My Uncle Bill sadly died over Christmas. Not strictly an uncle, what I really mean is that he was our next door neighbour when I lived in Hull in the 1960s. My parents still kept in touch when we moved away and exchanged Christmas cards with him up to and including this year. And even though we weren't related and his name wasn't Bill - it said Brian Ian Lambert on his passport - he was still a lovely man. A gentleman. And a well respected musician on the Hull music scene in the 60s and 70s.
But Brian wasn't called Bill because of his initials. Born in 1934 he was known by family and friends alike as Bri - until the week before his thirtieth birthday: because on 21 September 1964 he became part of Rock and Roll folklore.
The Rolling Stones had never been to Hull before. Their train pulled into Paragon Station just before midday on that late summer's morning; they were due to play two gigs at The ABC Cinema that day - an afternoon matinee and an evening performance. Whilst the road crew were setting up their equipment, Mick and the lads went to grab a bite to eat. With the afternoon gig scheduled for 2.30 they had plenty of time to get back for the show. But when lunch turned into an impromptu pub crawl it soon became clear that Bill Wyman was drinking two pints to everyone else's one.
They were half an hour late for the first show. Wyman, never one to move around much on stage at the best of times, planted himself next to his amp and looked like he'd just been dug up; between numbers he was throwing up into a hastily found bucket behind the stage curtain. He managed to complete the set but within five minutes of the curtain going down, the paralytic bass player was in his hotel bed. It was obvious he wouldn't be in any state to play the evening performance so the band's manager Andrew Loog Oldham was on the phone to find a stand-in. By 7.00 (an hour before show time) Oldham drew a blank. With everyone he knew back in London he'd have to look for a local musician. Ordering a drink in the hotel bar he asked the barman if he knew of anyone. 'I play a bit' said Bri.
Ten minutes later he was whisked to the venue to soundcheck with the rest of the band and learn a dozen or so songs he'd only ever heard briefly on Radio Luxembourg. Apparently Keith told him to 'do everything I do and you won't go far wrong.' It went well. Mick introduced him as 'our new Bill' and Brian said 'you're better than the old Bill.' So from that night on he was known as Bill. When I asked him many years later if he still dined out on the story, he replied 'What do you think?'