Bill Williams

posted in: Mini Memories 11

My informant Richard Holmes wrote in with a reply to a long-ago query in the diary about a singer called Bill Williams:

Your reader David Rastall asks if anyone can remember a nightclub singer / piano player from 50’s in Durban named Bill Williams. David used to have an LP of him recorded live at the Hotel Edward in 1959.- this request was in the Diary of 10 November 2010.

Indeed I remember Bill very well indeed – I was an impressionable youth at the time and his brand of naughtiness seemed very adult to me

I first heard of Bill when he was playing in the nightclub at the old Langham Hotel in Johannesburg.He subsequently had a few seasons at the Edward.He also had at least one run at a hotel that I forget the name of now.It was run by a lady called Mrs Lewin ( her son Lenny became a Solicitor in Durban ). The hotel was situated a bit back from the northern Marine Parade probably opposite the Four Seasons and near the old Coogee Hotel.

My favourite memory of Bill was when he opened the new bars at the Ocean View in 1962 or 3.It was an absolutely riotous evening untiil the lights went out.I had a Fiat Toppolino at the time ( oh how I wish I had that now ) and it was the only car small enough to manoeuvre into the pub doors so that the headlights could illuminate the interior. Needless to say the party continued unabated

I assume that Bill will have passed some time ago as he was by no means a young man then.

On the subject of the Edward I am surprised that no-one has mentioned Mel & Mel ( later Mel,Mel & Julian ) upstairs on the first floor – in the Rose Room I think it was called. To this day I have memories of not only many happy evenings there but of what an outstanding entertainment unit they were,


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11 Responses

  1. Neill jackson
    | Reply

    Wow theres a blast from the past…we also had a copy of his LP and had many a glorious night listening to his ditties….amongst them were The old music master, The night that Trechecov split his tights etc…I still quote some of his lines …cant remember them all but one of them was ”last night after eating an apple grandad made a rude noise in the Methodist Chapel !!!” Still makes my smile..

    Seem to recall that a last saw a rather jaded Bill at the Athlone Hotel – adjacent to the Umgeni – in the early seventies…his routine hadnt changed and a great time was had by all…

    Thanx for the memories guys…great site and whenever I read through it I remind myself of how fortunate we were to have been in Durbs during those times…

    Be lucky all,



  2. Richard Holmes
    | Reply

    Heigho, Mum’s had those pains again,
    Granny’s in bed with her varicose veins again,
    Everyone’s gay because dear cousin Florrie
    Was run down on Saturday night by a lorry,
    We’re so thrilled, Elsie’s in trouble,
    That hernia she had has turned out to be double,
    When Albert fell down all
    The steps of the Town Hall
    He got three bad cuts and a bruise.

    We’re delighted
    To be able to say
    We’re unable to pay
    Off our debts,
    We’re excited
    Because Percy’s got mange
    And we’ve run up a bill at the vet’s.

    Three cheers! Ernie’s got boils again,
    Everything’s covered in ointment and oils again,
    Now he’s had seven
    So God’s in His heaven
    And that is the end of the news.

    We are told that it’s dismal and dreary
    To air our despairs,
    We are told to be gallant and cheery
    And banish our cares
    So when fortune gives us a cup of hemlock to quaff
    We just give a slight hiccup and laugh laugh laugh.

    Heigho, everything’s fearful,
    We do wish that Vi was a little more cheerful,
    The only result of her last operation
    Has been gales of wind at the least provocation.
    Now don’t laugh, poor Mrs Mason
    Was washing some smalls in the lavatory basin
    When that old corroded
    Gas-heater exploded
    And blew her smack into the news.

    We’re in clover,
    Uncle George is in clink
    For refusing to work for the war,
    Now it’s over
    Auntie Maud seems to think
    He’ll be far better placed than before.

    What fun — dear little Sidney.
    Produced a spectacular stone in his kidney,
    He’s had eleven
    So God’s in His heaven
    And that is the end of the news.

    Heigho, what a catastrophe,
    Grandfather’s brain is beginning to atrophy,
    Last Sunday night after eating an apple
    He made a rude noise in the Methodist chapel.

    Good egg! Dear little Doris
    Has just been expelled for assaulting Miss Morris.
    Both of her sisters
    Are covered in blisters
    From standing about in the queues.

    We’ve been done in
    By that mortgage foreclosure
    And Father went out on a blind,
    He got run in
    For indecent exposure
    And ever so heavily fined.
    Heigho hi-diddle-diddle,

    Aunt Isabel’s shingles have met in the middle,
    She’s buried in Devon
    So God’s in His heaven
    And that is the end of the news.

    Written by Noel Coward

    • Don Evans

      Hi – this used to be my party trick – I remeber many years ago in Stellenbosch at the Lanzerac hotel hearing Joyce Grenfell doing it quite informally after supper one Sunday night at my cousins request – he was the manager. She was the first person to sing it on stage in London.
      What great memories.

    • Christine Walter

      The scene was Covent Garden, thats the opera house of course.
      The cream of high society was seated force.
      The ballet was in progress and the audience held enthralled, for it featured Spitzikofsky, the darling of them all.
      His entrechats were perfect from the moment he began, when suddenly a gasp of horror through the audience ran.
      There were shudders in the gallery and several vulgar calls, pandemonium in the boxes and chaos in the stalls. Spitzikofsky went on dancing, alone and unafraid. All his steps were perfect and what elevation he displayed…..
      Lady “S” was heard to murmur:
      “What a GrandeJete woo! woo!. On that night the awful night when Spitzikofsky split his tights.

      Another ditty was “The cutest balalaika in the Balkans.
      Surely somewhere the must be recordings of these gems.

  3. Mike
    | Reply

    it would be marvellous if somebody uploaded this album. I particularly liked a song called ” Sunday in London ” and would enjoy hearing it again. I don’t know the origin but it may have also been a Noel Coward song.

  4. Don Evans
    | Reply

    You cannot believe how delighted I am to know that it was not all a figment of my imagination.
    I too saw him at the Edward and one year he came to Cape Town and played in SeaPoint somewhere.
    I too had the Bill Williams LP and it got lost many years ago – but I remember with great clarity
    the night that Spitzikovsky split his tights and also the following :

    In winter hungry Russian wolves would prowl around our castles
    And every now and then they’d eat a dozen of our vassals
    while wolves they ate our servants we ate caviar in bed
    Came the revolution – and we ate the wolves instead!!

    How I wish I could lay my hands on a download of that Album – just for a singalong!!
    Thanks guys for putting me out of YEARS of doubt and misery – at 75 you wonder …!

  5. Kevin cotterell
    | Reply

    What about makin’ whoopee! The ballad of bill williams. If anyone can tell me where I can get bill williams’ songs I’d be most grateful. I believe he was a Japanese prisoner of war when he wrote the streets of London?

  6. Janet dillon
    | Reply

    My father born in S.A. Grew up in Auckland New Zealand. Bought the L.P home, after a visit back to South Africa, we all loved it, and screamed with laughter.
    I was talking to my brother now 78 lives in Sydney and the subject came up about Bills L.P which over the years got lost.
    I was on google and found your blog, thanks for that I have forwarded it to my brother.
    Cheers Janet Dillon

  7. Jefffey Maisels
    | Reply

    Does anybody have any idea how one can get hold of the lyrics of the songs that Bill William sung. I remember well hearing him at the Edward and particularly Spitsikovsky as well as the cutest balalaika in the Balkans
    It’s properties you really can’t escape
    It’s not so much the size or that’s quite a big surprise
    Something quite distinctly middle east about it shape etc
    If anyone can find a recording or a printed version of those songs that he sang I would forever be in their debt
    Jeffrey Maisels

  8. Robbie Vermont
    | Reply

    I played Bill Williams’s record this morning but had trouble recalling the venue in Jo’burg where we would go most Friday evenings to listen to Bill Thus i Googled him and found this site. i then recalled it was the Hansom Cab at the Langham Hotel. Many good, happy hours were spent there with Bill and good company. Regarding Sunday in London, Bill says he wrote the song while an unhappy “guest of the Japanese during the Second World War”. I have a collection of about 150 vinyls from the ’50s and ’60s which i play every Saturday morning, starting from left and working through every one. So Bill comes up once in about 18 months.

    • Bruce Strachan

      Hi Robbie, I have a copy of Bill Williams – Making Whoopee, my brother digitalised it from my parents old vinyl album, so I have it in MP3 format. Do you perhaps have a picture of the album cover by any chance, I would be most grateful, as I want to make a CD cover with a photo of the original cover. My email address is, many thanks. Kind regards, Bruce

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