In the Spring of 1982 the Haleys had enjoyed a
successful gig with 'Hippy Hippy Shake' hitmakers the
Swinging Blue Jeans.They were a great bunch of guys who
still tour successfully today.
Later that year their
manager Hal Carter asked them if they could recommend a
backing band for the Billy Fury comeback that was
gathering momentum. Fortunately the 'Jeans' thought of
Probably the hardest part of it all came next.
Tony Read sent us a 'greatest hits'
collection and we managed to learn all the arrangements
and harmonies in a week .
The first time we all met was at the first
rehearsal which took place in my living room.It was
clear that Billy was not a well man yet his charisma
filled the room loke a charge of electricity when he
walked in.To this day I've never met anybody with such a
powerful natural presence.
All the effort we'd put
into learning the arrangements and harmonies paid off.
Billy was delighted with the set up.We were officially
his new band.
At the time the Haleys band were still touring
all over the country. Billy would travel to wherever we
were for rehearsals. I recall him driving up to
Sunderland on one occasion.
The first gig was held at the Beck Theatre,
Slough. We spent the afternoon running through the set
and I can confirm how nervous Billy used to get before a
He need not have worried. It was a huge
success. The ovation he received walking out to the
stage was overwhelming and he gave a memorable
High points of the show for me were 'Unchain My
Heart' which powered along, 'Wondrous Place' which has
gone on to enjoy great popularity in recent times,
'Halfway To Paradise because it's arguably Billy's best
loved song and 'Johnny B Goode' for the firework display
that really startled me.No one had said that was going
to happen. Best moment of all was at the start of 'It's
Only Make Believe'. When he sang "people see us
everywhere" a scream went up that would have deafened
t was at my prompting that we performed 'Devil
Or Angel.The record meant a lot to Billy but I think he
was a little concerned about doing new material that
might be unfamiliar to his fans. Not after we finished .
The song went over really big and from then on you
couldn't stop him singing it.
Photographs taken that night feature on 'The One
And Only' album sleeve. My brother Lawrie just gets in
the picture playing bass guitar. I was cropped out on
the other side of the stage ! There's the fireworks
going off in the background.
That night the audience would not let him leave
the stage. In the end he said he'd have to stop or he
might pass out ! He literally gave everything. It
remains the most charismatic performance I've seen
during my career and I've worked with the best. He
needed 30 minutes after the show to get his strength
back during which time a long line of people queued to
meet him. Billy was absolutely thrilled by the response
during and after the show. We all were.
What isn't well known is that Billy's last
performance was in January 1983 at the Holiday Inn,
Leicester. His record company Polydor were holding a
meeting there for their employees and Billy agreed to do
a show for them. Although his fans didn't have the
chance to attend he still put on agreat show. A few days
later I got a phone call fron the local paper with the
Billy had lots of plans that year. A national
tour was planned, he had several recording projects he
was looking forward to (including mine-Bill wanted to
produce some tracks) and 'This Is Your Life' were
planning to present him with the 'red book'. It wasn't
I attended the funeral along with Lawrie and our
Dad Freddy. It was a highly emotional occasion. The
choir sang a beautiful version of 'I'm Lost Without You'
Working with Billy was the start of a career
that flourishes to this day. Every now and then Lawrie
and me play a 'Haleys' gig and play a couple of Fury
Knowing Billy was priceless. He really was
the gentle, kind man everyone perceived him to be. And
boy could he sing.
(c)Mark Haley 2000
The Sound Of Fury is
the great British Rock n' Roll album from that era.
Billy wrote all the songs on the album using his own
stage name and the pseudonym Wilbur Wilberforce
There are a range of greatest hits collections and a
superb box set featuring just about everything.