Billy T James

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.

The Maori Volcanics, mid 1970s. From left: Charlie Te Hau, Billy T James, Mahora Peters, Dean Ruscoe, Billy Peters. 
Billy T James in 1979
Photo credit: Matt Ellliott collection
The Maori Volcanics in 1976, with Billy T. James, supported by The Yandall Sisters, Eddie Low and Family Affair
Billy T James with his long-standing musical director, Allan Wade
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
Billy T James supporting Tom Jones
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 and the Maori Volcanics
Hegan Entertainments' last promo photo of Billy T James
Billy T James
Billy T James, When A Child Is Born, released on the Pagan label
Billy T James in Radio Times (1980)
Billy T James and the core cast and orchestra of TV's Radio Times, early 1980s. Craig Scott is seated in front.
A pre-TV fame Billy T. James, around the time he was a regular performer at The Gluepot





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