Just spent a very pleasant hour browsing this fantastic site - http://www.billyfury.com/ - packed with info on the UK Rock and Roll legend whose music was, and still is, very popular in the North East.
It is believed to be the biggest web site in the world devoted to a single singer. Isn't it wonderful to know that Billy's name and career are being kept alive by such dedicated folks.
One of the interesting things I found there was a reference to our own Tyneside group The Gamblers who were Billy's backing group for a while during the mid-Sixties. Harry, who runs the site, has generously given permission for the detail to be copied on to the Gamblers page on to our Vintage Sixties Live web site here, but I would strongly recommend a visit (or three) to Billy's own site so it can be viewed in context.
Pirate BBC Essex is broadcasing from the LV18 lightship in Harwich from 9, August till 14, August. You can listen on Medium Wave or via your computer. Pirate BBC Essex is on air from the LV18 lightship just off the coast of Harwich in Essex. The event is to mark the 40th anniversary of the Marine Offences Act which set out to outlaw the offshore stations. Some presenters, such as Emperor Rosko,Norman St John, John Kerr and newsreader Gord Cruse are flying in from around the world to be part of Pirate BBC Essex. Listeners will also hear Johnnie Walker, Tom Edwards, Mike Ahern, Roger Day and Pete Brady, many of them working together for the first time in many years. Listen live to Pirate BBC Essex > Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
This is copied from the Daily Telegraph 26 July 2007
Don Arden, who died on Saturday aged 81, rejoiced in his reputation as the most infamous manager in the history of rock music - a reputation which led to him being known variously as "Mr Big", "The English Godfather" and "The Al Capone of Pop".
Don Arden was born Harry Levy on January 4 1926 at Cheetham Hill, Manchester. In a long and colourful career, he was responsible for building the careers of such performers as Gene Vincent, the Small Faces, Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath. But he became best known for his fiercely uncompromising business methods, which were alleged to include beatings, kneecappings, threats of defenestration and the frequent deployment of muscular assistants, sometimes with firearms. In later years he also achieved a sort of reflected fame as the father of the television personality Sharon Osbourne, whose similarly forthright demeanour led her own brother once to describe her as "Don in a skirt". Arden's notoriety derived largely from an incident in 1966 when a rival manager, Robert Stigwood, attempted to lure away one of his groups, the Small Faces. Determined to teach Stigwood a lesson, Arden arrived at his fourth floor office in Cavendish Square with a team of heavies, personally lifted Stigwood from his chair, dragged him to the balcony and threatened to throw him into the street below if he attempted to steal one of his acts again. What Arden had not realised was that his accomplices had planned an extra scene to the drama. Tearing Stigwood from Arden's grasp, they manhandled the unfortunate victim over the balcony and made as if to drop him, before depositing him on the floor of the office. Arden declared himself satisfied with the outcome - Stigwood, he recalled, "never bothered me again" - although he also expressed surprise at how the incident quickly became a part of showbusiness legend, speculating that it would be memorialised on his gravestone: "Don Arden - Hung Robert Stigwood Out Of Window. Ha ****ing Ha." Arden was born Harry Levy on January 4 1926 at Cheetham Hill, Manchester. His father Lazarus did piece work in a raincoat factory and had ambitions for his son to join him. But from an early age Harry had set his sights on showbusiness. As a child he had sung as a cantor in the local synagogue, and by the age of 14 he was appearing on stage as a professional singer and comedian, offering impressions of Winston Churchill and Al Jolson. A canny agent suggested he should change his name to Don Arden, after the Hollywood actor Robert Arden. advertisement Arden was just 5ft 7in, but as a young man had shown a dedication to personal fitness, developing a physique which led to his being nicknamed "Tarzan". He also demonstrated a volatile temper. At the age of 19 he was banned from performing on the circuit of Hippodrome theatres for two years after punching a stage manager who had called him "a ****ing Jew boy". Despite this setback Arden went on to top the bill at the London Palladium and appeared as a special guest on television's Black and White Minstrel Show. In the mid 1950s, realising that his long-term prospects as an entertainer were limited, Arden shrewdly reinvented himself as an agent and promoter. He was among the first to realise the commercial possibilities of rock and roll, which most people dismissed as a fad. Eschewing such home-grown acts as Cliff Richard (whom Arden dismissed as "pathetic") and Billy Fury ("not fit to wipe Eddie Cochran's arse"), Arden organised package tours bringing American artists such as Sam Cooke, Brenda Lee and Little Richard to Britain for the first time. He was particularly close to the singer Gene Vincent, an alcoholic who walked with a limp and carried a loaded pistol wherever he went - "a habit," Arden confessed, "I would later adopt myself". Arden also attempted to bring Elvis Presley to Britain by holding out the bait of an appearance on behalf of one of the Duke of Edinburgh's charities, but the plan faltered when "The King" stipulated that he should receive a personal invitation from the Duke himself. In the 1960s Arden turned his attentions to British artists, proving highly effective in managing such acts as the Nashville Teens, Amen Corner and the Small Faces, who had five consecutive hit singles under his direction, one of which, All Or Nothing, he produced himself. Arden would later confess that one reason his acts were so successful was that he regularly bribed DJs and paid young mothers to buy singles at shops which supplied sales figures for the charts. But he dismissed suggestions that this was cheating as: "absolute rubbish. I had a saying: you can't polish a turd. In other words, if the record's no good to begin with it still won't be any good after you've wasted your time and money getting it played." His fiercely patriarchal approach to management, investing large sums of money in supporting and promoting his artists, but expecting unwavering loyalty in return, inspired a peculiar mixture of admiration and terror in his acts. Kenney Jones, the drummer of the Small Faces, once described him as "a kind of Jewish teddy bear. You liked him immediately because he was enthusiastic. Whenever he said 'I'll do this, I'll do that' - he did and it came true." However, another group who sought to leave his roster, Skip Bifferty, was allegedly obliged to seek police protection after being visited by enforcers attempting to persuade them of the error of their ways. Even within the rough and tumble world of Tin Pan Alley, few could match Arden's stamina for a feud, and his enthusiasm for retribution when he felt he had been cheated. Even before the incident with Robert Stigwood, he had threatened to throw Allen Klein out of the window of his 24th floor office in New York, and he once ground a lighted cigar into the forehead of another rival, Clifford Davis. Arden enjoyed playing up to his image as a ruthless operator. He affected broad-lapelled gangster suits, and hung a picture of himself impersonating Edward G Robinson on his office wall. "A lot of what he did had its beginnings in humour," one associate remembered. "And socially he could be very, very funny. A great deal of what he said was bluff. But later on the role took over the man." Arden enjoyed his greatest success in the 1970s, with Electric Light Orchestra, Black Sabbath and - as a solo artist - Sabbath's erstwhile singer Ozzy Osbourne. He founded his own record label, Jet, and in 1977, relocated to America, buying Howard Hughes's Hollywood mansion. By now, Arden had brought his son David and daughter Sharon into the business. In 1982 Sharon married Ozzy Osbourne, and Arden gave her Osbourne's management contract as a wedding present. The new arrangement led to ill-feeling when Sharon attempted to break Osbourne's recording contract with Jet and sign the singer to another label. Arden sued his daughter, and the case was settled out of court when she paid him $1 million. The estrangement between father and daughter was exacerbated when Arden left his wife, Hope, for a younger woman. Sharon would not talk to Arden for another 20 years. Father and daughter were finally reunited in 2001, and the following year Arden enjoyed a walk-on role in his daughter's reality TV show The Osbournes. One of the abiding astonishments of his career was that Arden evaded the attentions of the law for so long. In 1987, however, he was tried at the Old Bailey on charges of kidnapping, blackmail, torture and assault in the case of Harshad Patel, an accountant whom Arden alleged had stolen money from him. Arden was acquitted on all charges. In 2003 Arden published an autobiography, Mr Big. The subtitle, "Ozzy, Sharon and My Life as the Godfather of Rock" suggested that he was alive to his diminished role in the family celebrity pecking order, but the book displayed no sign of repentance, either in his vigorous appraisals of past business associates (Ronnie Lane was an "evil little man", Bill Haley "a prick" and the Animals "a bunch of Geordie dummies who didn't know their arses from a hole in the ground") nor in his unorthodox business methods. While confessing that he had never actually killed anyone, Arden declared himself proud of his capacity to have inspired fear and terror "in such a way that the people I scare are going to have to keep looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives". His wife predeceased him and he is survived by his son and daughter.