Born on the 24th of November 1942 in Anderson, Glasgow, William "Billy" Connolly, Jr. was sadly abandoned along with his sister in 1942 by his mother whilst his father was away in the military and as a result, Connolly and his sister were subsequently raised by his two aunts. He attended St. Peter's Primary School in Glasgow before moving on to St. Gerard's Secondary School in Govan, deciding when he was twelve that he wanted to become a comedian, despite finishing school at fifteen with a duo of engineering qualifications.
Too young to work in the shipyards, he became a delivery boy until he turned sixteen upon which he was deemed too overqualified to become an engineer and instead worked as a boilermaker at Alexander Stephen and Sons Shipyard in Linthouse, Glasgow. Shortly afterwards, Connolly additionally joined the Territorial Army Reserve 15th Scottish Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.
In 1966 upon completion of a five-year apprenticeship as a boilermaker, Connolly took on a position at an oil platform in Nigeria and following his return to Scotland the following year he worked at John Brown & Company whilst he developed his folk singing skills. This love of folk singing eventually led him to forming a folk-pop duo with friend Tam Harvey called 'The Humblebums'. However, after their first album, Harvey left and was replaced with Gerry Rafferty, who would influence Connolly's comedic style with his love of expertly executed prank phone calls.
The Humblebums continued to record two more albums but eventually broke up in 1970. Returning to becoming a folk singer, Connolly was pushed by the head of Transatlantic Records, Nat Joseph, who had signed the former duo, into becoming a comedian upon viewing of his comedic talents. Following this in 1972, Connolly's first solo album was released, aptly entitled 'Billy Connolly Live!' and the following year in 1973 his double album 'Solo Concert' was released. The latter took on a chart success and Connolly's populating skyrocketed in Scotland. Upon release to the rest of the United Kingdom his name began becoming highly renowned nationwide.
In 1975, due to his growing popularity, Connolly was asked to come on to the BBC's 'Parkinson', its premier talk show, after his performance Connolly became good friends with the host Michael Parkinson and has subsequently been featured on the program fifteen times. Following this, Connolly signed with Polydor Records and the following year in 1976 he opened for Elton John in the US, sadly at the time his popularity wasn't secure in the States and he was met with abuse from the audience, one actually threw a pipe and hit him between the eyes with it. In 1979, he joined the cast of 'The Secret Policeman's Ball', a fundraising show for Amnesty International, this performance helped to secure his reputation as one of Britain's top comedians. Between the late 1970s and 1980s he also wrote a duo of books entitled 'Billy Connolly' and 'Gullible's Travels'.
Appearing again for Amnesty International in 1981, he performed in 'The Secret Policeman's Other Ball' and the commercial success of this performance in the US gave him an entry point into stardom in the States. A few years later in 1985, Connolly visited Mozambique to appear in a documentary for Comic Relief, later appearing in the charity's live stage show. Finally, ready to take on the world, Connolly began a World Tour and completed this subsequently in 1987. He gained additional popularity in the United States with his performance in 'Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela's 7oth Birthday Celebration' in 1988. Sadly, a year later his father passed away in 1989 and he went into a downward spiral, however, he felt saved later on that year when he married comedy actress Pamela Stephenson, whom he had been living with since 1981. Finishing up the 80's, he shaved off his trademark beard for a film role and remained clean-shaven for several years following this.
Finally he appeared once again in the United States when he was featured on the show 'Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance'. This officially launched his career in the US and gained him a position as the star of the sitcom 'Head of the Class' between 1990 and 1991, shortly before the series was cancelled. In 1991, Connolly and Stephenson moved to Los Angeles where they were given Green Cards, in the same year, Connolly was given his one and only leading TV role as the star of 'Billy', lasting for half a season. Returning to Glasgow, Connolly performed his 25th anniversary concert in Glasgow and the following year in 1993 he contributed vocals to Mike Oldfield's single 'The Bell' as the 'Master of Ceremonies'. In 1994 he began a forty-date 'World Tour of Scotland', broadcasted later by the BBC.
Following this, the BBC broadcasted the special 'A Scot in the Artic', starring Connolly, in 1995. A year later in 1996, he appeared in Muppet Treasure Island as 'Billy Bones' and after another year he starred in 'Mrs. Brown', playing John Brown. The latter performance gained him nomination for a BAFTA Award and a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor, as well as an Award for Best Supporting Actor from the Screen Actors Guild. His cover version of the Beatles' song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" was featured on the 1998 album by George Martin 'In My Life' before featuring as the subject of a two-hour retrospective on his life, aptly titled 'Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years' which included tributes from a variety of celebrity colleagues and peers. The following year Connolly took up a fifty-nine-date sellout tour of Australia and New Zealand before completing a twenty-five-date sellout run at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.
Beginning the new millenium with a thirteen-date tour in Canada during 2000 before starring in 'Beautiful Joe'. The following year in 2001 he completed his third World Tour, touring England, Ireland and Wales, as well as having his biography written by his wife, Pamela Stephenson, published. Continuing to tour New Zealand again in 2004, Connolly additionally performed two sold-out benefit concerts at the Oxford New Theatre in memory of his late tour manager and sound engineer, Malcom Kingsnorth. Over these years he also took on many acting roles in several films including but not limited to The Man Who Sued God in 2001, White Oleander in 2002, The Last Samurai in 2003 and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2004.
In the January of 2005, Connolly was ranked 8th place in 'The Comedians's Comedian', voted on by other comedians and comedy insiders, before taking on a nationwide tour with fifteen-dates throughout Glasgow. He moved back to Aberdeenshire, Scotland with his wife in 2005. Two years later in 2007, Connolly was caught in a single-car accident but luckily he escaped uninjured, following this in 2008 he played ten shows at the Post Street Theatre in San Francisco before touring Ireland in the same year. Finally to end the noughties, Connolly toured Scotland in 2009 with his tickets selling out so vastly and quickly that the computer systems sanctioning the tickets actually overloaded from the rush.
In early 2010 Connolly and his wife moved back to New York City but continued to do shows in the UK, starring in the documentary 'Billy Connolly's Route 66' in 2011. Finally, he completed the cast lineup of 'The Hobbit' with his role as Dain Ironfoot in the February of 2012. Since then, Billy Connolly has starred in a variety of roles and shows across the planet as well as gaining many awards, including but not limited to an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Glasgow in 2001, a Lifetime Achievement Award from BAFTA in 2003, also being made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2003, being awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Nottingham Trent University as well as many others.