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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Billy Fury born 17 April 1940

Billy Fury (born Ronald William Wycherley, 17 April 1940, Dingle, Liverpool, England, d. 28 January 1983, London, England.) An early British rock and roll (and film) star, he equalled the Beatles' record of 24 hits in the 1960s, and spent 332 weeks on the UK chart, without a chart-topping single or album. He remained an active songwriter until the 1980s. Rheumatic fever, which damaged his heart, contributed to his death. 

A sickly child, he experienced his first bout of rheumatic fever at age six, the beginning of chronic health problems that would take his life before age 45. At 11, he started music lessons, taking up the piano, and he got his first guitar at age 14. By 1955, the skiffle boom had begun in England and Wycherley was leading his own local group, while earning money working on a tugboat and then as a stevedore. By 1958, Wycherley was playing locally and had won a talent competition, and was writing his own songs.

An impromptu audition in a Birkenhead dressing room resulted in Wycherley joining Larry Parnes' management stable. The entrepreneur provided the suitably enigmatic stage name, and added the aspirant to the bill of a current package tour. Fury enjoyed a UK Top 20 hit with his debut single, "Maybe Tomorrow", in 1959 and the following year completed The Sound Of Fury, which consisted entirely of the artist's own songs. Probably Britain's finest example of the rockabilly genre, it owed much of its authenticity to sterling support from guitarist Joe Brown, while the Four Jays provided backing vocals. 


He also appeared in a televised play Strictly For Sparrows, and subsequently on Oh Boy! By March 1960, he reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart with his own composition "Colette", followed by "That's Love" . However, Fury found his greatest success with a series of dramatic ballads which, in suggesting a vulnerability, enhanced the singer's undoubted sex appeal.

His stylish good looks complemented a vocal prowess blossoming in 1961 with a cover version of Tony Orlando's "Halfway To Paradise". This superior single, arranged and scored by Ivor Raymonde, established a pattern that provided Fury with 16 further UK Top 30 hits, including "Jealousy" (1961), "I'd Never Find Another You" (1961), "Last Night Was Made For Love" (1962), "Once Upon A Dream" (1962), "Like I've Never Been Gone" (1963), "When Will You Say I Love You" (1963), "In Summer" (1963), "It's Only Make Believe" (1964), and "In Thoughts Of You" (1965). Fury also completed two
exploitative pop movies, Play It Cool (1962) and I've Gotta Horse (1965) and remained one of Britain's leading in-concert attractions throughout the early 60s. Supported initially by the Tornados, then the Gamblers, the singer showed a wider repertoire live than his label would allow on record.

Bedevilled by ill health and overtaken by changing musical fashions, Fury's final hit came in 1965 with "Give Me Your Word". The following year he left Decca Records for Parlophone Records, debuting with a Peter And Gordon song, "Hurtin' Is Lovin". Subsequent recordings included

David Bowie's "Silly Boy Blue", the Bee Gees' "One Minute Woman" (both 1968) and Carole King's "Why Are You Leaving" (1970), but the singer was unable to regain his erstwhile success. In 1971 he underwent open-heart surgery, but recovered to record "Will The Real Man Stand Up" on his own Fury label, and played the part of Stormy Tempest in the film That'll Be The Day (1973). A second major operation in 1976 forced Fury to retire again, but he re-emerged at the end of the decade with new recordings of his best-known songs, and several live and television appearances. In 1981 Fury struck a new contract with Polydor Records, but his health was rapidly deteriorating and on 28 January 1983 he succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

Unlike many of his pre-Beatles contemporaries, the artist's reputation has grown over the years, and Billy Fury is now rightly regarded as one of the finest rock 'n' roll singers Britain ever produced, even though the material he recorded often never matched the quality of his voice.  (info mainly New Musical Express)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For Billy Fury's "His Wondrous Story" CD go here: