Happy end to shaggy dog tale

Jaynie Matthews from Souls 'n' Stone with Shula, a newly retired Guide Dog for the Blind at their fund-raiser in Heckmondwike.
Jaynie Matthews from Souls 'n' Stone with Shula, a newly retired Guide Dog for the Blind at their fund-raiser in Heckmondwike.

A COUNTRY music and line dance duo helped fulfil a friend’s last wish when they held a fundraiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Souls ‘n’ Stone put on a night of live entertainment at Brighton Street WMC in Heckmondwike, in memory of Billy ‘Bilbo’ Clarke, who died in 2010.

Billy, who started his musical career in Heckmondwike Salvation Army playing the cornet, was a guitarist, songwriter and musical director and worked all over the world with people like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Billie Jo Spears.

His love was country music and his band, the Bill Clarke 5, regularly performed with Freddy Fender, Slim Whitman and George Hamilton IV. He performed in Nashville on a number of occasions and then made his own recording studio at his home in Heckmondwike called Box Studios, producing recordings there with Freddie Star, Brian Conley, Soft Cell, the Grumbleweeds, Bobby Davro and many more.

Billy also recorded an album with the Nolan Sisters.

Jaynie Matthews and her husband Greg Harrison, who perform as Souls ‘n’ Stone, first met Billy in 1987 when they recorded their first song and they became firm friends.

Greg said: “We got on so well and he was such an inspiration. He taught us all about the music industry, and encouraged us to write our own songs. Billy never wanted to retire from the music business but his one wish, if he had to, was to help Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“Unfortunately, he never got his wish as he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2010 and passed away at Christmas of the same year. We want to raise money for guide dogs to live Billy’s wish and celebrate his life through music.”

During the evening the pair performed their first song which Billy had encouraged and as well as the live music and line dancing, there were raffles with prizes donated by local businesses.

Money raised on the night was added to funds which the singing duo collected at various gigs they have played since November 2011 and a total of £6,013.20 was given to the Dewsbury Branch of Guide Dogs for the Blind – for a puppy in Billy’s name.

Sue McGrath, Guide Dogs branch organiser, said: “It was an amazing night and we were overwhelmed by the money raised. Jaynie can now name a puppy in memory of her great friend and also have a plaque in his memory at the Guide Dogs training centre in Atherton, Manchester. Our thanks go to all those who donated.”