Tea, anyone?

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. 0256 Label

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

I Wonder a Lot of Things

Eddie Carl was a doo wop singer. He seems to have had a few hits in the late 1950s, but they can’t have been that big because I can find out nothing about him. On the other hand, he must have made a bit of an impact, because he recorded in America on the Decca label, and did well enough there that he had a single released in Australia on the Festival label.

0292 Carl 1959 A compressedFestival is an important part of the history of recorded music in Australia. It started out in 1952 as one of the first labels able to press the then-new “microgroove” discs. It released local recordings, some its own and others in partnership with small local labels, and also bought the Australian distribution rights for overseas artists – Festival had the rights to Bill Haley and the Comets when rock’n’roll arrived in 1956, and from there it became a big player on the local scene.

The distinctive yellow and black Festival label is a familiar sight to record collectors in Australia. This one turned up at a church fete, one of a box of records which had once been part of someone’s collection – you can tell because the owner put little stickers on the label or each record with a hand-written number. This one was number 13.0292 Carl 1959 B compressed close up

This record was pressed in 1959, and it can’t have done especially well, as Festival did not issue another of Carl’s records, but the writer of the little stickers must have liked it – it sounds as if it was played a lot – and I like it too. Like a lot of doo wop, the interest here is in the singing rather than what is sung: the lyrics are fairly lightweight love songs. I have decided to go with the B side, I Wonder, I Wonder, which is sadder and stronger than the bouncy A side, The Wonderful Secret Of Love.

I wonder who owned this record, and whether they are still alive? I wonder how many years it had sat in a box, before I bought it and cleaned it and gave it a spin? I wonder what happened to Eddie Carl – he was around for a little while, because he crops up in doo wop anthologies? Perhaps he went by other names – a lot of doo wop artists changed stage names like they changed their undies. If you know a bit about doo wop and can tell me more, please get in touch.

One thing is clear, though: Eddie Carl really can sing, and the backing instrumentation is nicely arranged by Jack Pleis. Great, melodic pop music.

  • Artist: Eddie Carl
  • Title: I Wonder, I Wonder
  • Format: 7” vinyl disc, 45rpm
  • Label: Festival FK-3079
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1959