© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

The Life of Billy T. James

Gene Ramsey
  Credit: John Selkirk/Stuff

Born in 1948 in Waikato, this is the life and times of William James Te Wehi Taitoko MBE, better known as Billy T James.

During highschool Billy always sang and played the guitar, he was so talented in fact that the teachers put his picture up on their wall of fame. 

At age 22 in 1970, Billy joined the Maori Volcanics Showband, they eventually toured internationally entertaining over 10,000 people. 


Billy Adopted the name Billy T James because he realised his audiences weren’t capable of pronouncing his real name. 

In 1980, Billy appeared on the tv variety show Radio Times. The success and popularity he built in this show later lead to his booming career in comedy, with his television show in 1981 “The Billy T James Show.” 

unnamed 1

Five years later in 1986, Billy suffered a major heart attack and had to undergo a quadruple bypass operation, the surgery wasn’t successful and three years later Billy had a heart transplant. 

In 1991 on the 7th of August, the great Billy T James died of heart failure at the young age of  42.