Russ Conway (real name Trevor Herbert Stanford) was born on 2 September 1925, in Bristol. After leaving school he trained as a solicitor’s clerk, but in 1942 – during World War II – he was called up into the forces.
During his Navy service, he lost the tip of the 3rd finger on his right hand while using a bread slicer, and was eventually discharged on health grounds because of a stomach ulcer.
Post-war, he served in the Merchant Navy before deciding to try to make a living as a musician. It was while playing in a London club in 1955 that he was “discovered” and signed to Columbia Records.
Russ Conway was the darling of mums everywhere when he appeared on The Billy Cotton Bandshow in the 50s and 60s and went on to accompany many leading stars of the day, including Denis Lotis, Gracie Fields, Joan Regan and Dorothy Squires.
He collapsed on stage during The Billy Cotton Bandshow in 1962, reportedly suffering from a breakdown, and there was more drama two years later when a special-effects piano exploded injuring a technician and three female extras.
Russ first made the charts in November 1957, with Party Pops. But, aimed solely at the Christmas market, it dropped out as soon as the festive season was over.
It was his big hit Side Saddle, which made #1 in February 1959, that really put Russ into the limelight.
A Royal Command Performance followed and he went on to top the bill at the London Palladium several times. Russ’s honky-tonk piano style and flashing smile – a winning combination – earned him 30 million record sales and a small fortune.
Conway, who never married, died on 16 November 2000, aged 75 at Eastbourne in Sussex.