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Russ Conway

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Conway was born in Bristol, England. He had no formal piano training and spent his early adulthood in the Navy. Conway was talent-spotted while playing in a London club, signed to Columbia Records and spent the mid 1950s providing backing for their artists including Gracie Fields and Joan Regan. However, the commercial potential of Conway’s unique percussive piano style (which he attributed to a missing fingertip he had severed many years previously with a bread slicer) was too great for him to remain in the background for long. Conway recorded his first solo single in 1957, a novelty instrumental medley of pop standards.

1959 was Conway’s annus mirabilis, with a cumulative total of 83 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. This included two self-penned number one instrumentals, “Side Saddle” and “Roulette”, the latter deposing Elvis Presley’s “A Fool Such As I”.

Conway maintained a chart presence in the early 1960s, and was a fixture on light entertainment TV shows and radio for many years afterwards thanks to his instantly recognisable piano style. For some years his career was blighted by ill-health, and his later life was notable for charity work. He founded in 1990, along with his friend writer and broadcaster Richard Hope-Hawkins, the Russ Conway Cancer Fund and they staged in major theatre’s charity gala shows that raised thousands of pounds and was donated to numerous cancer charities. Russ, who never married, died on 2000-11-16 [1]. Richard Hope Hawkins gave the main address at Russ’s funeral held at the historic St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol. Elton John sent a wreath. In 2001 Richard devised, staged and directed a tribute to Russ at the Colston Hall, Bristol with an all-star cast.

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