In the 1960s, Billy Fury had more Decca hits than any other artist including the Rolling Stones. He was the fourth biggest selling artist of the decade after The Beatles, Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley.
January saw the 30th anniversary since his passing but more appropriately the launch of a new tour celebrating the music star whose hits included Jealousy, Halfway to Paradise and Its Only Make Believe.
The Billy Fury Years, which visits Cardiff next month features “The best Fury since Fury”, Michael King and a fantastic collection of musicians who will recreate the musical career of Britain’s best-loved rock n roll legend.
Among those involved with advising on the authenticity of the show is Fury’s drummer and ex-Tornado Clem Cattini.
“Funnily enough he was quite a shy guy” says Clem as he remembers Billy, “Then, when he got on stage, he was outgoing.”
“People say he was the British Elvis Presley. He wasn’t really. He was Billy Fury! He didn’t copy anybody.”
Clem’s association with Billy began in the late 50s when signed by musical entrepreneur Larry Parnes to play a series of shows with Billy and Terry Dene. After the tour, Clem joined Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, who later scored a number one with Shakin’ All Over, the first of over forty number one hits that Clem would feature on with various artists.
Clem was reunited with Billy Fury when he signed to producer, Joe Meek as a session musician. He quickly found himself back on the road with Billy as drummer in his backing band, The Tornados.
“We all had some great laughs,” remembers Clem.
“We went to Ireland and got thrown out because Billy would wiggle his bum. We were told, “If you’re going to do it again, we’ll pull the curtain down on you. They did and we were taken off the show.”
“Its slightly different attitudes these days, it’s amazing how things change.”
It was while on tour with Billy Fury that The Tornados own record Telstar reached number one in the UK Charts.
Telstar would later top the U.S. charts, but unfortunately Billy Fury’s manager Larry Parnes refused to release The Tornados from their touring contract to pursue American fame.
Clem ultimately forged a career as a very much in demand session musician working with acts as diverse as The Kinks and Cliff Richard.
“I’ve been very lucky to have done what I’ve done,” before continuing with a laugh, “If I’d known people were going to be interested 50 years later Id have played better in the first place.”
Clem still looks back on his days working with Billy with fondness and was happy to be involved with the development of The Billy Fury Years which he is sure will “bring back a lot of memories” for fans of the late star.
The Billy Fury Years starring Michael King reaches St David’s Hall, Cardiff on April 25.