Trevor Stanford was born on in 1925 in Bristol, the seaport in the west of England. A man born in that time and place was pretty much certain to go to war – Germany invaded Poland the day before he turned thirteen – and he did, serving in the Royal Navy. His military service saw him win the Distinguished Service Medal and, less glamorously, lose part of a finger in a bread slicer. This was of more than usual significance for Stanford, because he was a talented pianist.
After the war he adopted the stage name Russ Conway. To modern ears, that doesn’t much more exotic than his real name, but it worked for him. He played pianos in nightclubs and for dance rehearsals and then for Columbia records, accompanying some of the stars of the day, including Gracie Fields, before becoming a successful solo artist in his own right. He had more than twenty chart hits in the UK, including this one, China Tea, which was his own composition and which cracked the top ten in 1959.
There are hits from past years which are a puzzle, but you can understand the Conway’s popularity: his bouncy pub-piano style is fun, danceable, exciting. You can almost smell the Woodbines and taste the lager.
Note: The sharp-eyed blog follower might notice a hand written sticker, with the number 7, on the label. It is by coincidence – each day’s Planet Vinyl offering is chosen at random – but this disc comes from the collection of the person who put a similar sticker on the Eric Carle doo wop record I looked at a little while ago.
- Artist: Russ Conway
- Title: China Tea
- Track A: “China Tea”
- Format: 7” 45 rpm
- Label: Columbia 45-DB 4337
- Manufactured in: Great Britain
- Year: 1959