Billy Fury was born Ronald Wycherley on April 17th 1940 at Smithdown Road Hospital,
Liverpool, and experienced a fairy-tale like rise to stardom. There is no telling just how much
greater the tale would be if fate, in the form of rheumatic fever had not eventually caused him
to be cruelly robbed of life a little less than forty-three short, but eventful years later.
Despite this restrictive problem which often caused him to collapse following the legendary,
but gruelling, early stage performances, curtailing any serious attempts at overseas success and
ultimately resulting in extensive heart surgery, the record of his achievements is impressive
indeed. A career total of twenty-nine hit 45s, resulting in 281 weeks on the singles chart and the
award of two silver discs, six hit albums, three best selling EPs, his own forty-two issue Fury
Monthly magazine and membership of the Songwriters Guild. Being voted No. 2 UK Male
Singer and No. 1 Most Requested Artist for Poll Concert (live performer); each for three
consecutive years, two Radio Luxembourg series of shows, three film appearances, a TV
special, numerous TV, radio, live appearances and several prestigious music awards almost
complete the picture. There were also ten Top 10 singles; eleven if revisionist chart figures
featuring Colette are taken as read. Inexplicably, despite immense talent and classy recordings,
Billy never enjoyed a No. 1 UK hit single, yet any one of a dozen chart entries and even several
single 'B' sides deserved such a placing. To quote Jimmy Savile, Billy never had a (UK) No. 1
hit (single) but he was a number one guy!
Following a period of gigging around Liverpool the young Ronnie's ability was officially
discovered at a pre-arranged meeting held backstage on 1st October 1958 at the Essoldo (Ritz)
Theatre Birkenhead. Later that evening his professional career took off, with a performance
that reportedly brought the house down. The following day he was a off on tour and about one
year later this basically shy, introverted young lad would be banned from performing in Dublin,
or elsewhere in the Republic, and taken to task in a UK magazine for being too overtly sexual
in the early Elvis style. Scoring some success with his own compositions (including a Top 20
album comprising of ten self-penned rock'n'roll/rockabilly and blues fused numbers-the classic
Sound of Fury), it was with his switch to cover versions of U.S. ballads that, in 1961, consistently
high Top 10 placings began. From then on he became known primarily as a hit balladeer with
the nickname of 'Mr Consistency.'
Halfway To Paradise, his most famous song hit the No. 3 spot, (No.4 in the NME), Jealousy
No. 2, and I'd Never Find Another You, No. 5, spilling over into early 1962, with a fine
performance on ATV's All That Jazz. Billy never did appear on '6.5 Special' but was at home
on 'Oh Boy', 'Boy Meets Girls', 'Wham!' 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', 'Discs-a-Gogo', 'Ready
Steady Go', and many others. He even appeared, resplendent in shiny suit, on 'Crackerjack'!
During 1962 Billy played the lead in his own film 'Play it Cool'. Although he had followed the
hit ballad route and toned down his act the real essence of 'Fury' could still be seen and heard on
this highly popular celluloid outing. He also met Elvis on the set of 'Girls, Girls Girls' in
Hollywood. One of his most adventurous, and certainly one of his finest ever performances
came out in the same year: Letter Full Of Tears. By 1963 Billy was at his professional best,
recording the 16 track LP 'Billy' and the essential live album, 'We Want Billy', with his most
famous backing group, The Tornados. 1964 brought a disappointing one-off TV show (thankfully
punctuated by a brilliant version of You Got Me Dizzy with the excellent Gamblers), and the
purchase of 'Anselmo' who came 4th in the Derby during June. 1965 brought the semiautobiographical
and press acclaimed film 'I've Gotta Horse'. By the time of the consummately
professional and haunting I'll Never Quite Get Over You in 1966 ill health was increasing the
pressure and wildlife diversions, more akin to the real Billy, all helped to sustain him on the pop
career merry-go-round he once brokenly said he could not get off. The countless tours and
shows were taking their toll.
Following the 1959-66 hit streak changing musical trends and worsening ill health had forced
Billy from the chart scene, although the switch to Parlophone in December 1966 was, according
to road manager and friend Hal Carter, a very lucrative deal for its time. Some fine single
releases, eleven in all, failed to chart and much fine material has yet to be released. During 1969
Billy was married to model Judith Hall, a friend of Billy's former long-term companion,
Lee Middleton (who subsequently married Kenny Everett). Divorce followed in 1973.
By the early 70's Billy was living on his farm in Wales on the edge of the Brecon Beacons,
breeding horses and sheep and carrying on with cabaret in order to fund his wildlife preservation
project. He shared the purportedly 17th Century Welsh long house with his long-term companion,
Lisa Rosen, (now Lisa Voice) whom he met in a club in 1971. In December 1971 Billy underwent
heart valve repair, but twelve months later the depressing and debilitating symptoms returned.
Lisa is now the head of the Billy Fury Estate and The Billy Fury Memorial Fund, set up in 1983
(and still functioning) to assist with funding for the prevention and cure of heart disease.
The 1970s also saw two more single releases, an appearance at the 1972 Wembley Rock 'n' Roll
Festival, a reluctant 1973 cameo appearance opposite friend Keith Moon in 'That'll Be The
Day', and in 1974 a major tour. During 1976 there was a major heart valve replacement
operation, a Russell Harty TV Show appearance, and retirement in 1977 followed in 1978 by a
A new recording deal in 1981 led to live, TV, radio appearances and some limited chart success
throughout 1982 and into 1983. However, a near-fatal collapse on the farm in March 1982
boded ill for the future, although Billy was back in the recording studio by April. A BBC TV
'Nationwide Profile', the Russell Harty show, Marty Wilde's 'This is your Life', Radio 2's
'Heroes and Villains Concert', a Beck Theatre Concert and other gigs and appearances ensured
a very full, high profile year. During November Billy recorded Maybe Tomorrow for the T.V show 'Greatest Hits' and, on New
Years Eve, attended a show business party where he sat at a piano singing numbers from the Cole
Porter songbook. In January 1983 he cut six tracks for ITV's, 'Unforgettable' series. Only four
performances have ever been shown.
Tragically, on 28th January 1983, with major success at his feet, this courageous and complex
idol of thousands finally lost his battle with heart illness. A week previously he had been
informed that yet another operation was needed. The posthumous release of the beautifully sung
and arranged Forget Him, with its 1970 vocal, was to be his final hit single.
In the intervening period Billy's reputation has justifiably grown, with many fine music releases,
numerous radio, TV and stage tributes and gigs, weekend events, regular fan gatherings at his
Mill Hill resting place and the placing of a lectern in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. Plaques
have also been placed at bird and horse sanctuaries. A Heritage Foundation Musical Heritage
Plaque has been placed outside of the St John's Wood home that Billy once shared with Lisa.
Fans and Billy's family also gather each April at the Museum of Liverpool Life on the pier head
where the full-size Bronze Statue, achieved over six years dedication on the part of the fans,
now temporarily resides. Billy's mum Jean and brother Albie (Jason Eddie) continue, with the
help of fans at various events, to raise funds for various good causes. Harry Whitehouse has
also established a fine electronic audio and visual tribute on the web.Thanks to the Variety Club,
Liverpool echo, Johnstone Foundation and contributors a Mini Bus was kindly donated in
Billy's name to Capenhurst Grange in Liverpool. The long promised film might yet have to
materialise but the legend does indeed live on, and assuredly will do so for a long time to come.
Contrary to a widely held but mistaken belief, there was some great music shortly before the
Beatles broke and Billy Fury was at the forefront of its delivery.
BILLY FURY ALWAYS REMEMBERED-THE ALBUM
When Peter Williams first contacted me with the idea of this tribute album (promptly named
by Peter after the Fan Club Logo) I had mixed feelings. Surely it was the unique vocal magic of
Billy Fury that made the songs associated with him so special! There is of course much truth in
that perception, especially regarding the less standout numbers which, like Elvis, Billy had a
knack of making not only listenable but set apart from the run-of-the-mill. Then I considered
the fine performances of King For Tonight by Barry Darvell, Push Push by Austin Taylor, A
Million Miles From Nowhere by Brook Benton, I Will by PJ Proby, Halfway To Paradise by
Tony Orlando and Johnny Nash, A Thousand Stars by Arthur Alexander and others and I knew
that many of Billy's songs could also speak for themselves if treated correctly and with
sufficient reverence. I need not have worried. Peter first saw Billy on-stage with the Tornados
in 1962 and has been a fan ever since. His dedication to this project and his respect for Billy's
music is self- evident in the warm, respectful, sympathetic and professional readings of these
twelve selected tracks. No instrument or other artist can hope to equal the original Decca/
Polydor recordings but that said this is one highly listenable, unique and enjoyable album. Who
knows but that another may follow!
The amount of work contained here is prodigious. Guitar tutoring by day Peter played the
number to be worked up during breaks and evenings, checking against the music sheets. The
problem, invariably, was that Billy had a way of bending the notes, somewhat akin to the great
Dion, and not following the music exactly. Peter had to rewrite sizeable chunks of each song to
reflect Billy's actual performance, in order to be able to at least approximate it. Other problems
were created by the difficulty in getting quality backing tracks and working in some difficult
keys to achieve the required authentic effect. The choice of tracks was initially at least, largely
limited by what was available on music sheets and what backings could be arranged. Recording
was done on Sundays, one track at a time and often taking up to six hours to complete. Some
tracks were not up to Peter's self- imposed standard and were re-recorded. The result is a lovely
album; a sincere tribute in the Shadows style to the iconic figure that was Billy Fury. The driving
Do You Really Love Me Too (later covered by rock'n'roll torch bearer Shakin' Stevens) is
followed by the haunting I Will (also done by Vic Dana and Dean Martin among others) and
We are indebted to: Frank Bull, Stuart Colman, Guiness Book of Hit Singles, Graham Hunter,
Joe Blackie (Zoom), Leighton and Chris (Midi Magic), Ronnie Montgomery (CME
Duplication), David Hemmings, Eddie Muir, Johnny Red, Tony Philbin, Paul Pierrot, Peter's
local club in Stony Stratford, Todd Slaughter (EPFC), Bob Stanley and Lisa F Voice.
This CD is dedicated in memory of Hal Carter.
All Billy Fury photos copyright the Chris Eley Collection.
The International League for the Protection
of Horses (ILPH). For information contact Anne
Colvin House, Snetterton, Norfolk NR 16 2LR.
Harry Whitehouse Billy Fury Web Site:
This CD was produced with the assistance of Chris Eley of the Sound of Fury.
The Sound of Fury
Official Billy Fury Fan Club
Peter Williams-Guitarist and Guitarist Tutor
Halfway to paradise-The Billy Fury Story.com
Billy Fury Ltd
PO Box 116
The Billy Fury Memorial Fund
118 Seymour Place
PLEASE NOTE THAT FIFTY PENCE FROM THE SALE OF EACH CD VIA EITHER PETER
OR THE SOUND OF FURY WILL GO TO THE ILPH (DETAILS ABOVE). WE
FEEL THAT BILLY WOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF SUCH A GESTURE. Chris Eley
The Sound of Fury-January 2005
I would also like to thank my wife Sonja, my daughter Ailsa,
and Chris Eley for their encouragement in making this CD possible.