Billy Butler (DJ)
William George 'Billy' Butler (born 24 January 1942) is a radio presenter on BBC Radio Merseyside. In the course of his career, he has presented TV shows such as FAX and the magazine programme What the Butler Sees. In September 2010 he published his autobiography Billy Butler MBE – Mrs Butler’s Eldest.
Hold Your Plums
Hold Your Plums started out as a segment of Billy Butler’s radio show and was extended to a two hour show of its own. It was broadcast live from the BBC Radio Merseyside Studio’s on Paradise Street in Liverpool on Sundays from 11am to 1pm, using Root Beer Rag composed by Billy Joel as its regular catchy theme tune. Mostly an audience was present in the studio as the show went out.
The setup of the show was that contestants answered a general knowledge question correctly to be allowed a go of the fruit machine to see if they win a prize. Contestants had to match up three symbols of Bells, Cherries or Lemons to win a prize. If they were lucky enough to match up three Plums then they win the star prize. If they collected three different symbols they were able to ‘nudge’ the symbols into a winning combination, like on a standard fruit machine. A member of the audience was delegated the job of 'Nudger-Watcher' and would have to call out ‘The nudge is out’ should three different symbols be given by the fruit-machine. If contestants received two matching symbols they were asked to ‘hold’ the two that matched and were given one last spin to see if they matched the third symbol, and because Plums were the shows top symbol to win its star prize contestants were encouraged to ‘Hold Your Plums’, coining the shows name. The prizes were often tacky silly pointless objects and were only added for comical value. Often contestants would return to the show and become regular stars themselves often complaining to Billy or Wally that the prize they won last time on the show was never delivered adding more comical value.
Usually Billy was quizmaster and clue giver, helping contestants as best as he could get the right answer. He also operated the fruit-machine. Wally set the questions and organised the prizes, he would often try and help Billy with clues to help contestants answer their given question.
At the height of its success on BBC Radio Merseyside Billy and Wally were joined by two other regular cast members: Terence and Len.
Terence, a flamboyant, camp, openly-gay man, became one of the first. His role on the show was as the regular 'Nudger-Watcher'. He was also given his own small spot on the show at the beginning when he would read a poem he had written which would often contain non-offensive stereotypical comedic homosexual innuendos, and would occasionally be about his partner Malcolm. During the show when contestants were answering questions and something suggestive was mentioned Terence would make a low groan noise to highlight the comments sexual meaning.
Len Horton was another regular who joined the show. His role was as the pianist. A regular question that was asked to contestants was to name the tune being played by Len. Unfortunately Len played the piano really badly making the song he was playing completely unrecognisable.
By this time Hold Your Plums had become a scouse institution with a huge following. It was loved by people in the north-west including celebrities like Peter Kay. During an interview in 1983 on Terry Wogan’s chat show Wogan, Cilla Black told a captivated audience some of her favourite contestants.
As the show peaked Billy and Wally left the comfort of BBC Radio Merseyside and joined commercial rival Radio City, taking the show with them. However rumors had circulated that the two were joining a radio station in a different city. There was a public outcry as Billy and Wally were featured on the front cover of the local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, with the headline ‘Over and Out’ that the show had finished for good. The article in the Liverpool Echo promoted a telephone number that people could ring to listen to a personal message from the duo to their fans. In it Billy stated that the two were not leaving the city and that neither he nor Wally would ever do that.
News spread fast that Hold Your Plums and the regular cast of Len, Terence, Wally and Billy at the helm would be returned for a new series on Radio City nearly a year after it the two left the BBC. This time the show was pre-recorded every week from a different venue across Liverpool and Merseyside. After only a few years on Radio City Billy and Wally called it a day and signed off from Hold Your Plums for the last time.
Hold Your Plums won a Bronze Sony award. The series spawned several tapes of The Best of... and two successful Hold Your Plums videos. The first video in 1994 included a special recording of the show from the BBC Radio Merseyside studios in Liverpool intercut with stand-up footage of Billy and Wally in Widnes. The second video released a year later featured a live stage version of the show from the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.
Billy appeared in Scousers in St Helens on 26 October 2010 alongside Tina Malone, Margi Clarke and many others. After several years at Radio City Billy left by putting on a Cliff Richard record and saying this was what the listeners asked for but the station playlist would not allow him to play and walked out while live on air.