Family pay tribute to respected Aberdeen musician

Billy Stuart died aged 82.

A family today paid tribute to an accordion player who has entertained audiences across the country.

Billy Stuart, who was born in Aberdeen’s Skene Street, first picked up an accordion aged 10 after being given the instrument by his parents.

Little did he know that it would lead to a full-time career.

The dad-of-three went on to perform for the Royal Family and to share the stage with some of the biggest names in showbusiness.

This included Annie Shand Scott, entertainer Johnny Victory, singer Forbes Whitlock and comedian Hector Nicol.

He spent years entertaining audiences across the country, playing at packed-out theatres.

An image of Billy from his Opportunity Knocks appearance.
An image of Billy from his Opportunity Knocks appearance.

But he decided to give up life on the road because he missed his wife Patricia and their three young daughters Karin, Trisha and Elaine.

Billy, who passed away last Thursday aged 82, kept playing to North-east audiences.

Patricia, 82, said: “He was completely self-taught as he had no money for lessons. He persevered and was disciplined at practising.

“He loved mastering the instruments and skills, and had his own style.

“It was like an extension of him the accordion – he just had to play.

“There was never any silence heard in our lifetime.”

Patricia, who has lived in Mastrick for more than 40 years with her family, said: “He was so well known.

“We would get people knocking on our window asking if he would come and play a tune for the pensioners.”

Billy’s first gig with a band came after he was spotted playing in an Aberdeen music shop.

Billy, third from left, with tour-mates, from left, Hector Nicol, Johnny Victory and Forbes Whitlock.
Billy, third from left, with tour-mates, from left, Hector Nicol, Johnny Victory and Forbes Whitlock.

Patricia said: “He was in Bruce Millers music shop one day and was playing in the corner when Annie Shand Scott asked him to come and play in her dance band.

“The band played all over the North-east and were on the radio.”

It was a performance at the Tivoli Theatre talent show Larry Davis Discoveries that gave him his big break, landing him a job with the Lex Maclean Show.

He was offered a 17-week contract with Scottish entertainer and comedian Lex Maclean in Glasgow, and went on to tour with the show for another 22 weeks.

A further tour with the Johnny Victory show took him to Ireland.

Daughter Karin said: “There was an accident with the tour bus so they had to busk in the streets because they had no money from their bookings.

“Dad always gave to buskers saying you never know what their situation is.”

Even after giving up touring, Karin said her dad, who worked as a meat porter at Donalds in Portlethen, didn’t stopped playing.

She said: “He played at Hazlehead Park, Duthie Park, Union Terrace Gardens and the Winter Gardens.”

Billy played at the same spot in the Winter Gardens every Sunday for 17 years.

Karin, a local music teacher, added: “Back then the parks were always really busy and people were dancing.”

Billy also entertained the nation on Opportunity Knocks and performed for the Royal Family.

Trisha said: “He bought a grand Excelsior accordion for the show and performed Bel Viso.

“It really showed off his technique and skills.”

Patricia, who now lives in Stockethill, added: “When he was with the Jack Sinclair Showband he played for the Royal Family at Haddo House, and at their annual ceilidhs at Balmoral and Birkhall.

“He loved going to the Queen Mother’s house because it was normal.

“He met a young Princess Diana as well. He saw her first before anyone else.”

Away from music, Billy loved spending time with his brother Hammy, sister Margaret, and grandchildren Stuart, Lisa, Leanne and Aliesha.

And he was a lifelong Dons fan, regularly attending matches at Pittodrie.

Daughter Elaine said: “He was football crazy and had a season ticket. At my mum and dad’s golden wedding anniversary ex-Dons star Neale Cooper gave a speech congratulating them.”