Huntly musician Billy Smith, known professionally as Billy G, has died aged 75.
The former driver with Portsoy Taxis worked as a joiner before turning to music full time.
William George Smith, son of joiner George Smith and his wife Janet, was born in Huntly on October 18 1948.
Known as Willie to his friends at the Gordon Schools he was musical from a young age. Taught piano as a child he then he moved on to electronic keyboard then turned to guitar as a teenager. Born with a great ear for music he was able to teach himself, on his beloved Fender Stratocaster, and accompanied his playing with singing.
On leaving school he began working for his father’s business, taking on an apprenticeship in joinery. Music was always his first love, and when the opportunity came to start playing gigs he took it.
By 1971 more and more opportunity to make a living from music was coming his way, and by his mid-20s he had given up his joinery work to be a full-time musician.
Known as Billy G professionally the name stuck off stage too. Billy performed as a solo act and as part of several bands over the years. Santigo, the first group he played with and Spectrum was his most recent collaboration. However, he was best known for Billy G’s Country Sunset.
Playing venues from Dumfries in the south and as far north as Lerwick, he also performed closer to home in the Huntly Hotel and the Lemon Tree.
Favouring country music and Scottish traditional styles, in 1979 he was named best country and western solo act at the Aberdeen Country Music Club awards. A report in The Press and Journal from the time said he had aspirations to secure a recording contract with an Irish record label.
Love of his life
In 1981 Billy, who had been previously married, met Carol Paterson from Huntly.
A receptionist at the Gordon Arms Hotel where Billy was playing, they started seeing one another and got engaged in 1983.
In the 1990s Billy eventually slowed down the pace of performing, only accepting weekend bookings. He returned to his joinery work, working with several building companies.
The couple moved to Rothiemay in 2001, where they remained together.
Over the years the couple enjoyed caravan holidays with their dogs and they both became involved with Huntly Parish Church. Teaching Sunday school classes and composing songs for the nativity play, Billy always had a good rapport with children.
Home to retire
For a number of years Billy and Carol looked after Billy’s dad, who lived with them in their home in Rothiemay. Following George’s in death 2005 Billy enjoyed some time at home, stepping back from performing as well.
Around 2011 he became a driver for Portsoy Taxis, helping children with additional needs get to and from their school. For the rest of the day Billy was able to potter in his shed. His other favourite pastimes were dabbling in web design mastering Microsoft Flight Sim.
On a home flight simulator for his computer, he whiled away the hours “flying” at home.
Great with animals, Billy and Carol had numerous dogs over the years, but none compared to Billy’s favourite spaniel, Skye.
Despite his initial reservation he also came to be very fond of Carol’s rescue hens.
Though fit and well most of his life, Billy started feeling unwell around 2020. A year later he suffered a stroke and his health began to steadily deteriorate.
“Billy was admitted to hospital two years ago and he never managed to get home,” said Carol. From hospital he moved to a care home in Keith before finding a place in Huntly Care Home.
“Billy wanted to be back in his home town, so we were glad this happened for him.
“It meant I could bring him back to our home from time to time, over the last few months, memories which I will treasure,” added Carol.
After a short illness more recently, Billy passed away on November 25.
A celebration of his life took place on December 4 where songs that he had played and loved over the years were shared with family and friends. The service was live streamed so family in Shetland could be there.
Paying tribute to her partner of more than 40 years, Carol described Billy as “warm hearted” and “able to connect with anyone”.
She said: “He was a lovely man, who was very easy to talk to. He always had time for others.
“One of the children he used to take to school kept in touch with Billy. He even came to the funeral which was really touching. It showed how much Billy meant to people.
“There were such a lot of comments on Facebook when the funeral director announced his death. All saying the same thing, that he’ll be really missed and that he was a brilliant entertainer.
“I’ll miss him most.”