Stephen Russell Race
1 April 1921
|Died||22 June 2009 (aged 88)|
|Occupation||radio personality, pianist, composer|
|Spouse(s)||Marjorie Leng (d. 1969)|
Born in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, the son of a lawyer, Race learned the piano from the age of five. He was educated (1932–37) at Lincoln School, where he formed his first jazz band, which included a young Neville Marriner, later a major figure in the world of classical music. At sixteen, he attended the Royal Academy of Music, studying composition under Harry Farjeon and William Alwyn.
He joined the Royal Air Force in 1941, and formed a jazz/dance band quintet. After the Second World War he began a long and productive career with the BBC, where his ready wit, musicianship and broad musical knowledge made him much sought after as a musical accompanist for panel games and magazine shows, such as Whirligig and Many a Slip. In 1949 his jazz group recorded the first British bebop records, and he also had a sideline arranging player piano rolls for the Artona company.
From the 1950s to the 1980s he presented countless music programmes on radio and television. Additionally, in 1955, he was appointed the first Light Music Advisor to the early independent television company Associated-Rediffusion. He is probably best known as the chairman of the long-running light-hearted radio and TV panel game My Music from 1967 to 1994. He presented and wrote most of the questions for all 520 episodes broadcast. He also presented Jazz For Moderns on radio and Jazz 625 on television for the BBC in the 1960s. Away from music, for two years from 1970 Race co-presented (with William Hardcastle) the BBC Radio 4 "drive-time" news magazine PM.
As a composer, he produced a number of pieces in the classical, jazz and popular idioms. It is likely that the composer of light Latin American dance tunes known as "Esteban Cera" was Race hiding behind a pseudonym. One of his better-known compositions is the short melodic piano instrumental "Nicola" (named after his daughter). His "The Pied Piper (The Beeje)" was also popular and reached No. 29 in the UK Singles Chart in March 1963, but his best-known and, according to his autobiography, his most lucrative composition is his music for the Birds Eye frozen peas jingle, "Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop". In the mid 1970s "The Pied Piper" was played as Queen's Park Rangers ran onto the pitch at the start of each home game at Loftus Road. Steve Race was a season ticket holder and keen fan of the club. Race also wrote the acoustic guitar jingle which introduced programmes made by Southern Television in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Race's autobiography, Musician at Large, was published in 1979, and in 1988 Souvenir Press Ltd published his book about his grandfather's short but interesting life, from lead miner to missionary, entitled "The Two Worlds of Joseph Race".
Race was survived by his second wife and a daughter from his first marriage.
- Piano-Style: A Complete Guide for the Modern Dance Band Pianist (sheet music, 1949)
- Musician at Large (1979, ISBN 0413397408)
- The King's Singers: A Self Portrait by Race, Nigel Perrin and The King's Singers (1980, ISBN 086051109X)
- My Music (1980, ISBN 0140052062)
- Dear Music Lover (1981)
- Music Quiz (1983, ISBN 0297782924)
- The Two Worlds of Joseph Race 1988
- Crosstrap (1962)
- "Berkshire Life". Berkshire Life. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2008.
- "Steve Race". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
- Spencer Leigh "Steve Race: Musician and broadcaster best known for his association with the programme 'My Music'", The Independent, 24 June 2009
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 447. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.