FURY, Billy  (Ronald Wycherley) [1940 - 1983] 

In the late 1970’s I moved into a house on South Mossley Hill Road and opposite, a few doors down, in a between-the-wars pebble-dashed semi, lived a quiet couple, Jean and Albert Wycherley. There was nothing to pick them out from the neighbours but those in the know were aware that they were the parents of one of Britain’s star rock singers, Billy Fury.

He was born on 17th April 1940 at Smithdown Road Infirmary (re-named Sefton General in 1948). His father, Albert Edward Wycherley, was a cobbler originally from London. Sarah Jane Homer (always known as Jean) was an assistant at the shop where he worked  and they married not long after their first date. They had considered naming their first son Kenneth but had alate change of mind and chose Ronald after Jean’s brother. At the time of his birth they were living at 2 Sefton Square L8, moving later to 34 Haliburton Street L8. (Both properties long since demolished).

Ronnie attended St. Silas’ Church of England primary school, his classmates including Richard Starkey and Billy |Hatton, who would later play in The Fourmost. During his childhood he suffered from rheumatic fever which led to a number of lengthy stays in hospital with the legacy of a damaged heart. His bouts of illness inevitably meant that he was behind in schoolwork and her would call his days at Wellington Road Secondary Modern the most miserable of his life. After leaving school he had various jobs including an apprentice welder and crewing a tugboat.

His singing breakthrough came on 1st October 1958 when he presented himself to impresario Larry Parnes at the Essoldo Theatre in Birkenhead and was auditioned with an audience of Parnes and Marty Wilde. Parnes was duly impressed and immediately put Ronnie into his show, the young singer finding himself playing before a thousand people hours later. His new manager also gave him the name under which he would find fame, Billy Fury. Parnes reportedly dubbed his young singers with a simple sounding first name and ‘surname’ to reflect their sexual characteristics, such as Marty Wilde, Vince Eager and Duffy Power. (Joe Brown adamantly insisted on retaining his own name, recalling that Parnes’ suggested change was to Elmer Twitch).

Billy Fury released his first single (Maybe Tomorrow) in 1958. His peak period for singles success was 1960-63, during which he had nine top ten hits. The number one spot evaded him, his best being a No. 2 hit with Jealousy in 1961. He made his first film appearance in 1962 in Play It Cool, and starred in the 1965 film I’ve Gotta Horse. In 1973 he appeared alongside his old primary school classmate, Ringo Starr, as Stormy Tempest in That’ll Be The Day.

Poor health and financial problems marred his later years and in 1978 he was declared bankrupt for non-payment of income tax which Larry Parnes falsely claimed to have paid. Billy was not the only star who believed that Parnes had financially exploited him. He was passionate about animals and spent much time in the 1970’s on his farm in Wales. He made his last public appearance on 4th December 1982 at the Sunnyside pub in Northampton. He collapsed at his home from a heart attack on 28th January 1983 dying a short time later in hospital He was buried at Mill Hill cemetery in London.

From 1959 to 1967 Billy Fury lived with singer Lee Middleton, also managed by Larry Parnes,  who recorded as ‘Lady Lee’. She later married Kenny Everett. He married Judith Hall in 1969 but later left her and lived for a number of years with Lisa Voice.

A statue of Billy Fury by Tom Murphy stands on the Liverpool Waterfront.

The statue of Billy Fury by Tom Murphy


I have two biographies of Billy Fury. Wondrous Face: The Billy Fury Story [Finbarr International 2005] is by Spencer Leigh and as you would expect from him is eminently readable and contains much well-researched detail. A more recent work is Halfway to Paradise: The Life of Billy Fury [Omnibus Press 2018] by David and Caroline Stafford and this too makes for good reading. The website of the ‘Sound of Fury Fan Club’ , billyfury.com has a host of information about him and his career. There are many video clips of him but of particular note is his appearance on the Russell Harty show in 1982 in which he talks about his early life see this on YouTube.