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James
Jamerson
8/1983

August 2, 1983 – James Lee Jamerson  was born on January 29th 1936 in Edisto Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. In 1954 he moved with his mother to Detroit where he learned to play the double bass at Northwestern High School, and he soon began playing in Detroit area blues and jazz clubs.

Jamerson continued performing in Detroit clubs after graduating high school, and his increasingly solid reputation started providing him opportunities for sessions at various local recording studios. Starting in 1959, he found steady work at Berry Gordy’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio, home of the Motown record label. He played bass on Marv Johnson single “Come to Me”(1959), John Lee Hooker album ” Burnin’ “(1962) and The Reflections “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet”(1964).

There he became a member of a core of studio musicians who informally called themselves The Funk Brothers. This small, close-knit group of musicians performed on the vast majority of Motown recordings during most of the 1960s. Jamerson’s earliest Motown sessions were performed on double bass, but in the early 1960s he switched to playing an electric Fender Precision Bass for the most part.

The Funk Brothers

Like Jamerson, most of the other Funk Brothers were jazz musicians who had been recruited by Gordy. For many years, they maintained a typical schedule of recording during the day at Motown’s small garage “Studio A” (which they nicknamed “the Snakepit”), then playing gigs in the jazz clubs at night. They also occasionally toured the U.S. with Motown artists. For most of their career, however, the Funk Brothers went uncredited on Motown singles and albums, and their pay was considerably less than the main artists or the label received.

Eventually, Jamerson was put on retainer with Motown for one thousand dollars a week, which afforded him and his ever-expanding family a comfortable lifestyle.
Jamerson’s discography at Motown reads as a catalog of soul hits of the 1960s and 1970s.

His work includes Motown hits such as, among hundreds of others, “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes, “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Shotgun” by Jr. Walker & the All Stars, “For Once in My Life,” “I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder, “Going to a Go-Go” by The Miracles, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and later by Marvin Gaye, and most of the album What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Bernadette” by the Four Tops. According to fellow Funk Brothers in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Gaye was desperate to have Jamerson play on “What’s Going On,” and went to several bars to find the bassist. When he did, he brought Jamerson to the studio, who then played the classic line while lying flat on his back. He is reported to have played on some 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. He eventually performed on nearly 30 No. 1 pop hits—surpassing the record commonly attributed to The Beatles. On the R&B charts, nearly 70 of his performances went to the top.

Post Motown

Shortly after Motown moved their headquarters to Los Angeles, California in 1972, Jamerson moved there himself and found occasional studio work, but his relationship with Motown officially ended in 1973. He went on to perform on such 1970s hits as “Neither One Of Us” by Gladys Night & The Pips (1973), “Boogie Down” (Eddie Kendricks, 1974), “Boogie Fever” (The Sylvers, 1976), “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., 1976), and “Heaven Must Have Sent You” (Bonnie Pointer, 1979). He also played on Robert Palmer’s 1975 solo album Pressure Drop, Dennis Cofey “Instant Coffey” (1974), “Wah Wah Watson”‘s Elementary album (1976),[14] Rhythm Heritage (1976), Al Wilson (1977), Eloise Laws (1977), Smokey Robinson (1978), Ben E. King (1978), Hubert Laws (1979), Tavares (1980), Joe Sample & David T. Walker (1981), and Bloodstone (1982).

But as other musicians went on to use high-tech amps, round-wound strings, and simpler, more repetitive bass lines incorporating new techniques like thumb slapping, Jamerson’s style fell out of favor with local producers and he found himself reluctant to try new things. By the 1980s he was unable to get any serious gigs working as a session musician.

Long troubled by alcoholism, Jamerson died of complications stemming from cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure and pneumonia on August 2, 1983, in Los Angeles at the age of 47.

Finally Recognition

• James Jamerson (as is the case with the other Funk Brothers) received little formal recognition for his lifetime contributions. It was not until 1971, when he was acknowledged as “the incomparable James Jamerson” on the sleeve of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, that his name even showed up on a major Motown release.

• Jamerson was the subject of a 1989 book by Allan Slutsky (aka “Dr. Licks”) titled Standing in the Shadows of Motown. The book includes a biography of Jamerson, a few dozen transcriptions of his bass lines, and two CDs in which 26 internationally known professional bassists (such as Pino Palladino, John Entwistle, Will Lee, Chuck Rainey, and Geddy Lee) speak about Jamerson and play those transcriptions. Jamerson’s story was also featured in the subsequent 2002 documentary film of the same title.

• In 1999, Jamerson was awarded a bust at the Hollywood Guitar Center’s Rock Walk.

• In 2000, Jamerson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, part of the first-ever group of “sidemen” to be so honored.

• In 2003, there was a two-day celebration entitled “Returned To The Source” which was hosted by The Charleston Jazz Initiative and Avery Research Center of The College of Charleston.

• In 2004, the Funk Brothers were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

• In 2007, Jamerson along with the other Funk Brothers was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee.

• In 2008, James Jamerson was awarded the Gullah/GeeChee Anointed Spirit Award.

• In 2009, Jamerson was inducted into the Fender Hall of Fame. Among the speakers was fellow legendary Motown session bassist and friend, Bob Babbitt.

• In 2009, Jamerson received a Resolution from the SC House of Representatives.

• In 2012, Jamerson received the Hartke, Zune, Samson 2012 International Bassist Award.

• In 2013, he along with the Funk Brothers received their Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

• In 2014, Jamerson received a State Resolution from the South Carolina Senate.

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Chris Wood 7/1983

July 12, 1983 – Chris Wood  (Traffic) was born June 24th 1944 in Birmingham, England, the son of Stephen, an engineer, and Muriel Gordon, a missionary’s daughter born and raised in China.

He had a sister, Stephanie Angela, 3 years younger than he. Chris showed an interest in music and painting from an early age. His father related, “He stood by the record player changing records since he was this tall“.

Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he commenced playing at the age of 15, he began to play locally with other Birmingham musicians who would later find international fame in music: Christine Perfect (later Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame), Carl Palmer (ELP) , Stan Webb, and Mike Kellie(Spooky Tooth). Wood played with Perfect in 1964 in the band Shades of Blue and with Kellie during 1965-1966 in the band Locomotive.

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Muddy Waters 4/1983

Muddy WatersApril 30, 1983 – Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He taught himself harmonica as a child. He later took up guitar, eagerly absorbing the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson and Son House and went on to become known as “the Father of Chicago blues”.

Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Grant gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age, because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. He later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. Continue reading Muddy Waters 4/1983

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Felix
Pappalardi
4/1983

felix pappalardi17 April 1983 – Felix Pappalardi (MOUNTAIN) was born December 30th 1939 in the Bronx, New York City. After High School he moved to Michigan where he studied classical music at the University of Michigan. After graduating he moved back to New York but could not find a job as a conductor and soon fell into the folk scene of Greenwich Village. During the 1960s as a music producer he helped to further the careers of musicans from Tim Hardin, The Youngbloods, Joan Baez, to Richard and Mimi Farina.

In 1964 he joined Max Morath’s Original Rag Quartet (ORQ)in their premier engagement at New York’s Village Vanguard with several other famous musicians. Along with Felix on guitarrón (Mexican acoustic bass) were pianist/singer Morath, who revived classic ragtime played in the Scott Joplin manner, Barry Kornfeld, a well-known NYC studio folk and jazz guitarist, and Jim Tyler, a famous Baroque and Renaissance lutenist playing four string banjo and mandolin. The ORQ then toured the college and concert circuit during the following year, and opened four engagements with the Dinah Shore show in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

As a producer, Pappalardi became perhaps best known for his work with British psychedelic blues-rock power trio Cream, beginning with their second album, Disraeli Gears. Pappalardi has been referred to in various interviews with the members of Cream as “the fourth member of the band” as he generally had a role in arranging their music. He contributed instrumentation for his imaginative studio arrangements and he and his wife, Gail, wrote the Cream hit “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.

In 1968 he produced a band named, ‘The Vagrants’ who recorded on the Atlantic Record Label, and which featured a young guitarist named Leslie West. In 1969 along with West, Corky Laing, Mark Clarke, Steve Knight, David Perry, and N.D. Smart II, he founded the hard charging blues-rock group, ‘Mountain.‘ The group was formed in Long Island, New York, and disbanded in 1972. They got back together in 1974, but disbanded again in 1975. One of there first big gigs was playing at the Woodstock Music Festival in Saugerties, New York, in August 1969. There songs include, “My Lady” “Don’t Look Around” “The Great Train Robbery” “Travelin” “In The Dark” “The Animal Trainer And The Toad” “Mississippi Queen” “For Yasgur’s Farm” “Boys In The Band” “Laird” “Silver Paper” “King’s Corale I” “One Last Cold Kiss” “Crossroader” and “Dream Sequence: Guitar Solo/Roll Over.

As a musician, Pappalardi is widely recognized as a bassist, vocalist, and founding member of the American hard rock band/heavy metal forerunner Mountain, a band born out of his working with future bandmate Leslie West’s soul-inspired rock and roll band The Vagrants, and producing West’s 1969 Mountain solo album. The band’s original incarnation actively recorded and toured between 1969 and 1971. Felix produced the band’s albums, and co-wrote, and arranged a number of the band’s songs with his wife Gail Collins and Leslie West.

The band’s signature song, “Mississippi Queen” is still heard regularly on classic rock radio stations. They also had a hit with the song “Nantucket Sleighride” written by Pappalardi and Collins.

Felix generally played Gibson basses live and on Mountain’s recordings. He is most often shown with an EB-1 but there are photographs of him playing an EB-0 live. He was known for playing a Gibson EB-1 violin bass through a set of Sunn amplifiers that, he claimed, once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.

Pappalardi was forced to retire because of partial deafness, ostensibly from his high-volume shows with Mountain. He continued producing throughout the 1970s and released a solo album and recorded with Japanese hard rock outfit Kazuo Takeda’s band The Creation (old name Blues Creation).

On April 17, 1983, Felix Pappalardi was shot once in the neck in their fifth-floor East Side Manhattan apartment. He was pronounced dead at the scene and his wife Gail was charged with second degree murder. Collins Pappalardi claimed that the killing was an accident. She was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter, but found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. On April 30, 1985, she was released on parole and disappeared to Mexico.

Felix Pappalardi was 43 when he died on April 17, 1983.

On December 6, 2013, Collins was found dead by her landlord in the Mexican village of Ajijic, Jalisco, a resort town with many American expatriate residents. She had been undergoing cancer treatments there. She was cremated with her three cats.

The Pappalardi’s became known for their non-musical proclivities, which included the usual chemical experiments as well as an open marriage. However her jealousy of one particular mistress reportedly led to the argument that ended in his death, although Collins maintained that she’d shot Pappalardi accidentally while taking a firearms training session. The fact that it happened at 6:00AM didn’t dissuade jurors from handing in a surprising verdict, convicting her of criminally negligent homicide rather than murder.

The judge in the case seemed annoyed by the verdict, making a point of reminding jurors, “She called her attorney instead of calling for help — she was concerned with her own well-being,” and giving her the maximum sentence under the law. Paroled in 1985 after serving half of her four-year sentence, Collins disappeared from sight, but judging from the quotes given by her acquaintances to the New York Daily News, she remained just as provocative a personality after exiting the spotlight.

“She was one of the most brilliant people I have ever known, but she was also an opinionated jackass. She just needed to be the star,” said one woman described as Collins’ friend. Added her neighbor, “She left instructions for her cats to be euthanized so their ashes could be mixed with hers. Who does that?”

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Danny
Rapp
4/1983

Danny Rapp (1)April 5, 1983 – Daniel Earl Danny Rapp was born on May 9th 1941 in Philadelphia, PA. The group was formed in a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1955, and besides Rapp included, Frank Maffei, Lennie Baker, Dave White Tricker, Joe Terranova, and Bill Carlucci. Originally known as ‘The Juvenairs’ the group choreographed their own dance moves, and often performed at after school gigs and local area shows. They later became known as Danny and the Juniors.

In 1957, the group was discovered by songwriter/producer named John Madara, who had happened to see them while they were were working a record hop. A promoter of Rock ‘n’ Roll music, Madara introduced the band to David White Tricker and a vocal coach named Artie Singer, who also owned the Singular Records Label. After an audition, the band was signed to the label, and soon released their first song, ‘Do The Bop,’ written by Madara and White. The song’s title was later changed to, ‘At The Bop’ .

The song came to the attention of Dick Clark, who suggested they rename it to “At the Hop,” due to the fact that the word ‘Bop’ was by then pretty much out of fashion.  The song released in that year, was first cut as a demo with the help of music producer Leon Huff and after 13 takes at the Reco-Art Studios, the copy was sent around to radio DJ’s. The song was released as the group’s first single, and it became a regional hit first, and then a national hit. The song went to #1 for 7 weeks on the music charts and sold over 7,000 copies in their hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The song which was an immediate success would also become there signature song. They were also asked to appear on Dick Clark’s television program, “American Bandstand” as a replacement for ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials.’ Following the success of there single, ‘At The Hop,’ the band then released the Top 20 hit, ‘Rock And Roll Here To Stay,’ and also toured with several bands of Alan Freed‘s traveling Rock ‘n’ Roll shows.

They followed this with two other singles that ended up going into the Top 40 Charts. In 1963 the group switched over to the Swan Record Label, but after the release of a couple more songs including, ‘Twistin’ USA,’ and ‘Dottie,’ the group eventually disbanded a year later. The Juniors released several more records in the 1960s but were not able to produce any more hits. In the 70s they toured the oldies circuit, re-releasing “At the Hop” in 1976

The group’s members continued on in the music business doing their own things, Madara kept producing and finding new talent, while the group’s members joined, founded other bands, or had solo careers.

Rapp’s last performance was in Phoenix, Arizona at the Silver Lining Lounge of The Pointe Tapatio Resort in a month-long engagement which was scheduled to end on Saturday, April 2, 1983. However two performances short of the contract he got into a couple of disputes offstage with a female member of the group that prompted resort security to intervene and confront him. With two more shows yet to complete, Danny took off and headed to a small town more than 160 miles away, where he checked into the Yacht Club Motel in Quartzsite, Arizona, just east of the California border. He was seen on Saturday drinking heavily in the Jigsaw, one of the two bars in town. Sometime over the weekend, he bought a .25-caliber automatic from a private individual.

Rapp’s body was found in his hotel room on Sunday, April 3, 1983, with a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of the head. He was a few weeks short of his 42nd birthday.

David White co-wrote “At the Hop” with John Madara and Artie Singer. Originally called “Do the Bop” and written by David and John, the song was renamed and some of its lyrics changed at the recommendation of Dick Clark because the dance known as the Bop was already fading in popularity around the time the song was released. Hops were the new thing. Artie came aboard as a co-writer of the new version, and Dick was given half of the publishing rights for it.

As David recalls in his own words about that song, “We recorded ‘Do the Bop’ with Johnny Madara singing lead vocals and my group, The Juvenaires, backing him up. Artie took it to Johnny’s label, Prep Records, but they turned it down. Artie then took it to Dick Clark, who suggested the title change to ‘At the Hop’. Aritie changed some of the lyrics and became a co-writer,” continuing, “We went back into the recording studio and this time, my group recorded the song with Danny singing lead. Artie took it back to Dick Clark and gave him half the publishing of the song. ‘At the Hop’ was then released on the Singular label, which couldn’t handle the distribution demands. So Artie sold the master to ABC Paramount.” The practice of payola was not illegal at that time, allowing Dick Clark to get away with securing those publishing rights, David explained to me.

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Karen Carpenter 2/1983

karen carpenterFebruary 4, 1983 – Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2nd 1950. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching and later, in the early 1970s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.

In 1964 when Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked and after admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez (who idolized famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play the drums instead. Continue reading Karen Carpenter 2/1983

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Luke Kelly 1/1983

Luke KellyJanuary 29, 1983 – Luke Kelly was born in Dublin on either the 16th of November or 16th of December 1940. The confusion arises because his mother says November and his birth certificate December. In the main Luke has always taken his mother’s word for it, for he reasons that she was there at the time. The family was a large close one. Luke’s father, another Luke, worked for Jacobs the biscuit people and had a great love of soccer – a love he passed on to his son.

Luke was educated at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s (the patron saint of Dublin) School in the North Strand area. He left school when he was thirteen and did a variety of jobs before coming, via the Isle of Man, to work in England.

The first folk club he came across was in Newcastle upon Tyne in early 1960. He started memorizing songs and brought a banjo to play sessions in McReady’s pub. The folk revival was under way in England, at the centre of it was Ewan MacColl who scripted a radio program called Ballads and Blues. The skiffle craze had also injected a certain energy into folk singing. Luke started busking and returned to Dublin in 1962.

That same year Luke along with Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna formed “The Ronnie Drew Group”, playing regularly in O’Donoghue’s Pub. They changed their name due to Drew’s unhappiness with the name, coinciding with the fact that Kelly was reading Dubliners by James Joyce at the time.

In 1964 Luke Kelly left the group for nearly two years, he went back to London and became involved in Ewan MacColl’s “gathering”. The Critics, as it was called, was formed to explore folk traditions and help young singers. He greatly admired MacColl and saw his time with The Critics as an apprenticeship. Back with The Dubliners, Luke was more of the balladeer in the band, and he played chords on the five-string banjo and sang many defining versions of traditional songs like “The Black Velvet Band”, “Whiskey in the Jar”, “Home Boys Home”.

Kelly was keenly political, a member of the Communist Party and a fundraiser for Amnesty International. Sheahan points to his generosity as one of his defining characteristics. He remembers an occasion when Kelly’s wife, the actress Deirdre O’Connell, had returned from a furniture auction with a table. By coincidence, Sheahan’s wife had picked up a set of chairs at auction similar to the table, and he joked about the coincidence to Kelly. “Before I could say anything, he had the table out the door and strapped to the roof of my car. He had no great commitment to material possessions.”

On June 30th 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House, Luke collapsed on the stage, a brain tumor was diagnosed. He continued to tour with the Dubliners after enduring an operation, but his health sadly deteriorated further.

The Ballybough Bridge in the north inner city of Dublin has been renamed the “Luke Kelly Bridge” and in November 2004, the Dublin city council voted unanimously to erect a bronze statue of Luke (On his autumn tour in 1983 he came off the stage, ill, in Traun, Austria and again in Mannheim, Germany. He had to cancel the tour of southern Germany and after a short stay in hospital in Heidelberg was flown back to Dublin. After an operation he spent Christmas with his family but was taken into hospital in the New Year, where this time he sadly died on January 29, 1983 at age 43.

The Dubliners were less a group than a meitheal. In the old peasant pattern the meitheal came together to do a job — and that was it. The Dubliners were all individualists — Luke and Ronnie and Ciaran and John and Barney were leaves from different trees blown together by the wind that changed the world of music a generation ago. What they had most in common was artistic honesty. Luke’s ambition was to express ‘the song of his loneliness1. He succeeded as much as a mortal can -and in doing so he became an immortal.

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Lamar Williams 1/1983

Lamar Williams 1January 25, 1983 – Lamar Williams born on January 14th 1949 in Newton, Mississippi. From an early age he was immersed in music, courtesy of his father-who was a gospel singer in a group called the Deep South-and an uncle in Michigan who liked jazz.

What really got me into music,” he recalled at one time, “was a trip I made once to visit my uncle. He was a jazz head, and used to listen to just about everything. He had a little plastic flute, and I remember one day I picked it up and tried to play along with some records. After a while, I got to where I was doing it, and liking it.”

A self taught musician, Williams remembered some of the problems he confronted when first attempting to master the bass.

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Billy Fury 1/1983

billy furyJanuary 28, 1983 – Billy Fury was born Ronald Wycherley on April 17, 1940 in Liverpool.

In the early days of British rock & roll, there were dozens of contenders for stardom: Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, and Marty Wilde were among the players who rose to the challenge for at least a few years. Billy Fury, by contrast, was the real article from day one, and never really surrendered the title. He was also the most prodigiously talented of his generation of British rock ‘n roll singers, a songwriter of considerable ability, and a decent actor as well.

He was born Ronald Wycherley, in Liverpool. A sickly child, he experienced his first bout of rheumatic fever at age six, the beginning of chronic health problems that would take his life before age 45. At 11, he started music lessons, taking up the piano, and he got his first guitar at age 14. By 1955, the skiffle boom had begun in England and Wycherley was leading his own local group, while earning money working on a tugboat and then as a stevedore. By 1958, Wycherley was playing locally and had won a talent competition, and was writing his own songs.

Wycherley was discovered by impressario Larry Parnes on October 1, 1958, in a story that quickly assumed the status of legend among the British youth of the period. He attended a performance of The Larry Parnes Extravaganza, on which one of the featured performers was Marty Wilde, a hot young rock ‘n roll star who was already well known from his appearances on the television series Oh Boy! Wycherley got backstage to offer his own songs to Wilde in the hope that he might perform them — instead, he was seen and heard by Parnes and booked into the show that night. The applause that Wycherley received earned him a permanent spot on the tour and Parnes as his agent.

In keeping with Larry Parnes’ established proceedure of giving his singers stage names derived from distinctive emotions and attributes -Marty Wilde, Johnny Gentle, Vince Eager — Ronald Wycherley became Billy Fury. His early performances were so suggestive by English standards that he was forced to restrain himself from his more overtly sexual stage moves when a curtain was brought down on one of his shows.

Billy Fury’s recording career began early in 1959 with “Maybe Tomorrow,” a song that he wrote himself and which charted soon after its release. He made his television debut soon after, in a televised play called “Strictly For Sparrows,” and he was soon a fixture on musical showcases such as Oh Boy! He revealed himself a talented singer, and perhaps the closest that England came to producing its own Elvis Presley, capable of dark, brooding, intensely sexual performances such as “Baby How I Cried” (another original) but also of turning in gentle, vulnerable ballads.

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 ‘n roll star in short order. He was one of the very few English rock ‘n rollers of the period who could (and did, on stage and on television) stand alongside the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent with no apology or excuse for being there, and Cochran intended to arrange an American tour for Fury, which never came about because of the car crash that took Cochran’s life at the end of that British tour.

After a string of hit singles, Fury cut his debut album, The Sound of Fury, in early 1960. Released in April of that year, The Sound of Fury was the best rock ‘n roll long-player (albeit only a 10-inch platter) ever to come out of England up to that time. Fury was singing in a killer rockabilly type voice and was backed by some of England’s best rock ‘n roll musicians, including guitarist Joe Brown, one of the few serious rockabilly players in England, and drummer Andy White, who later played on the original release version of the Beatles debut single “Love Me Do.” The album sold well and has been re-released a half-dozen times since, including a CD version in the early 1990’s, and among its strongest adherents is Keith Richards, who, in a 1970’s interview, declared The Sound of Fury one of the greatest rock ‘n roll albums of its era and one he swore by.

Fury’s early 1960’s recordings took on a more sophisticated air as, in keeping with the trends of the times, he moved toward more of a pop-rock sound, similar to Elvis Presley’s film material. He was still a strong singer, however, and never had to fall back on the lure of novelty tunes or romantic pop to sell records. What’s more, on stage he had a very compelling and popular act, backed variously by the Beat Boys and then the Blue Flames (who eventually got a keyboard player turned singer named Georgie Fame in their their line-up, and became his band). In 1960, Decca Records made a decision to soften Fury’s sound, at least on his singles. “Talkin’ In My Sleep” and “Don’t Worry” backed by the Four Kestrels were two results of this change, but they still come off as decent rock ‘n roll. It was the orchestrated “Halfway To Paradise” in 1961 that began his brief assault of the top of the charts, hitting No. 3, and followed a few months later by the No. 2 charting “Jealousy,” and the No. 5 charting “I’d Never Find Another You.” One of his self-penned B-sides of this era, “Fury’s Tune,” however, was an even better representation of Fury at his most intense and charismatic, a dark, brooding, fiercely seductive performance that was a match for the best work of Elvis Presley.
By 1962, Fury was the top rock ‘n roll attraction in England, backed by the best band of the era — the legendary Tornados, of “Telstar” fame -and appearing on television regularly, and even giving a real acting performance in the feature film Play It Cool.  The Beatles even tried (and failed) an audition to back Fury on a tour during this period. Actually as the story goes: After  jettisoning his band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Parnes held auditions in Liverpool for a new group. Among those who auditioned were the Beatles, who at this time were still calling 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 Tornados were recruited as Fury’s backing band and toured and recorded with him from January 1962 to August 1963. The Puppets were another band that backed Billy on a couple of gigs for 12 months.

In that same timeframe he also ventured to America, making little impact (as was the case with virtually every English rock ‘n roller) but getting to meet Elvis Presley on the set of the film Girls Girls Girls. In 1963, Fury was in a seeming unassailable position. By the time, his one-time rivals Cliff Richard and his backing group the Shadows had shifted their focus to a much softer, more romantic brand of rock ‘n roll, leaving Fury as the only harder rocking music idol of the era. His records sold well enough to justify the release of two full LPs including the live recording We Want Billy. He also got a new, seemingly permanent backing band in the guise of the Gamblers, who provided him with the support he needed to make his records and concerts among the best of the period.

Only the arrival of his fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles on the top of the charts ended Fury’s dominance of the teen music scene in England. They weren’t that different as personalities — a look at Fury’s performance in the movie Play It Cool will even bring to mind images of Ringo Starr, who grew up in the same part of Liverpool — except that The Beatles were more guileless and less calculated in the way they presented themselves, and they played a harder, different brand of music, less focused on pop and more on American r&b of the period.

Fury continued to chart records into 1964, and was considered hip and viable enough to justify appearances on programs like Ready! Steady! Go! In the summer of that year, he starred in a semi-autobiographical movie, I’ve Got A Horse, and he got a television show of his own late that year. He continued to get good reviews for an exciting show into 1965, but by then the handwriting was on the wall — his records seldom charted better than the mid-20’s or lower. Additionally, Fury’s health began to deteriorate, which took him off the road, where he was at his best.

In 1966, he left Decca Records and signed a five-year contract with EMI’s Parlophone Records, during which he would see some very modest success but nothing like the frenzied stardom of his first seven years in music.

Fury underwent heart surgery in 1970 and another in 1971, and resumed performing the following year. By the mid-1970’s, there was a rock ‘n roll revival going on in England that saw the re-release of The Sound of Fury LP and other parts of his catalog, and he toured England successfully with his one-time idol Marty Wilde. When he wasn’t performing, Fury looked after his other interests, which included wildlife preservation.

A 1976 heart operation brought an end to Fury’s musical career, except for occasional recording and television appearances. In 1978, Fury re-recorded his classic songs for K-Tel, and in the early 1980’s re-cut his old hits yet again for Polydor (which, by that time, owned Decca Records). A single, “Be Mine Tonight,” just missed the British charts in 1981.

On March 4 of 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 English charts that same season. Plans for a new album and a national tour were made, but on January 27, 1983, he was found unconscious in his home, and he died that same day in hospital.

Amid numerous tributes and memorials, a posthumous single, “Forget Him,” charted in England later that year. Billy Fury remains perhaps the most fondly remembered of England’s early rock ‘n roll stars. In contrast to Cliff Richard, he never changed his sound, and he also – despite a strong dedication to animal rights and conservation — never mixed his personal beliefs and his music in a public way. Numerous reissues and releases of previously unreleased material by Fury have continued to appear in the compact disc era, most recently the 40th Anniversary Anthology double CD set and Beat Goes On’s two-on-one CD of We Want Billy and Billy.

He went on to have 29 chart hits including Wondrous Place; A Thousand Stars; Don’t Worry; Halfway to Paradise; Jealousy; In Summer; Like I’ve Never Been Gone; When Will You Say I Love You; I’d Never Find Another You; Last Night Was Made for Love and Once Upon a Dream.

He also appeared in the films I’ve Gotta Horse and That’ll Be The Day. Billy had been suffering from rheumatic fever, as his health was slowly deteriorating and in ’76 he underwent heart surgery and again later.

In 1980 he was declared bankrupt, this forced him out of retirement, against medical advice he went back to work. His last public appearance was at the Sunnyside, Northampton, in Dec 1982. He recorded a live performance for the television show Unforgettable featuring six of his old hits.

Billy Fury died two and a half months short of his 43rd birthday on January 28, 1983 from a heart attack.