Steve Conway, born Walter Groom in London in 1920, turned professional toward the end of the Second World War and was soon broadcasting with some of the country’s top bands. A recording contract with EMI soon followed and this telescoped success brought him considerable success and prestige, his warm vocals enhancing many a 78 in the immediate post-war period. His ascent was rapid but he maintained his position for barely six or seven years. Illness took him, and a major heart operation was carried out, from which procedure he never recovered. He died in April 1952 at the age of 31. He has never been a forgotten man and his records still get broadcast but there is something a little fugitive about his memory, and it’s salutary to be reminded of his comet-like success in this 25-track selection which begins with the early January 1946 tracks with Jack Byfield (ex-Albert Sandler, another early casualty) and ends with July 1951 cuts.
Conway had a warm, rich voice. There are strong hints as to his affiliation with Crosby throughout – both in terms of vocal timbre, and indeed repertoire – but also vestiges of elite British crooner, Al Bowlly; listen to the Bowllyesque upper voice insinuations in The Gypsy
, made just a few years after Bowlly’s own death in the war, or in The Stars will Remember, So will I
– in which the vocal imprint of both men is audible, although Conway is never as baritonal as Crosby. He can float his voice deliciously, as in I Wish I Didn’t Love You So
, and even more so on Look for the Silver Lining
. But in many ways Conway was an anachronism, his milieu remaining predominantly pre-war, the voice warm and rich but often stuck in slow or mid-tempos. Orchestrations are sometimes deft but by and large they lack spark; the kind of spark that Lew Stone provided, say, or Ray Noble for Bowlly or Sam Browne. The sequence with Peter Yorke is, at best, utilitarian in that respect, notwithstanding the fine singing. In the end there is a samey feeling to many of the tracks that limits real engagement.
Toward the end there were some gimmicky tracks with the Hastings Girls’
Choir – and though they were successful they seem to show the uncertainty of direction his career was to follow. Sinatra was swinging and rock was burgeoning, but Conway remained uncertainly on the tottering Variety boards, not sure which way to jump. It’s moot as to where his career would have taken him, had death not intervened. Maybe he’d have sharpened his act as other British singers did, like Denny Dennis for example. This well-selected and representative album does reveal, though, what a lovely voice he had.
I Poured My Heart Into a Song
I Can't Begin To Tell You
The Stars Will Remember, So Will I?
May I Call You Sweetheart?
Time After Time
I Wish I Didn't Love You So
Happy-Go-Lucky You and Broken-Hearted Me
I Never Loved Anyone
How Little We Know
When You Were Sweet Sixteen
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
Look for the Silver Lining
My Thanks To You
My Foolish Heart
Daddy's Little Girl
Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You
At the End of the Day
Steve Conway (vocals) with various orchestras