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Billy Fury, born Ronald William Wycherley (17 April 1940 - 28 January 1983), was an internationally successful Britishmarker pop singer from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, and remained an active songwriter until the 1980s. Rheumatic fever which he first contracted as a child, damaged his heart and ultimately contributed to his death. 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 UKmarker charts, without a chart-topping single or album. Allmusic journalist, Bruce Eder, states, "His mix of rough-hewn good looks and unassuming masculinity, coupled with an underlying vulnerability, all presented with a good voice and some serious musical talent, helped turn Fury into a major rock and roll star in short order".

In 2003 a bronze statue of Fury was unveiled at the National Museum of Liverpool Life.

Early years

Wycherley was born at Smithdown Hospital (later Sefton General Hospital, now demolished), Smithdown Road, Liverpoolmarker. At the age of 11, he started music lessons, taking up the piano, and he received his first guitar at the age of 14. By 1955, the skiffle boom had begun in the United Kingdommarker and Wycherley led his own local group, whilst earning money working on a tugboat and then as a stevedore. By 1958, he was appearing locally, had won a talent competition, and was writing his own songs. Wycherley first attended a gig in Birkenheadmarker, run by impresario Larry Parnes, in the hope of interesting the established artiste, Marty Wilde, in some of the songs he had written. Instead, in an episode that has become pop music legend, Parnes pushed young Wycherley up on stage right away. He was such an immediate success that Parnes signed him, added him to the tour, and renamed him 'Billy Fury'. His early stage performances were suggestive by English standards, so that he was forced to restrain himself from his more overtly sexual moves when a curtain was brought down at one of his shows. In October 1959, the UK music magazine, NME, commented that Fury's stage antics had been drawing much press criticism.

He released his first hit single for Decca, "Maybe Tomorrow", in 1959. He made his television debut soon after, in a televised play Strictly For Sparrows, and he was soon a fixture on televised musical showcases, such as Oh Boy! By March 1960, he reached #9 in the UK Singles Chart with his own composition "Colette", followed by "That's Love" and his first album The Sound of Fury (1960), which featured a young Joe Brown on lead guitar, with backup vocals by The Four Jays.

After further hits and sacking his band The Blue Flames — which included keyboardist Georgie Fame — auditions were held for a new group and held by Parnes in Liverpool. Among those who failed were The Beatles, who for the first time called themselves The Silver Beetles. They were offered the job for £20 a week on condition that they sacked their bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. John Lennon refused and the band left after Lennon had secured Fury's autograph. The Beatles were salvaged, however, by being sent on a tour of Scotlandmarker with Johnny Gentle and Duffy Power, who were a couple more of Parnes' acts.

Instead, The Tornados were recruited as his backing band, and from January 1962 to August 1963 they toured and recorded with Fury.

UK chart and film success

Fury concentrated less on rock and roll and more on mainstream ballads, such as "Halfway to Paradise" and "Jealousy" (which reached #3 and #2 respectively in the UK Singles Chart in 1961). Fury confessed to the NME that "I wanted people to think of me simply as a singer - and not, more specifically, as a rock singer. I'm growing up, and I want to broaden my scope. I shall continue to sing rock songs, but at the same time my stage act is not going to be as wild in the future". This was Decca's decision to mould Fury into a teen idol after his last self-penned song, "My Christmas Prayer", had failed to chart. 1962 and 1963 were Fury's best years chartwise. In 1962 Fury appeared in his first film, Play It Cool, modelled on the Elvis movies. It featured Helen Shapiro, Danny Rivers, Shane Fenton and Bobby Vee, who appeared with The Vernons Girls. The hit single from the film was "Once Upon a Dream". There were other notable performances by several British actors and performers such as Richard Wattis, Lionel Blair and Dennis Price.

Fury's We Want Billy! (1963) was one of the first live albums in UK rock history and featured renditions of his hits and cover versions of several R&B songs such as "Unchain My Heart".

In 1965 he appeared in the film I've Gotta Horse, which also featured The Bachelors, Michael Medwin and Jon Pertwee. The album from the film was available in stereo. In 1966, Fury left Decca Records and signed a five-year recording contract with EMI's Parlophone label, during which he would see some modest success but nothing like the frenzied stardom of his first seven years in the music industry.

Having had more UK hits, such as "It's Only Make Believe" and "I Will" (written by Dick Glasser, not to be confused with the Paul McCartney song), both in 1964, and "In Thoughts of You" (1965), Fury began a lengthy absence from the charts in 1967, and underwent surgery for heart problems in 1970 and 1971 which led to his abandoning touring. Despite spending many weeks on the charts, Fury never achieved a number one single, but he remained popular even after his hits stopped. "I Will" became a U.S.marker hit for Dean Martin (1965) and for Ruby Winters (1977).

Later years and death

In 1973, Fury came out of semi-retirement to play 'Stormy Tempest' in the film That'll Be the Day. Starring David Essex and Ringo Starr, it was roughly based on the early days of The Beatles. Starr was from the same Dinglemarker area of Liverpool as Fury, and had originally played drums for Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, whom the Stormy Tempest group were said to be modelled upon. Fury toured the UK successfully in the mid 1970s with his one-time idol, Marty Wilde. Outside of the limelight, Fury looked after other interests, which included wildlife preservation.

Fury's health deteriorated and he underwent heart surgery notably in 1976. In 1980 he was declared bankrupt. A new single, "Be Mine Tonight," fell short of the UK Singles Chart in 1981, and on 4 March the following year, Fury collapsed and nearly died while working on his farm. He went back on tour that summer and managed to place the singles "Love or Money" and "Devil or Angel" on the UK chart. In 1981 and 1982, Fury was signed to Polydor Records by A&R man Frank Neilson and recorded a comeback album, The One And Only (released posthumously) with Shakin' Stevens' producer Stuart Colman. Due of his health, Fury did little touring to promote the new album. His last public appearance was at the Sunnyside, Northamptonmarker, in December 1982. He recorded a live performance for the television show, Unforgettable, featuring six of his old hits.

Fury lived with Lee Middleton from 1959 to 1967, married Judith Hall in May 1969 and lived with the property heiress Lisa Voice (née Rosen) from 1971 until his death on 28 January 1983 at Paddingtonmarker, West London. Fury had been found unconscious in his home, and he died that same day in hospital. He was 42 years old. Amid numerous tributes and memorials, a posthumous single, "Forget Him", became his final chart hit later that year.

The song "Wondrous Place", a favourite of Fury's (he re-recorded it at least three times during his career) later received airplay on UK television when it was used as the theme for a Toyota Yaris car advertisement in 1999 and 2000.

Fury was a keen amateur birdwatcher.

He is buried at the Paddington District Cemetery, Mill Hillmarker, Londonmarker.

Discography

Albums

Year Title UK Albums Chart
1960 The Sound of Fury #18
1960 Billy Fury -
1961 Halfway to Paradise #5
1963 Billy #6
1963 We Want Billy! #14
1971 The World of Billy Fury -


Compilation albums

Year Title UK Albums Chart
1983 The Billy Fury Hit Parade #44
1983 The One and Only Billy Fury #54


Singles

Year Title UK Singles Chart Label
1959 "Maybe Tomorrow" #18 Decca
1959 "Margo" #28 Decca
1959 "Angel Face" - Decca
1959 "My Christmas Prayer" - Decca
1959 "Colette" #9 Decca
1960 "That's Love" † #19 Decca
1960 "Wondrous Place" #25 Decca
1960 "A Thousand Stars" #14 Decca
1961 "Don't Worry" ‡ #40 Decca
1961 "Halfway to Paradise" #3 Decca
1961 "Jealousy" #2 Decca
1961 "I'd Never Find Another You" #5 Decca
1962 "Letter Full of Tears" #32 Decca
1962 "Last Night Was Made for Love" #4 Decca
1962 "Once Upon a Dream" #7 Decca
1962 "Because of Love" #18 Decca
1963 "Like I've Never Been Gone" #3 Decca
1963 "When Will You Say I Love You?" #3 Decca
1963 "In Summer" #5 Decca
1963 "Somebody Else's Girl" #18 Decca
1963 "Do You Really Love Me Too? (Fools Errand)" #13 Decca
1964 "I Will" #14 Decca
1964 "It's Only Make Believe" #10 Decca
1965 "I'm Lost Without You" #16 Decca
1965 "In Thoughts of You" #9 Decca
1965 "Run to My Lovin' Arms" #25 Decca
1966 "I'll Never Quite Get Over You" #35 Decca
1966 "Don't Let a Little Pride Stand in Your Way" - Decca
1966 "Give Me Your Word" #27 Decca
1967 "Hurtin' is Loving" - Parlophone
1967 "Loving You" - Parlophone
1967 "Suzanne in the Mirror" - Parlophone
1968 "Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt" - Parlophone
1968 "Silly Boy Blue" - Parlophone
1968 "Phone Box" - Parlophone
1968 "Lady" - Parlophone
1969 "I Call for My Rose" - Parlophone
1969 "All the Way to the U.S.A." - Parlophone
1970 "Why Are You Leaving?" - Parlophone
1970 "Paradise Alley" - Parlophone
1972 "Will the Real Man Stand Up?" - Fury Records
1974 "I'll Be Your Sweetheart" - Warner Bros.
1981 "Be Mine Tonight" - Polydor
1982 "Love or Money" #57 Polydor
1982 "Devil or Angel" #58 Polydor
1983 "Let Me Go, Lover!" - Polydor
1983 "Forget Him" #59 Polydor

¶ - Billed as Billy Fury and The Tornados

† - Billed as Billy Fury with The Four Jays

‡ - Billed as Billy Fury with The Four Kestrels

References in popular culture

  • His life was dramatised for BBC Radio in 1994, in a play called The Sound of Fury, with Anton Lesser playing the singer.
  • Rock band Devilish Presley recorded a song "Billy Fury is Dead", for their 2008 Flesh Ride album.
  • Bernie Taupin included the song, "Billy Fury", on his album, Tribe, released in 1986. Sound effects at the beginning of the song give the impression that it is being played on a jukebox and the "imaginary" vocalist sings about his desire to "be like Billy Fury" and have the trappings of a rock singer. Elton John appears towards the end of the song contributing some backing vocals.


Quotation

NME - May 1963

See also



Bibliography

  • Halfway to Paradise (1996) - Spencer Lee


References

  1. BBC.co.uk biography of Fury
  2. Billyfury.com - accessed July 2009


External links




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