Unleashing the fury in Worthing
If he’d known the music he played on was still going to played 50 years later, Tornados drummer Clem Cattini jokes he would have played it better in the first place.
“But it has been great, and I am absolutely delighted to have been part of it,” he says.
And part of it still as The Billy Fury Years’ 30th Anniversary Special goes on the road, commemorating 30 since Billy Fury’s death at the age of just 42.
Clem worked with him in the late 50s and worked with him again with the Tornados; he remembers him fondly as a star who probably could and should have been bigger.
“He was great. He was very shy in some ways, but when he got on stage, he was very extrovert. He was a great rock and roll singer, and I always say that if he had had the same management as Cliff, he would have been as big as Cliff.”
Cliff’s management was able to concentrate on Cliff; Billy was part of the Larry Parnes stable which, as Clem recalls, was effectively a production line, a conveyor belt churning out the likes of Billy, Marty Wilde and Johnny Gentle.
“Also, I don’t think people realised what a great song-writer Billy was back in the days when it was very unusual. You just didn’t write stuff in those days. It was the record company that dictated what you did, and you did as you were told. The guys that wrote never really had the chance to do their own stuff. You didn’t argue with the record companies!
“But it was a great period to be alive and to be part of making music in Britain. It was probably the best period of music, from the 50s, through the 60s, up to the mid-70s. We were the real hub of the music world then.”
Sadly, Billy didn’t live long to enjoy it: “He had a bad heart. He was always very pallid. He always had heart problems.”
It certainly wasn’t the result of a rock and roll lifestyle: “We didn’t time for a rock and roll lifestyle! We would finish one show and then travel to the next, travelling stupid distances overnight, like from Edinburgh to the Isle of Wight. Nobody ever thought about us when they were planning it!”
The Billy Fury Years is billed as ‘the Ultimate Billy Fury show to ever hit the stage’ – a two-hour show filled with Billy Fury’s greatest hits and more delivered in true Fury style. Hits include Run To My Loving Arms, When Will You Say I Love You? and Last Night Was Made For Love.
Billy Fury was born Ronald William Wycherley in Liverpool on the April 17 1940. He was an internationally-successful British pop singer from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, and remained an active songwriter until the 1980s. Rheumatic fever, which damaged his heart, contributed to his death in 1983.
In the 60s Billy Fury had more Decca hits than any other artist including the Rolling Stones. He equalled The Beatles record of 24 hits and spent a total of 332 weeks in the UK charts. He was the fourth biggest selling artist of the 60s after The Beatles, Cliff and Elvis.
In 2007 a bronze statue of Billy was unveiled at the Liverpool Albert Dock and in 2011 Billy Fury Way was opened in London.
The show plays the Kings Theatre, Southsea, on Sunday, January 27; and Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre, on Saturday, March 30.