AND ONE OF THEM IS A ‘CLASSICS ONLY’ LP
THE HANDS that are insured for £40,000 play a 50-bob piano, picked up years ago at a London secondhand shop. And those same hands have rattled the keyboard with such regularity and success since that 13 LPs stand to the credit of their owner, Winifred Atwell.
Two of the 13 albums have not yet been released. They are from the sound-tracks of a TV film series Winifred made during her recent Australian tour which we will see in the New Year. The LPs will be released when the series — appropriately called The Amazing Miss A — starts.
And one of them is devoted entirely to classics. That in itself is not surprising, for soon after the war, Winifred Atwell had come to London from Trinidad to continue her piano studies.
But when she went to audition for the Bernard Delfont organisation — still intent on a classical career — Winnie found that her style of boogie-woogie was preferred to her Beethoven. Result: an engagement at the London Casino.
Audiences soon sat up and took notice of this brilliant pianist who, before leaving her native shores, had taken a degree in pharmacy.
Her first recording contract was signed with Decca in 1951, and Winnie’s second disc, ‘Black And White Rag’, earned her a Golden Disc.
A string of hits followed, including ‘Flirtation Waltz’, ‘Jubilee Rag’, ‘Coronation Rag’, ‘Poor People Of Paris’, ‘Story Of Three Loves’, ‘Moonlight Fiesta’, ‘Port Au Prince’, and more recently, ‘The Summer Of The 17th Doll’.
And Winnie had also acquired two more Golden Discs for Let’s Have A Party, series one and two.
With each new recording came more success, and in 1955, she was invited to make an Australian tour — which eventually lasted more than a year!
Winifred Atwell went off for her second trip to Australia last year. During her 13 months away from home, she hardly had a day’s rest
When she returned to Britain last month, Winifred Atwell found a pile of offers awaiting her. She made three television appearances in one week, and will be doing the same again over Christmas.
Before the Christmas holidays, Winnie takes a quick trip to Italy, for appearances in Rome and Milan. In January, she sets off again on a grand tour of Europe which will keep her away for at least two months.
And there’s another offer from “down under” to be considered — worth £100,000 for a seven-week trip, which will include the shooting of 13 more TV films.
Winnie loves Australia, and Australia loves Winnie. Before her second trip, she bought a house on Bilgola Beach, a suburb of Sydney which is now her “second home.”
On her latest recording, ‘Piano Party’, she romps through eleven numbers on one single, giving a total playing time of nine minutes. She certainly deserves the description “The Amazing Miss A”.
© June Harris, Disc, 28 November 1959