|Brian Shuttlewood recalls his meetings with Billy, which covered a period of 23 years. For photographs, see In Concert. To hear Brian reflecting on a poignant episode, click here.
I will try to bring to mind the recollections that I have on meeting Billy but you must understand the circumstances of our first meeting in 1959. It was a long time ago and if Billy had been a major recording star at the time I would have had the experience indelibly written in my mind, but Billy was an unknown and I remember being disappointed that on my visit to the studio I had not seen anyone famous.
It happened like this, My cousin was a trainee sound engineer for Decca and had only been there for a couple of months or so (he lived at Eltham). I, having found out that he worked there and seriously collecting pop records by then , asked if my dad and I could come and stay with his family (my aunt and uncle) for a few days and maybe get to see the studios. It was duly arranged for a week in February I think it was, and I looked forward to seeing loads of stars and bought an autograph book for the occasion.
I remember meeting up with my cousin and going off into this strange, to me, city of London. I was very excited and it seemed to take ages.
We came to a building which I vaguely remember as being 1930s looking. Around the side was a huge pair of double doors with a wicket gate. We went into the building and there was like a warehouse-type room.
Walking through I can't remember how many doors and corridors, we came to a room that I can only describe as what I had expected a recording studio to look like, only smaller, with a desk and loads of knobs and dials on it . I was led into an ante -room and told in no uncertain terms to stay there.
I seem to remember the coming and goings of various people and then in the main room entered a young man, tallish, light to blond hair and very good looking. I tried to think who it could be. It wasn't Tommy Steele, who I had hoped to see, and I couldn't leave the room to ask.
The young man with two other older men went into another room and the lights came on to reveal a small stage and lots of microphones, music stands and a set of drums. I remember the speakers coming to life all around me and the sound of a tune starting somewhere in the middle and then being played backwards at high speed.
My cousin Graham was in the same room as the young man and the two others and was busily picking up and coiling cables, moving blocks (I now know them to be sound absorption cabinets).
The two older men shook the young man by the hand, each in turn, and then left the room to join the sound engineer in the booth with all the equipment (this was the room between me and the studio were the young man was).
I watched one man who was operating a tape machine and talking to the engineer, but could not hear a thing myself. I wished I was in the actual recording room. The young man listened in his headphones and spoke back and forth to the engineer.
My cousin was removed after making some adjustments with the sound blocks and came into the room with me.
I immediately asked who the bloke was in the studio.
"I don't know who he is," he said. "They call him Ron."
I remember asking why we couldn't hear anything and he went into the control room and spoke to the engineer and within seconds the speakers came on.
The cue was given and music came from nowhere. The young man began to sing ...Maybe tomorrow...You'll understand...went wrong and stopped.
This was done I seem to recall a few times until everyone was excited. The young singer came into the control room and spent a further few minutes listening to the song he had just sang.
Graham came in and said they would break now and that he had to go and fetch some tapes from another part of town but he would put me on the Underground back to his place.
I asked if I could just talk to the singer and he brought him into the room and introduced me to him. If my memory serves me correctly he said that he hoped I would buy the record when it came out and I said that I would.
He said he had to do the other side and he asked if I was staying to hear it. I told him I had to go.
He said: "Be honest" or "Be serious" - words to that effect. "Do you like the song."
I think I said it was great but I thought in my mind at that time was: "It's no good cos it ain't rock 'n' roll."
I left and returned home and a couple of months later I heard the song on Radio Luxembourg. The singer, it was announced, was Billy Fury and I couldn't, at that time, understand why it wasn't Ron something or other. I had told my friends all about him and now I was going to be shown to be a liar.
When he became famous and his real name known to all, I was vindicated.
Can you imagine how I felt? , I had met Billy Fury, but I didn't know it, and didn't have even his autograph in my new book.
In 1971, after appearing on radio and television on the south coast, and having a very successful 1950s rock 'n' roll society on the Isle Of Wight I, received a letter from Goodtimes Enterprises. I opened the letter to reveal that Goodtimes Enterprises were a film company that were planning to make a film set in the 1950s on the island. They asked if I would assist them in finding suitable extras who had period dress. I replied that I would.
It was late September when we all met at Puckpool Park Holiday camp at Ryde and began the selection process. Filming began shortly afterward and it was then we learned of the cast.
The first on set were Ringo Starr, David Essex, Deborah Watling and Pattie Love. After correcting the props department a few times about items shown on camera that were not 1950s I was considered a sort of period adviser and all shots were vetted for anything not in the fifties style.
Some time after and very early one morning we were gathered for shoot when accompanied by a woman, Billy Fury appeared on the set. I did not want to immediately crowd him and waited for an opportunity to speak with him.
I had already spoken at length to Ringo Starr and had driven him to Ryde Station when he had to go to court over the Beatles management case dispute so I thought I may approach him on this subject.
Toward lunch time when he stood at the side of the hall we were shooting in, I approached him.
"Hello Billy", I said, "what's the chances of Ringo and the rest of them sorting out this management mess?"
He replied that he thought that the boys would get their wish as they were very astute when it came to business, but he was even sorrier, he said, that the boys couldn't get together again and sort out their own differences.
I asked him what he was doing after the film and he replied that he was talking with an agent about recording again and perhaps going on the road, but not as much as before, because of his health.
I asked him then if he remembered me from 1959 and he said he did not. I reminded him that he asked me if I liked Maybe Tomorrow and I told him I did.
He looked pretty blank at me and said: "Oh yes." He said it, but I felt he only said it to placate me. I don't think he really remembered but then again he had met millions of people.
He was called away to get ready and it wasn't until Keith Moon arrived that I again got to speak to him. Billy and Keith seemed to hit it off instantly. Laughing together and sharing the odd smoke together they were just like teenagers and Billy, although looking very thin and wasted, seemed to be very happy and reasonably healthy.
I asked him what he been up to over the last few years and he said that he had been living in a state of harmony with nature. Keith Moon interrupted and said: "He's been living in a nudist camp" and we all laughed.
"No," he said, " I love animals and I love the peace and quiet and I have been with both but I have to live and so I must work and earn so that I can buy the farm I want and perhaps settle down for good."
He looked really serious and the spell was broken by Keith again with an off the cuff comment. We all laughed again and Keith asked Billy if he would be partying tonight. Billy looked back as he walked away and said: "Party with you? You'd kill me with my liver," and with this he went.
Billy talked very little while on the set and was not socialising much off set either. He seemed to spend most of the time with his young lady and it seemed they were very much in love.
We spoke only a few times and mostly about trivial things. I stayed with the film crew the entire seven weeks of the shooting and got on very good terms with them but during Billy's short stay he was very withdrawn to most people.
On Saturday July 17th 1982 we met again.
Billy was approached to come out of retirement and perform a few gigs around the country. I believe, but could be wrong, that he first appeared in Birmingham. But indeed it may have been here that he first appeared at the Blue Boar Festival site Hucknall, Nottingham.
He was top of the bill above The Star Gazers, Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, Dynamite, Flash Cats, Johnny and the Roccos, Marty Wilde, The Sunsets and a new band, Moonshine. All of these are specialist rock 'n' roll bands.
I was DJ and compere and also as compere was Paul Barrett.
The show was brilliant all afternoon and the weather was good.
Billy arrived to be ready for his 10.15 appearance. Then I got the news! Billy was not going on...he was not able to do it...he was sweating profusely and was worried about singing to a specialist audience, an audience of serious fifties music lovers.
I was asked to go to talk to him. I found him walking about, very nervous.
People were virtually grilling him that he must go on.
I said: "Hello Billy, remember me?"
He looked at me and said: "That'll be the day." We both laughed because it sounded silly.
"Billy," I said, "I've got to get back - I'm the DJ. Can I tell them that you're OK and raring' to go?"
"I'm thinking about it", he said.
"Don't disappoint them," I replied and left. I hoped that the others in there would not try to force him.
When the time came to go on he was opposite me in the wings. He looked across and made a sign to me as if to say: "Here goes."
He came on to rapturous applause and launched into his first number, stumbling with words, not hitting the right key. He was hopelessly lost. He turned to the band and gave a signal to start again.
He looked into the audience. What I can only describe as the epitome of a teddy boy, with large quiff, drape coat and beetle crusher suede shoes looking for all the world as a mean hombre looked at him and said: "We love you Billy" and the song began again, this time perfectly.
The whole of his act was knockout. He could still sing and the audience could hear that. They treated him as they would have done an English Elvis Presley.
After his set he went off stage and because I had to play records until the end of the night I never spoke to him again.
Some months later I was hit by the tragedy of his death.