Billy T James Profile

Matt Elliott
23 Dec 2016

It is easy to forget in these post-Jonah Lomu days just how popular comedian Billy T James was in New Zealand during the 1980s. His live shows around the country always sold out and his TV series had a third of the country tuning in. Everywhere he went a crowd would flock around him. But, despite all the adulation, Billy remained a very shy man whose fame as a comedian had grown out of his love of popular music.

The adopted son of Wiri and Ruby Taitoko, William James Te Wehi Taitoko was born with a mimic’s ear for music and jokes. Wiri, who drove trucks by day for a rendering plant on the outskirts of Cambridge, was by all accounts a talented musician. Billy learnt guitar and saxophone from him and, as a slightly portly, self-conscious teenager in the 1960s, discovered that being able to play an instrument could move someone from the outer to being the focus of a group of friends.

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Billy T James in 1979
Photo credit: Matt Ellliott collection
Backstage at the 25 Years of Television concert spectacular at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 1985. Left to right: Hogsnort Rupert’s Alec Wishart, Dave Luther and Kevin Findlater, John Grenell and Billy T. James.
Photo credit: Miles Reay collection
Best of Billy - Billy T James
Billy T James, When A Child Is Born, released on the Pagan label
Billy T James
Billy T James and the Maori Volcanics
Billy T James in Radio Times (1980)
Billy T James supporting Tom Jones
Hegan Entertainments' last promo photo of Billy T James
Billy T James and the core cast and orchestra of TV's Radio Times, early 1980s. Craig Scott is seated in front.
Dave Hurley recording on Auckland's West Coast for Billy T. James' James Gang Rides Again. From left: Terere Koopu, Peter Read, George Andrews, Billy T James, Dee Jamieson and Hurley.
Photo credit: Kindly supplied by Onfilm
The Maori Volcanics in 1976, with Billy T. James, supported by The Yandall Sisters, Eddie Low and Family Affair
A pre-TV fame Billy T. James, around the time he was a regular performer at The Gluepot
The Maori Volcanics, mid 1970s. From left: Charlie Te Hau, Billy T James, Mahora Peters, Dean Ruscoe, Billy Peters. 
Billy T James with his long-standing musical director, Allan Wade
Labels:

Pagan


RCA


Ode


EMI