunch time. All stores closed for lunch back then. Im not sure what I did whether I went to the park of back home but I do remember going back later in the afternoon and yes it was open. I quickly rushed over to the album section and under F, oh no it wasn’t there, it’s gone, I looked through some other categories like B for Billy, but no the album wasn’t there. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder the guy who served me previously [unfortunately I can’t remember his name] smiled at me and said is this what your looking for? It was Billy, I couldn’t believe it. He had actually put it behind the counter for me, not only that but he had two singles the before mentioned Halfway to Paradise and I’d never find another you. I was a few new pence too short, it didn’t matter turned out the owner was a big Billy fan and he let me off, saying to know that someone my age just 14 in 1976 liked bloody good music.


The store was in my home town of Sale and changed hands a few times in the eighties before finally closing down, but what great memories I have of visiting that record shop to build up my ever growing Billy Fury record collection.

Still in 1976 I couldn’t believe how smooth Billy’s voice was on all four songs of these two singles and all 16 songs from ‘BILLY’ the album. and next album I purchased was the ‘We Want Billy’ album. To hear him sing live was fantastic and through the years I wanted more and I got it all.

Around 1978/79 I saw a TV advert for an album it was Billy singing his greatest hits, I couldn’t grasp at first that they were re-recordings for K-TEL Billy recorded these after striking a deal with the record company after going into bankruptcy. It was Great to see Billy on the TV. This was the first time for me, being born later and missing all those wonderful Oh Boy and ready steady go shows amongst others.


By now I was working and I could afford any Elvis or Billy Release I wanted. With my old record store being under new management in 79 and going more in the punk rock direction, I had to go to Stretford for the latest albums plus a great golden oldies section. Funny enough the record store was right opposite the Stretford Essoldo where Billy performed his first show outside his hometown of Liverpool. But at this point in time I didn’t have a clue, as far as I knew it was a Bingo Hall. So What!

I walked in the store in Stretford after work and there it was.. The Ktel album on a stand staring out at me. What a great feeling that was. I bought it and couldn’t wait to get home and play it, even though i had heard all the songs before, but hey they were new recordings and that’s great with me

Following in their footsteps

In 1982 I was Twenty years old and I wanted a pop career of my own, Little did I know at the time that the connection between Elvis, Billy and myself would grow even closer. I also discovered Billy had a farm in south wales and I was determined I was gonna meet him as my dream to meet Elvis died along with him in 1977. Alas fete was to step in once again and crush that dream. In June of 1982 after singing in my local pub I decided to put myself out there and sing my fave rock n roll songs to a wider audience than just at my local.


I was so shy in those days and let’s say I always need a little dutch courage for the first few months. I surprised myself how much I had achieved already as I really was such a shy teenager and now at twenty I was determined my shyness wasn’t gonna hold me back any longer. No more practicing in front of the mirror in my bedroom to Halfway to paradise and more, it was time to get out there. I auditioned for several clubs and managed to get myself some bookings. My diary was filling up nicely and at the time I was working in a supermarket stacking shelves and training to be a store manager, but that’s not what I really wanted to do, although I did achieve it for a short while.

No I had a bigger agenda and as my shyness started to disappear and my confidence started to grow I really started to get some reaction on the Manchester cabaret scene and to see the smile on the audience face when I sang a Billy song was incredible. I didn’t drive in those early days and my Dad [Paul Mcgrath] drove me to my gigs. I have to say even though I was a massive Elvis and Billy fan my first Hero and inspiration was my dad. He too was a singer in the local clubs and pubs as well as being a top end mechanic. We performed several shows together and I treasure those great memories of working with my dad.

Paul McGrath

My Dad

Tribute to Billy

When Billy Passed away in January 1983 I was devastated to say the least. I couldn’t believe it. Another hero gone, yet he was so much closer than Memphis and I could of got to meet him but didn’t. My connection with Billy was all over or was it?


I continued throughout the eighties to further my career and grow and in 1988 I advertised for musicians to form a band. It all happened very quickly and The Stormbeats were soon on the road doing Billy Proud. We became Manchester band of the year on several occasions. We were invited to play on a Billy Fury tribute weekend in Blackpool in February 1992, it was the second event held at the carousel hotel, owned by Mrs June Roth and her daughter Diane Wardle who still host the Billy weekends today but now at The Metropole Hotel, The weekend was a great success then a few weeks later out of the blue we received a call from a guy called Albert Wycherley. He wanted us to perform on a show in Liverpool at The Montrose club. It was a special Billy Fury charity night. We jumped at the chance, but hold on Wycherely that’s Billy’s surname, Are you a relative of Billy’s we asked, Yes I'm his brother and I’ll be hosting the show. I couldn’t believe it we were gonna meet a family member and he is hosting the show. Then we found out he would be singing too, backed by a band called The Dions, a very popular Liverpool band,


The Undertakers were on the show and the compare was Radio Merseyside's Frankie Conner. Albie would be singing his brothers songs and he wanted us to perform songs by other rock n roll artistes of the era. We were made up and couldn’t wait.

Meeting the family

Well the day had arrived and so had we at the club a little early I might add and very excited. We met Albie who introduced us to his and Billy’s Mam …The Duchess Mrs. Jean Wycherley. I couldn’t believe it. It really was like meeting rock n roll royalty. The show was a great success and we went on to play many more of these special shows. Albie and I hit it off straight away and we became great friends, He talked many times of his love and affection for his brother. I learnt a lot about Billy through Albie and Jean and as our friendships grew Albie confided in me about a lot of things and we spent many nights on the phone putting the world to rights. I got myself a new band…. Colin Paul and The Persuaders and now all these years later we are still going strong and paying our tribute to Billy when and wherever we can. The tradition at The Carousel Hotel continued and Diane Wardle continued to book The Persuaders on the now famous Billy Fury weekends only this time we backed Albie onstage and what a pleasure that was and those memories remain etched in my brain and heart. I was also offered several summer seasons at the carousel performing my solo show. Albie and sometimes Jean would come along and support me, I always persuaded [pardon the pun] Albie to join me onstage for a few numbers then after the show we would hit the bars and restaurants and have a bloody good night out on the town.



Since the early days of working in a supermarket I had changed jobs several times before going professional with my singing career from swimming instructor to private detective a job I really enjoyed. Albie discovered my other living and asked me to help him on a private matter. I agreed and we went on a little journey one night to sort out the problem. It was dealt with and we both ended up at Jeans for supper.


Jean wasn’t only the duchess but as anyone knows whoever visited she was the perfect host and before you had even sat down the sandwiches cakes and tea were on the table. On several occasions Jean let me tour the House that Billy had bought for her in 1960 [Wondrous Place] to see all of Billy’s awards from the likes of the new musical express and variety club awards amongst others was an absolute delight. Hundreds of family photos of Billy growing up and of course many from his career. I felt I knew him in a sense. Albie booked the persuaders and I on a local TV Show in Liverpool. We really enjoyed that. The show was called Billy and Wally’s night out and clips can be seen on YouTube. Albie had just recorded Helpless at the time and to me it’s the best song he ever recorded, He sounds so much like Billy on that song and it was great to see him shine once more. Most of you will know that Albie had a successful singing career himself in the sixties firstly under the name of Al Trent then Jason Eddie and The Centre men. He had a couple of chart hits and recorded for that great producer of the sixties Joe Meek. We often discussed his career and Albie admitted as much as he idolized and loved his brother it was hard living in his shadow.



Persuading Albie to rock

In 2008 Albie wanted to Record some of his brothers hits and some of his favorite Elvis songs. So I took my recording equipment to his house and we produced plenty of material that later formed two albums, they were ‘Albie sings Elvis’ that was released shortly after the session it sold very well at his concerts and the album ‘Heart and Soul’ a compilation of some of his early songs mixed in with the Billy songs came out after Albie passed away in tribute to Albie and his musical career. I also have recordings of Albie rehearsing with The Persuaders unreleased at this time.


The Fury weekends in Blackpool continued and it got so big that we changed it from once a year to twice a year and now at the larger hotel The Metropole Hotel. The weekends are held in March and November every year. The Highlight for many years was always the fact the both Jean and Albie were there for the wkd and everyone loved to see Albie perform his tribute to Billy. It couldn’t get better than that. In 2000 and 2001 were were booked along with Albie to do two concerts at the famous winter gardens in Blackpool and a run of shows in London, all a success and a company I work for called yesterday once more booked Albie and the band to play at holiday camps in Southport and Brean sands. All sell out shows and an absolute pleasure. As the years rolled by Albie became ill and it was apparent he was having lung, heart and kidney problems, I remember Albie telling me that he along with Billy had Rheumatic fever as a kid and I let him know that I too suffered from that disease when I was 7 years old, lucky for me it didn’t leave me with a bad heart.

I have many fond memories of going to Albie's house in Wavertree in Liverpool most weeks talking about future projects. while Jean popped over and spoilt us with tea, cake and biscuits. But my favourite memory of Albie are our late night phone chat's where we would try and put the world to rights. I remember him saying one night, me mam called me this morning and she tried to call me last night, so I said I was busy, Jean's reply was, so you were on the phone to Col again lol.


Loss

On 5th September 2011 Albie passed away peacefully in Hospital aged just 68.

The only comfort being that he was reunited with his lovely wife Marie who passed away a few years earlier and of course with Billy and his father Albert.


Once again Jean was left heartbroken. To lose not one but two sons was just too much to bare. Many of Jeans friends and what was left of her family gathered around her and surrounded her with all the love and care that they could.


In November of 2011 we paid a special tribute to Albie at the Blackpool weekend, but it just didn’t feel the same without him. Our Superb and regular DJ’s the ever popular Neil Williams and Andy Cordwell aka The Nutty Brothers, featured Albie on the big screen and shown one of his concerts. The weekend was dedicated to his memory. Jean was in attendance, all I can remember is how hard it must have been for her to be there, yet she said she wanted to as it gave her comfort and the fans would help her come to terms with her loss. What an Amazing lady. I remember The Persuaders and I taking to the stage and while playing our Billy set I found myself looking in the wings as if I was looking out for Albie to come and join us onstage. We too paid tribute and when it came to singing Helpless everyone was in tears and that’s exactly how we felt.

In 2012 The Persuaders and I took our Billy Fury show to the theatre and quickly realized we could do a double show and call it A Tale of Two Kings. Obviously the show was dedicated to Billy and Elvis and became a great success. We also had onstage backing singers The Passionettes and we invited dancers to each show to join the show while having both Billy and Elvis on the big screen behind us. Through modern technology I even managed to duet with Billy on Nobody’s child.


The tribute shows to Billy kept coming as did several TV appearances and documentaries. Jean was always in attendance and continued to join in the fun especially in Blackpool and very well looked after by the Billy Fury In Thoughts of you fan club hosts. The fan club was set up a few years earlier by both Jean and Albie.

As the years rolled by we had many more occasions to celebrate and one being Jeans 90th Birthday. We held a party for her at The Metropole and everyone had a great time. The band and I played her favourite songs In Thoughts of You, Lady and Helpless. She even joined us onstage. Jean continued to attend the weekends even when it was apparent she was unwell and her age was taking its toll on her, but to Jean she didn’t care she just wanted to be at any Billy event for the fans. Her final public appearance was in Blackpool of March 2017 and on the 17th May of that year Jean passed away and joined her Husband Albert and her two famous sons for eternity. Jeans funeral was held at St Anne's Church Aigburth on Thursday 25th May. It was a lovely service and one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life was to sing our song ‘In Thoughts of you’ at the service.

I say our song as we often sang it together either in Blackpool or at the fan club meetings in Blundell St Liverpool. Again if you search youtube there are many clips of us singing together and I will treasure those memories forever. When I was asked to sing at Jeans funeral, I didn’t hesitate I just said yes straight away, it was the right thing to do and my way of saying thank you not only to Jean but to both Billy and Albie for the great memories and career that I had and continue to have. I will forever be in their debt as I truly believe they helped shape who I am.

Celebration

The Billy weekends continue to be a success both in Liverpool with yesterday once more every July and our home in Blackpool March and November with our great team of Diane and Jenny Wardle, June Roth, The Persuaders and of course those Nutty Brothers Neil and Andy.

Tributes