Billy Fury

Black and white photograph of Billy FuryBilly Fury was born Ronald William Wycherley on 17 April 1940 in Liverpool, England.

As an early UK rock and roll and film star, Fury is comparable to American contemporaries such as Elvis Presley.

His chart success and longevity are testament to what Bruce Eder of Allmusic.com calls 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.

During the 1960’s he spent an amazing 332 weeks on the UK singles chart and continued writing songs throughout his career.

Fury also matched the Beatles record of 24 chart hits but despite all this he never actually managed a number one single with “Jealousy” his highest charting song hitting the number 2 spot.

Working on a tug boat

Billy took piano lessons in his early years and owned his first guitar at the age of 14. In 1955, while working on a tug boat as a dock worker, he also fronted his own band playing around Liverpool.

With these strong musical leanings he triumphed in a talent competition and was writing his own compositions by the time he was 18.

Fury got his big break when attending a show in Birkenhead, he approached venerable promoter Larry Parnes and attempted to get an audience with established British rock’n roller Marty Wilde. Hoping that the artist may be interested in some of his own compositions however Parnes, being enamoured with the then Ronald Wycherley, pushed him on stage straight away and being impressed with his act signed him, renamed him Billy Fury and added him to his roster of stars.

Larry Parnes tour

After being added to the Larry Parnes tour, the newly named Billy Fury began to attract a lot of media attention. His early performances were censored due to their provocatively sexual nature.

These performances were highlighted by the magazine NME who commentated that Fury’s stage show had been drawing wider press criticism.

First album Sound of Fury

Billy toned down his act and in 1959 released his first single “Maybe Tomorrow” after signing with Decca.

Television appearances followed and his first came in Strictly for Sparrows a televised stage production. Other appearances followed and he was a regular on various music programs including ITV show Oh Boy! His own original work “Collette” reached #9 in the singles chart before his first album ‘Sound of Fury’ was released in 1960 reaching #18 in the album charts.

The Silver Beetles

A few more hits followed and after parting with his band The Blue Flames, auditions for a replacement group were held and amongst those auditioning were a young Liverpool beat combo called The Silver Beetles, an early precursor of The Beatles, however The Tornados became Fury’s band and performed live and recorded with the artist until August 1963.

Billy began to concentrate on ballads more than rock ‘n’ roll of which two such songs proved to be very successful for the Scouser. “Halfway to Paradise” and “Jealousy” charted at #3 and #2 respectively in 1961. Decca’s judgment in moulding Fury into something of a teen idol seemed to work as 1962-3 where Fury’s best years in terms of chart success.

In 1962, Fury made his first movie “Play It Cool” modelled very much on the films of Elvis Presley and Fury’s song “Once Upon a Dream” became another hit for the Merseyside man.

Fury also released one of the UK’s earliest live albums in rock history featuring his hits and also some cover versions. More hit singles like “It’s Only Make Believe” and “I Will” followed charting at #10 and #14 respectively.

After making another film, 1965’s “I’ve Gotta Horse Fury” ended his partnership with Decca and signed a five year deal with Parlophone.

The Parlophone partnership was less successful and Fury’s chart success dried up from 1967 onwards before a renaissance in his career in 1982 enjoying mild chart success with two songs called “Love or Money” and “Devil or Angel” charting at #57 and #58.

Health Problems

In the 1970’s health problems contributed to a prolonged absence from music but Billy made a comeback starring alongside David Essex and Ringo Starr in the 1973 movie “That’ll Be the Day”.

Fury also went back on tour with Marty Wilde but his health suffered and as a result had to undergo heart surgery in 1976.

By 1980 Fury was announced as being bankrupt while new releases failed to impact the charts.

Fury almost died after collapsing while working on the farm he owned in 1981 but soon took up touring again and after securing some late chart success, and recording one more album with Polydor before he died of heart failure in 1983.

In 2003, funded by a group called “The Sound of Fury”, a statue was commissioned and placed at the National Museum of Liverpool Life. In 2008 an album was issued called “His Wondrous Story – The Complete Collection” and captured the #10 spot in the UK album chart.

Billy is buried at Paddington Cemetary, Mill Hill, London.

Official website.