Musician Billy Reid was born in St Mary Street in 1902. He was one of seven children born to parents George, a dock worker, and his wife Florence. The family later moved to Princess Street in Chapel. Billy began his working life as a riveter at the docks, but together with his brother George, soon began earning extra money as a musician - Billy played piano while George played saxophone.
In the 1920s the brothers turned professional and left Southampton to play at tea dances in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Later, Billy took up the accordion, the instrument for which he is best remembered, and formed an accordion band which continued to perform until the outbreak of World War Two.

In the 1940s he wrote a number of successful chart hits for his partner Dorothy Squires. He also wrote songs for, amongst others, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie Fisher and Frank Sinatra. At the time he was reputed to be earning £1,000 a week, an enormous amount in those days. Unfortunately, he invested his money unwisely and incurred heavy losses. In 1958 he was declared bankrupt. He later moved to the Isle of Wight, where he died aged 71.

Reid, Billy

Image Unavailable

Photograph, c.1940

Further reading:
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p72-73. (HS/t)


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