Why Sammy's guaranteed a slot in the history books

IT STARTED off as a few autobiographical notes for his daughter to read about his life in the sixties, now the story documenting the life of Sammy King, the local legend who wrote Penny Arcade for Roy Orbison, is all set to be a hit of its own.

Friday, 9th April 2010, 10:23 am

Aptly named Penny Arcade, it charts the life of the Batley-born boy - his accidental rise into showbusiness and the story behind him coming to write one of the world's most famous songs.

"When my daughter, Amanda, was about 13, I mentioned to her that I worked with the Beatles but she wasn't interested! I don't think she even lifted her head up from her magazine," said Sammy.

"I wondered how much she did know about me, and I was worried that when I wasn't there, all she would learn about me would be hearsay.

"So I decided to write everything down.

"Over the course of about 20 years I wrote a little bit at a time and then put it down again."

It wasn't until a chance meeting at a party that Sammy, who lives in Heckmondwike, explored the idea of getting the book published.

"My wife, Linda, and I were sitting at a table with Derek Lister who wrote the Bradford Rock and Roll book and Linda told him about this book I was writing for Amanda," he said.

Derek put Sammy in touch with publishing agent Reuben Davison and the book is due to hit the shops next week.

Penny Arcade documents Sammy's life as a musician and songwriter after growing up in post-war Batley.

Born Alan Twohig, professional name Sammy King, he attended St Joseph's School, Batley Carr, before going on to study at St Bede's Grammar School in Bradford.

A keen sportsman, he was captain of the school football team and resented having to go for piano lessons when he could have been out on the pitch.

"I wanted to be a professional footballer but that all that was turned upside down when I suffered an injury and ended up in Pinderfields hospital for two years," he said.

"I had a hip infection which destroyed the cartilage in my hip, meaning I was never able to finish school.

"It set me back because I couldn't do any manual work and I didn't have any qualifications.

"I suppose you could say I ended up in showbusiness completely by accident!"

Sammy started writing songs and formed a skiffle group with his brother, Brian.

Later he joined a bigger group called the Dingos, and this was followed by a very successful period with the Voltaires.

The Voltaires supported many acts including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

"We supported the Beatles at the Queen's Hall in Leeds. They were great lads. They were just normal, working boys. The only regret I have is that I never actually spoke to George Harrison."

Sammy, 68, also appeared on stage with Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstong, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black.

The pressure of performing with the rock band soon took its toll and after taking a short break, Sammy hit the road again, this time as a duo.

"I went back to writing songs when I was performing with Bill Clarke, but I didn't know what to do with them," said Sammy.

"Then a friend of mine, Derek Smith, who used to be manager of the Batley Variety Club, said Roy Orbison was coming to perform and that I should see if he thought my songs were any good!

"Roy Orbison asked if he could take the songs, including Penny Arcade, back to his recording manager in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I didn't think he'd like Penny Arcade because I wrote it with the Eurovision Song Contest in mind and it wasn't really his style.

"I didn't hear anything for months and then I got a tape through the post of him singing it and a note saying it was going to be his next single."

Roy Orbison insisted the song be featured on several of his albums and it is still being played today, 40 years on.

Asked what daughter Amanda thinks to her father's time in the spotlight, Sammy added: "The book was written, simply for Amanda. She plays her cards very close to her chest but I think she is inwardly very excited."

The book, which includes a foreward by Roy Orbison JNR, will be available from all good book shops priced 14.99.

* We have a signed copy of Sammy's autobiography and a signed CD to give away to one lucky reader.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer this question: Where did Sammy meet Roy Orbison?

Send your answers, along with your name, address and telephone number to Sammy King Competition, Spenborough Guardian, 1 Market Street, Cleckheaton, BD19 3RT.

The deadline for entries is Tuesday April 6.