A Rockapaedia Obituary
Russ Conway, died aged seventy-five on 16th November 2000 in Eastbourne, Sussex, U.K. just two weeks after his final public performance. His funeral was held at the historic St Mary's Church, Redcliffe, Bristol, U.K. where the main eulogy was delivered by
Richard Hope-Hawkins and Elton John sent a wreath. Russ, who never married and was said to have been homosexual had no known related survivors.
Russ Conway was born as Trevor Herbert Stanford on 2nd September 1925 in Bristol, U.K. He won a scholarship to Bristol Cathedral Choir School and was mainly self-taught on piano.
Russ was conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1942 during the Second World War. and served in the Merchant Navy from 1942 to 1948. During his navy service, he lost the tip of the third finger of his right hand while using a bread slicer and was discharged on health grounds because of a stomach ulcer.
Russ 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, Russ Conway had twenty UK chart hits, and in 1959 alone he achieved a cumulative total of eighty-three weeks on the UK Singles Chart. This included two self-penned number one instrumentals, "Side Saddle" and "Roulette". He appeared frequently on light entertainment TV shows and radio for many years afterwards, performing at the London Palladium on a number of occasions and becoming a regular on the BBC's Billy Cotton Band Show for several seasons. He also made some recordings as a vocalist.
Russ was the subject of 'This Is Your Life' in 1959, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews during a recording session at a BBC Studio.
Russ Conway's 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 eighty cigarettes per day. He was prescribed anti-depressants and had periods of severe self-doubt, but he kept up his playing. Having been diagnosed with stomach cancer in the late 1980s, in 1990 he founded the Russ 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.
Russ appeared as himself in the French and Saunders' 1994 Christmas special, playing "Side Saddle".