Russ Conway in 1962
|Birth name||Trevor Herbert Stanford|
2 September 1925|
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, UK
|Died||16 November 2000
Eastbourne, Sussex, England
|Labels||Columbia (EMI), Pye, MusicMedia, Churchill|
Russ Conway DSM (2 September 1925 – 16 November 2000) was an English popular music pianist. Conway had 20 piano instrumentals in the UK Singles Chart between 1957 and 1963, including two number one hits.
Conway was born Trevor Herbert Stanford in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England. He won a scholarship to Bristol Cathedral Choir School and was largely self-taught on piano as he whiled away hours as a youngster during a three-year term in borstal. His father then let him join the Merchant Navy.
Conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1942, he served in the Merchant Navy from 1942 to 1948, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal as signalman in a minesweeping flotilla "for distinguished service, efficiency and zeal" in clearance of mines in the Aegean and operations during the relief of Greece 1944–45. During his Navy service, he lost the tip of the third finger of his right hand while using a bread slicer. He was discharged on health grounds because of a stomach ulcer.
Conway was talent-spotted while playing in a London club, signed to EMI's Columbia label and spent the mid-1950s providing backing for artists on their roster, including Gracie Fields and Joan Regan. He recorded his first solo single "Party Pops" in 1957, a "medley of standard songs" which included "Roll the Carpet Up" and "The Westminster Waltz".
Between 1957 and 1963, Conway had 20 UK chart hits, achieving a cumulative total of 83 weeks on the UK Singles Chart in 1959 alone. This included two self-penned number one instrumentals, "Side Saddle" and "Roulette", the latter deposing Elvis Presley's "A Fool Such As I". He was a fixture on light entertainment TV shows and radio for many years afterwards, appearing at the London Palladium on a number of occasions and becoming a regular on the Billy Cotton Band Show for several seasons. He also made recordings as a vocalist. Many of his hits feature accompaniment directed by Geoff Love.
His career was blighted by ill health, including a nervous breakdown and subsequently a stroke, which prevented him from performing between 1968 and 1971. He also at times drank heavily and smoked up to 80 cigarettes a day. He was prescribed anti-depressants and had periods of severe self-doubt. But he kept up playing. Having been diagnosed with stomach cancer in the late 1980s, in 1990 he founded the Russ Conway Cancer Fund with his friend, writer and broadcaster Richard Hope-Hawkins, and they staged charity gala shows in major theatres that raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities.
He appeared as himself in French and Saunders' 1994 Christmas special, playing "Side Saddle" – or, in an alternative edit, the Gerry and the Pacemakers hit "I Like It" – in their spoof of The Piano. In the documentary 'Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes', Barry Cryer, commenting on Howerd not coming out as gay, also said that Russ Conway didn't, as in 'those days' it would have been career suicide.
Conway, who never married, died on 16 November 2000, just two weeks after his last public performance. Richard Hope-Hawkins delivered the main eulogy at the funeral held at the historic St Mary's Church, Redcliffe, Bristol. Elton John sent a wreath. In 2001 Hope-Hawkins devised, staged and directed a tribute to Conway at the Colston Hall, Bristol, with an all-star cast. The £11,000 raised by the event was donated to St Peter's Hospice, Bristol.
- Pack Up Your Troubles (1958) – UK Albums Chart No.9
- Songs To Sing in Your Bath (1959) – UK No.8
- Family Favourites (1959) – UK No.3
- Time To Celebrate (1959) – UK No.3
- My Concerto For You (1960) – UK No.5
- Party Time (1960) – UK No.7
- At The Cinema (1961)
- Once more its Party Time (1965)
- Time To Play (1966)
- The New Side Of Russ Conway (1971)
- Russ Conway Presents 24 Piano Greats (1977) – UK No.25
UK singles with highest position in the UK Singles Chart
- "Party Pops" (1957) No.24
- "Got a Match" (1958) No.30
- "More Party Pops" (1958) No.10
- "The World Outside" (1959) No.24
- "Side Saddle" (1959) No.1
- "Roulette" (1959) No.1
- "China Tea" (1959) No.5
- "Snow Coach" (1959) No.7
- "More And More Party Pops" (1959) No.5
- "Royal Event" (1960) No.15
- "Fings Ain't Wot They Used To Be" (1960) No.47
- "Lucky Five" (1960) No.14
- "Passing Breeze" (1960) No.16
- "Even More Party Pops" (1960) No.27
- "Pepe" (1961) No.19
- "Pablo" (1961) No.45
- "Say It With Flowers" (1961) No.23
- "Toy Balloons" (1961) No.7
- "Lesson One" (1962) No.21
- "Always You And Me" (1962) No.33
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 118/9. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Larkin C (1997) Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music, Muze UK Ltd, ISBN 0-7535-0149-X p125
- "Russ Conway". Last FM. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- "Two Bristol charity fundraisers who deserve recognition". Bristol Post. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- "1994 Christmas Special". French and Saunders. 24 April 2009. Gold.
- Roberts, David, ed. (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London, England: Guinness World Records. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-85112-156-7.