Billy Connolly Tickets
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National Arts Centre - Southam Hall
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Nov 9 2015
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Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor, William Billy Connolly, also known in Scotland as The Big Yin or The Big One, was born on 24 November 1942 in Glasgow. His mother Mary Mamie McLean, was a hospital cafeteria worker, and father William Connolly, Sr., was an instrument technician. Connolly had a rough childhood.
While his father was away at war in 1946, Connolly's mother left. Two aunts (father's sisters) then looked after the children. Since the age of ten, his father also sexually abused him until he was at least fifteen or sixteen. He attended St. Peter's Primary School in Glasgow and St. Gerard's Secondary School in Govan. At the age of 12, he decided he wanted to become a comedian but felt he wasn't quite ready.
At the age of 15, he left school and became a welder (a boilermaker, to be precise) at Stephens Shipyard. Around the same time he joined the Territorial Army Reserve 15th (Scottish) Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (15 PARA), which became part of the 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (he later commemorated his TA experiences in his song, Weekend Soldier). In 1965, after he had completed a five-year apprenticeship as a boilermaker, Connolly accepted a ten-week job building an oil rig in Nigeria. Upon his return to Scotland, he focused on being a folk singer.
Connolly's career as a folk singer led to him forming a folk-pop duo called The Humblebums with a fellow musician Tam Harvey. After recording one album, Harvey left the partnership and was replaced by future rock star Gerry Rafferty. The Humblebums recorded two more albums for independent record label Transatlantic Records. The albums were not big commercial successes but enjoyed cult status and critical acclaim. Connolly's contributions were primarily straightforward pop folk with quirky and whimsical lyrics.
The Humblebums dissolved, and in 1970, Connolly recorded Can I Have My Money Back, a solo album with Transatlantic Records. The head of Transatlantic Records, Nat Joseph, suggested to Connolly that he drop the folk-singing and focus primarily on becoming a comedian. It was a life-changing suggestion.
According to Connolly, Twice in my life, two birds have flown in and made a huge difference. When he was seven years old, the Connolly family went to Rothesay on holiday. He was sent out to get some milk and bread rolls. On his way back, with his hands full, a bird landed on his head. Being a city boy, Connolly immediately thought God had summoned him and, as a result, nearly had a coronary. It was a jackdaw, and I didn't know you could teach jackdaws to speak.
But I was walking along, and this thing landed on my head and said hello. I nearly passed away. I learned subsequently that it was a tame bird, and we became friends and I got used to the idea: the bird would land on me and I was quite happy. My life had changed forever. Connolly went on to state that the second bird was Brett Whiteley, the Australian artist, who he met through Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits in the 1980s.
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