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The BBC's Nick Higham
"Musical talent combined with film star good looks"
 real 56k

Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 20:36 GMT
Pianist Russ Conway dies
Russ Conway
Russ Conway sold more than 20 million albums
British pianist Russ Conway has died after a long battle with cancer.

The 75-year-old entertainer was taken to hospital on 4 November after being found unconscious at his home in Eastbourne.

Conway died in his sleep at Eastbourne District Hospital, where he had been suffering from a recurrence of stomach cancer, which had also spread to his brain.

Russ Conway
Conway was the first British artist to win a silver disc
The hospital had received sackfuls of mail for Conway, whose career had spanned more than 40 years.

A favourite of the Queen Mother, Conway celebrated his birthday in September by playing to a packed house in the Congress Theatre in his home town.

In his heyday he was Britain's most successful and wealthiest pianist, selling more than 20 million records.

He twice topped the bill at the London Palladium and appeared at the Royal Variety Performance.

'Out on a high'

Conway's publicist John Lloyd said his passing was "desperately sad", but said the success of his birthday concert meant he had "gone out on a high note".

Russ Conway
Fighter: Russ Conway in 1973
"He sold out the theatre and hundreds were queuing outside in the hope of getting returns," he recalled.

"There will never be another Russ Conway."

Showbusiness biographer Michael Thornton, who spoke to Conway during that final performance, said he knew it would be his last time on stage.

His doctors had told him his cancer had returned, and a stroke had also affected his fingers.

"Playing a short piece to his own perfectionist standards had become an increasing ordeal for him," he said.

"He was a brave man - a man who was decorated for gallantry by his country."

'Truly great performer'

Composer Norman Newell, who knew Conway for more 40 years and worked with him on many occasions, said he was a "truly great performer".


He never acted like a star but he was one of the greatest stars I ever knew

Norman Newell
"He was one of the greatest artists I ever worked with," he recalled.

"He could do comedy and make people laugh, he could play any piece of music and he had a tremendous amount of character.

"He was a very kind-hearted and co-operative person to know. He never acted like a star but he was one of the greatest stars I ever knew."

Singer Joan Regan said: "He was a great friend to me. He had a wonderful flair for writing songs and he has left a wonderful legacy in his music for future generations.

"He has become a legend and will always be remembered as a legend by me."

Accompanist

In the 1950s and 1960s, Conway enjoyed two number one singles, Side Saddle and Roulette, and other hits included Party Pops, China Tea and Snow Coach.

Conway was born in Bristol as Trevor Stanford and joined the Royal Navy in 1942 as a 17-year-old, later earning the Distinguished Service Medal for "exceptional gallantry".

He started his musical career as an accompanist to stars such as Dorothy Squires and Gracie Fields before becoming a successful solo artist.

He recorded a vast number of albums and in 1959 he was the UK's top-selling artist, becoming the first to win a silver disc when sales of Roulette topped 250,000.

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16 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Pianist with the golden smile
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