The comedian passed up the chance to visit Lennon while playing stand-up gigs in New York during the 1970s. He was given a letter of introduction to present to the Imagine singer by Sir Paul McCartney’s younger brother, Mike McGear. However, the Big Yin felt mortified at the thought of using the formal greeting to introduce himself to Lennon and wife Yoko Ono at their Manhattan home.
Sir Billy, 77, said he had formed close friendships with the other members of the Fab Four but felt sad he never got to hang out with Lennon before his death in 1980.
He revealed: “I said, ‘I can’t go to the door with a letter of introduction’. I said, ‘F*** off’. I didn’t go.
“I was doing Carnegie Hall and I was having a rest in the dressing room because I was really tired. My producer, Phil Coulter, went out for a walk and he saw John and Yoko.
“I was jealous that I never saw him or met him. I was a huge fan. I am friendly with all the other Beatles.”
Speaking on the Adam Buxton podcast, he added: “None of them are my favourite but I treasure my friendships with them.
“George was a lovely man. I spent a lot of time with him, a lot more than the other ones.
“I played the banjo once in George’s studio and there was a guy joined in on the guitar behind me and it was George.”
Sir Billy was playing a gig on the night Lennon was shot dead by Mark Chapman in December 1980.