Townsville Bulletin - - LIFESTYLE -

BILLY Con­nolly has had to give up play­ing his beloved banjo and guitar be­cause of Parkin­son’s dis­ease. The 72year- old co­me­dian and ac­tor started out as a folk singer be­fore de­vel­op­ing the stand- up act that made him fa­mous and led to a ca­reer in tele­vi­sion and film.

He was of­ten pic­tured with his banjo but has now said he can no longer play it as he pre­pares to travel across the US by rail for a new TV se­ries.

Con­nolly said Parkin­son’s dis­ease has par­tic­u­larly af­fected his left hand, pre­vent­ing him from play­ing his favourite in­stru­ments. In an in­ter­view in Canada to pro­mote his standup tour, he said: “I’m start­ing a doc­u­men­tary se­ries in a month’s time fol­low­ing the rail­ways around Amer­ica.

“I’m go­ing to fes­ti­vals and state fairs and all that.

“I’ve been long­ing to do it for a long time. The only trou­ble is that we’re go­ing to blue­grass fes­ti­vals and I’ve got Parkin­son’s dis­ease and it’s re­ally af­fected my left hand and I can’t play the banjo or guitar any more but I’ll join in on the singing, at least. It’s been a rough go be­tween that and the can­cer. I kept telling my wife that haem­or­rhoids couldn’t be far be­hind.” Con­nolly dis­closed in 2013 that he had been di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s and prostate can­cer on the same day.

He has since been given the all- clear from can­cer and will travel through 28 states over 12,000km by train later this year in a new TV doc­u­men­tary se­ries ti­tled Billy Con­nolly’s Tracks Across Amer­ica for Bri­tish net­work ITV.

His wife Pamela Stephen­son said in an in­ter­view last year that she had no­ticed her hus­band’s hand shak­ing for many years but as­sumed it was be­cause he had spent too long play­ing the banjo rather than a sign of Parkin­son’s.

I think it’s been there for a long time,’’ she added.

BANJO BLUES: Billy Con­nolly.

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