SAMMY King smiles as he recalls the best days.
The days when he shared a stage with an up and coming group called The Rolling Stones.
The days when he could sit and chat with the likes of Louis Armstrong or Cilla Black.
And the days when a song he wrote called “Penny Arcade” became a worldwide hit for the late, great Roy Orbison.
Sammy, now 68, recalls those memories as he enjoys retirement in his comfortable home in Churchill Grove, in Heckmondwike.
He has come a long, long way since he enjoyed his years of musical fame with his band called The Voltairs and shared a stage with many stars of the 60s. Now Sammy, a mad-keen Huddersfield Town fan, has put all the memories together in his book, Penny Arcade.
“One day I happened to mention to my daughter Amanda that I’d appeared on the same bill as The Beatles.
“She briefly looked up, raised her eyebrows and returned to her teen magazine. That was it.
“Is that all, I thought? Is that the only reaction to such a profound statement?
“When I think about it I had so many unforgettable experiences that took place during my long association with the entertainment industry and that’s part of the reason for the book.
“In truth, I don’t know how I got involved in the first place.
“Because for as long as I can remember all I ever dreamed about as a kid was playing football for Huddersfield Town and for England.
“I never gave showbiz a thought.”
Sammy was born in Batley in September 1941 and christened Alan Toohig. His parents were Irish and his father Edmond had worked at the famous Guinness factory in Dublin before moving to England.
The young Sammy went to St Joseph’s Primary School in Batley and then St Bede’s Grammar School in Bradford before taking a course at Dewsbury and Batley College of Art.
He studied art but then landed a job as a sales rep before the music bug bit.
He got involved with a skiffle group called The Dingos, based in Bradford, before moving on to become vocalist with a Dewsbury group called The Voltairs.
They turned professional and in the next 10 years played all over the country.
“It was originally a rock group, heavy at one time, but then developed into a cabaret group and worked the nightclubs.
“Song writing then became big and we had a deal with HMV. I wrote a song which we recorded, plus a few more but nothing really took off.
“The hard work took its toll. I had a breakdown and went into St Luke’s Hospital in Huddersfield, but 12 months later I was back on the road..
The group played clubs all over the country with many of the greats – Gene Vincent, Freddie and the Dreamers, Johnny Kidd, Manfred Mann and Heinz.
One of the gigs was at City Hall, Hull, and was headlined by Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.
Sammy appeared under the title “Britain’s Fabulous Voltairs” and they shared the stage with The Rolling Stones.
The cheapest seats to see the concert were just 3s 6d.
It was in 1969 that he got his biggest break.
He and the band were appearing at the famous Batley Variety Club, supporting Roy Orbison (pictured inset), who was on a UK tour.
“I went round and knocked on Roy’s dressing room door and asked if he wanted to hear some songs”, said Sammy.
“I was a bit nervous because he had written a lot of his own hits, but he was very nice. He said he would love to listen to some material.
“I took in a tape recorder and after I’d played a few songs, he asked if he could take the tape back to Nashville with him.
“I heard nothing for months, but then a letter and tape arrived. It was Roy singing Penny Arcade and he said it was going to be his next single.
“I got a real kick out of that and out of it came a five-year contract with music publishers in the States. “
Sammy’s songwriting career took off and he penned numbers for the likes of John Leyton, The Carlins and The Wurzels, earning him awards from countries as far apart as Norway and Africa.
His last chart success came in 1990 when he was behind the song Just This Side of Love, by Emmerdale actress Malandra Burrows, which reached number 8.
Now his autobiography has been released and he enjoys his hobbies of watching Town and playing golf.
“Never. I realised during writing the book that fate had dealt me a winning hand.
“True, I perhaps could have earned more money if I had taken a different direction but all the money in the world cannot buy the precious memories I have”.
Penny Arcade is published by Bankhouse Books and is available at Waterstones and W H Smith at £15.