Singing my song was Billy’s way of paying me back for saving his life several years before….I didn’t quite save his life…I essayed an intervention in his act and his anxiety receded..meantime his hangovers became less dramatic….In 1970 I went to America for the first time to sing in two restaurants called The Harp & Bard… one in Danvers on Boston’s North shore.. the other in Norwood on the South shore..ish… unlike your typical Irish pub in Boston the restaurant/bars were plush and well upholstered…on my first night I bristled with indignation at being asked to sing “Danny Boy” and “Irish Eyes Are Smiling”…these barbarians know nothing about our rich Irish heritage and culture…I died on stage four times that night…and for the next twenty nine nights as well…I fell into the drink…never got over jet lag for the whole month…and retreated home a chastened man…sucker that I am…I was lulled back to America in 1971 and this time I learnt to trade off…one Galway Bay…allows me three or four that I liked…it was all about compromise and diplomacy..
And then one day a young Scot came to join our merry band of minstrels…..his name was Billy Connolly and up to then I had only known him as half of a folk duo The Humblebums … Gerry Rafferty was the other half…the closest I had got to meeting Billy was to stay in the same lodging house …whenever we were in London …
Turned out that Billy was a bit like me…artistically pure..I heard him snap when someone called for “You take the High road and I’ll take the Low road”…but as days went by he was getting no wiser ..I sat him down in our apartment and told him of the virtues of cultural compromise and diplomacy…and that very night…he traded the popular favourite.. I Belong to Glasgow… for The Battle of Bannockburn. and two other unintelligible dirges from the bowels of the Scottish folk repertoire….Billy enjoyed the rest of his stay…shortly after he got home to Scotland…he wrote a hit show for himself called The Welly Boot Show ..and when he went on Michael Parkinsons’ chat he was sensational…overnight he became a superstar ..
Not many people know this…but Phil Coulter was Billy’s producer…. recorded The Country & Western Supersong…and it contributed handsomely to the coffers of yours truly…and it wasn’t over at that.. later he recorded two more of my songs….The Orient Express”…a tale of intrigue and cross dressing..and The Shitkickers Waltz..which explains itself…
It is a privilige to have been lifelong friends with this crazy looney…we also share the distinction of being fellow members of The Dinosaurs…an exclusive gentleman’s club for old folkies….if he’s close to Dublin…he flies in and we celebrate his birthday….
The pleasure of Billy’s company and his humour ..stems from his great curiosity…I think all along.. he’s just been observing us…the species…. and that someday soon he’s gonna write a book… and tell it like it is.
You can listen to The Orient Express and The Shitkickers Waltz and other great “funnies” if you fork out the few euros to buy my “Live In Nashville” Cds www.shayhealy.com
Here’s a taster from the ‘Live in Nashville’ Album;
You can catch Billy at The Gaiety all this week.
Billy Connolly Performing The C&W Supersong By Shay Healy