Although not as well-known as his one-time bandmates Van Morrison and Alan Henderson, Belfast-born guitarist/singer Billy Harrison deserves recognition for founding the 1960s band Them. One of the hardest rocking and most distinctive R&B-based groups of their period -- even amid competition such as the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things -- they generated a string of well-deserved hits before Morrison's departure for a solo career in 1966. Harrison first put the group together under the name the Gamblers in 1962, and it was Morrison's joining -- and the fact that another, better-known British band was already using the Gamblers name -- that precipitated the name-change to Them the following year. Although he founded the group, Harrison apparently played very little on their actual records, deferring to session musicians. Them had a very fluid lineup throughout their history, and record labels were reticent to spend much studio time working with musicians in whom they had little confidence, especially in situations where the lead singer was the main attraction -- by most accounts, Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson were the only members of the band heard on the group's records (though some accounts credit Harrison with the lead guitar part on "Baby Please Don't Go", their breakthrough single in England).
Harrison was with Them for the long haul, amid those myriad personnel changes. Henderson grabbed up the name in the wake of Morrison's departure, but Harrison apparently did participate in some latter-day efforts at keeping the group alive. In the time since, he has remained active on the Belfast music scene, doing the same kind of hard R&B that brought him into music professionally at the start of the '60s. He has cut one solo album, and has been part of the Belfast Blues Band, and was one of the key contributors to the 1997 album Belfast Beat Maritime Blues.