An appreciation of the life of Billy 'Uke' Scott is long overdue on this site. Billy was a honorary member of The George Formby Society and enjoyed attending the meetings in Blackpool. These words are from the pen of his friend and also a honorary member, Alan Southworth who knew Billy probably better than anyone else in the GFS.

Early Life

William Scott was born on 12 March 1923 in Sunderland. In the 1930s, most young men from that area either worked in the coalmines or in the shipbuilding industry. But after only a few piano lessons- all his father could afford - Billy found his flair for music. He became a singer with a school jazz band. During instrumental choruses, the bandleader gave him a ukulele and said, "Pretend you're playing this." The moment changed Billy's life. In 1936, he made his variety debut at the Newcastle Empire playing the piano and the ukulele. Billy could never understand why people played only chord accompaniment on the uke and set out to prove that 'melody can be played on the ukulele' -one of his well known catchphrases used in more than 1,000 radio broadcasts.

Lively Personality

His lively personality and brilliant musicianship kept him in big demand on the Moss Empire circuit appearing with the biggest names in the 40s and 50s- Gracie Fields, Will Hay and Tommy Trinder. He wrote his own orchestrations and more than 100 songs for radio, summer shows and pantomime - preferring contemporary themes such as A Nice Prefabricated Home. I've Got A Girl friend and What Is The Good Of A Good Girl. He played a starring role (and wrote the music and songs) in two films, Rainbow Round the Corner in 1943 and A Night of Magic in 1944. In 1952, Billy had the honour of being invited to join the elite band of 180 entertainers known as The Grand Order of Water Rats (RATS is STAR spelt backwards).

War Years

During the war, Billy did a one-year tour with ENSA. He appeared at theatres threatened by air raids and also entertained troops overseas- surviving two plane crashes! After the war, Billy was busy with summer seasons at Scarborough, Llandudno and Great Yarmouth, together with Sunday night celebrity guest appearances at the major holiday camps and pantomime at Christmas. In spring and autumn, he took concert parties to Germany to entertain the American forces and toured the British overseas bases, finishing a brilliant career in 1963 on Sunday Night at the London Palladium with Max Bygraves.

Theatrical Agency

Billy then worked as auditions manager for ABC TV, and was programme assistant on shows such as Comedy Bandbox, Big Night Out and Holiday Time Parade. He helped along the careers of stars such as Jimmy Tarbuck and Mike Yarwood. Then he was invited by a Liverpool businessman to start a theatrical agency. Many up-and-coming entertainers owe a lot to Billy's involvement in the talent nights held at Liverpool's Broadway Club in West Derby. These were often visited by Hughie Green looking for acts for his TV show Opportunity Knocks. In 1972, Billy opened his own agency from his home in Birkdale and personally managed Tom O'Connor. But the lure of performing proved too much, and he put the word about that he wanted to work on stage again.

American Appearances

To his surprise he was not forgotten. He played summer seasons, pantomimes, and one-night stands in vintage form. In 1988, he was invited to the US National Ukulele Rally in San Antonio, Texas. They wanted someone who could perform unaccompanied on the wooden uke and Billy was one of the finest exponents in the world. He appeared on American TV from Houston. Summer seasons and panto followed, and Billy was happily employed until he retired at 69 years of age. One of his final appearances was at the Musical Hall at Ilkley in January 2002, in a charity variety show alongside Jimmy Cricket and the Bachelors.

Later Life

Billy bought a 60ft narrow boat on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal and spent the next eight idyllic summers cruising Britain's waterways in his boat Colonel Bogie IV with his wife Anne, and their two Schnauzer dogs. They spent the winters moored at Scarisbrick, Southport, near the family. When angina stopped him from operating the many lock gates he reluctantly came back on to dry land and lived quietly for the next four years in Southport. After 55 years in show business and 58 years of happy marriage he died after a short spell in hospital on 12 Nov 2004 aged 81

He is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. Billy was always generous with his time, as the President of the Ukulele Society of Great Britain, and at the George Formby Society's main and local branches.

He never lost his enthusiasm for the ukulele and always gave a great demonstration, ' letting the ukulele speak for itself'. He was our mentor, our idol, someone who has been there in the fore throughout our life-time and he will be greatly missed by his family and his many fans worldwide
Alan Southworth

Thanks to Lewis Clifton for the colour images, Alan Southworth for the article and Gerry Mawdsley for the video clip.

Read another page on Billy