Russ Conway

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Russ Conway
Russ Conway in 1962
Russ Conway in 1962
Background information
Birth nameTrevor Herbert Stanford
Born(1925-09-02)2 September 1925
Bristol, England
Died16 November 2000(2000-11-16) (aged 75)
Eastbourne, Sussex, England
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsPiano
Years active1955–2000
LabelsColumbia (EMI), Pye, MusicMedia, Churchill

Russ Conway, DSM (born Trevor Herbert Stanford; 2 September 1925 – 16 November 2000) was an English popular music pianist and composer, not to be confused with Russell Conway the Canadian trumpeter who played on many of Motown and Atlantic Records biggest hits of the 60's.[1] Conway had 20 piano instrumentals in the UK Singles Chart between 1957 and 1963, including two number one hits.[1]

Career[edit]

Conway was born in Bristol, England.[2] He won a scholarship to Bristol Cathedral Choir School[2] and, after leaving school at 14,[3] was largely self-taught on piano during a three-year term in a borstal detention centre for stealing from his employers.[4]

During the Second World War, he was conscripted into the Royal Navy[4] 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.[2] At the end of the war, he chose to remain in the Navy, but was discharged in 1948 because of a stomach ulcer. He joined the Merchant Navy as a baggage steward with P&O, but left after a recurrence of the complaint.[4]

In 1955, Conway was talent-spotted while playing in a London club, and was signed to EMI's Columbia label. At Columbia, he worked with Norman Newell, who suggested he adopt the stage name of Russ Conway ('Conway' from Newell's early recording association with the singer Steve Conway, and 'Russ' from the Russ Henderson Steel Band).[4] Conway spent the mid-1950s providing backing for artists on their roster, including Gracie Fields and Joan Regan.[2] He recorded his first solo single "Party Pops" in 1957, a "medley of standard songs"[2] which included "Roll the Carpet Up" and "The Westminster Waltz".

Between 1957 and 1963, Conway had 20 UK chart hits, and in 1959 alone he achieved a cumulative total of 83 weeks on the UK Singles Chart.[1] This included two self-penned number one instrumentals, "Side Saddle" and "Roulette", the latter deposing Elvis Presley's "A Fool Such As I". He appeared frequently on light entertainment TV shows and radio for many years afterwards, performing at the London Palladium on a number of occasions[2] 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.

In 1958 Conway (as "Trevor H. Stanford") composed, with Norman Newell, the music for the flop musical Mister Venus, which starred Frankie Howerd and Anton Diffring, The show, with book by Ray Galton and Johnny Speight, opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 23 October 1958 but closed after just sixteen performances. [5]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews during a recording session at the BBC's Studio 1 at 201 Piccadilly, London.[6]

His career was blighted by ill health, including a nervous breakdown and subsequently a stroke, which prevented him from performing between 1968 and 1971.[2] 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.[7][3]

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.[8]

In the documentary Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes, Barry Cryer, commenting on Howerd not coming out as gay, also said that Russ Conway did not, as in 'those days' it would have been career suicide.[9] Conway said in 1995 that he was unsure about his sexuality: "I haven't the faintest idea what it is....I was certainly no angel in my younger days and I have tried everything there is to try."[4]

Conway, who never married, died on 16 November 2000, just two weeks after his last public performance.[10]

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.[11]

Discography[edit]

LPs[edit]

  • 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
  • Something For Mum
  • At the Cinema (1961)
  • Happy Days (1961)
  • Concerto For Dreamers
  • Enjoy Yourself (1964)
  • Once More it's Party Time
  • Time to Play (1966)
  • The New Side of Russ Conway (1971)
  • Russ Conway Presents 24 Piano Greats (1977) – UK No. 25[1]

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions
UK
[12]
AUS US
[13]
1957 "Roll the Carpet Up"
"Soho Fair"
"The Red Cat (Le Chat Rouge)"
"Piano Pops No. 1"
"Party Pops" 24
"Scot Pops"
"The Lantern Slide"
1958 "Party Pops (No. 2)"
"Pal Joey Pops"
"Piano Pops (No. 3)"
"South Pacific Pops"
"Piano Pops (No. 4)"
"Piano Pops (No. 5)"
"Got a Match" 30
"Piano Pops (No. 6)"
"My Fair Lady Pops"
"More Party Pops" 10
"The World Outside" 24
1959 "Piano Pops No. 7"
"Side Saddle" 1 78
"Piano Pops No. 8"
"Roulette" 1 71 106
"Piano Pops No. 9"
"China Tea" 5
"Song from North By Northwest"
"Snow Coach" 7
"More and More Party Pops" 5
1960 "Royal Event" 15
"Medley of Tunes from Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'be" 47
"Lucky Five" 14
"Piano Pops No. 10"
"Passing Breeze" 16
"The Key to Love" flip 91
"Even More Party Pops" 27
1961 "Pepe" 19
"Parade of the Poppets"
"Pablo" 45
"Say It with Flowers" (with Dorothy Squires) 23
"Toy Balloons" 7
1962 "Lesson One" 21
"Concerto for Dreamers"
"Blitz Medley"
"Always You and Me" 33
"Russ Conway's Sing Song Medley"
1963 "Gigolo"
"Flamenco"
"Liverpool Pops"
"Gold Rush"
"Conway Capers No. 1"
1964 "Mack the Knife"
"Conway Capers No. 2"
"Concerto for Lovers"
1965 "Little Leprechaun"
"The Beggars of Rome"
"I See the Moon"
1966 "The Crunch"
"Celebration Day"
"Swinging Pops"
1968 "Pink Piano" (as The Russ Conway Sound)
1970 "Polonaise"
"Love Is All"
1971 "Aranjuez, Mon Amour"
"How Small We Are, How Little We Know"
1972 "The Boy Friend"
1973 "Life Is Good"
1974 "Bordello"
"She"
1976 "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"
1977 "A Welsh Melody" (with The Mike Sammes Singers)
1984 "Theme from The Terry Fox Story"
1989 "Bareback"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 118–19. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Larkin C (1997) Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music, Muze UK Ltd, ISBN 0-7535-0149-X p. 125
  3. ^ a b "Pianist with the golden smile". BBC News. 17 November 2000. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Russ Conway". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  5. ^ Gänzl, Kurt, 1946– (1986). The British musical theatre. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-39839-4. OCLC 59021270.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "This is your life". Russ Conway. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Russ Conway". Last FM. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  8. ^ "1994 Christmas Special". French and Saunders. 24 April 2009. Gold.
  9. ^ "Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes (2013)". IMDB. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  10. ^ Roberts, David, ed. (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-85112-156-7.
  11. ^ "Russ Conway Biography". Last fm. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  12. ^ "RUSS CONWAY | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1982). Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Hot 100 1959–1981. Record Research. p. 39. ISBN 9780898200478.

External links[edit]