WINIFRED ATWELL is determined to bounce right back into the hit parade with her first disc for Pye, ‘Game Of Chance’.
I dropped in at the studios to hear the number being recorded by Winnie on Saturday, backed by a big string orchestra and a vocal group. The result was pretty impressive, too!
In spite of the dizzy string effect used on the disc, however, it seems we haven’t heard the last of Winnie’s old honky tonk “other piano.”
“In fact,” she told me, ”we’re going to dub the ‘other piano’ onto the record! It arrived in England from Australia last week, and although it was damaged on the journey, I should soon be playing it again.”
‘Game Of Chance’ is a sweeping number, with a lot of strings. The “other piano” will only be a small part of it.
Hopeful of the chances of the new number getting into the charts are two of Pye’s best known recording men, a-and-r manager Alan Freeman and MD Tony Hatch.
Says Alan: “Winnie has a unique style and I think it’s true to say there’s nobody else quite like her in show business.”
And if you believe in lucky omens, ‘Game Of Chance’ has an extra chance — it was written by Joe Henderson, who penned Winnie’s first hit ‘Flirtation Waltz’.
Winnie’s season at London’s Pigalle theatre-restaurant is so popular that there is a possibility of it being extended for a further month, or even longer.
Winnie is a shadow of her former self as far as size is concerned. Remember the old Winifred Atwell, a jovial, good natured woman who weighed something around 16 stone? Today she is still jovial and good natured, but watch her act at the Pigalle and you see a trim, 11-stone performer who not only plays the piano… she sings, tells jokes, and even does the twist!
The new “Slim Win” was achieved by a rigorous slimming diet that took two years during her tour of Australia.
She reveals: “Losing weight changed my outlook on life in many ways. These days I seem to have twice the energy — I suppose this is why I now find it so much fun doing more than play the piano.
“Now I’m at the Pigalle, for instance, I’m changing my act around quite often. Some nights I twist, or I might do a Charleston. And I also change my songs around from time to time to make them more topical.”
Currently in the shops is Winnie’s final Decca release, ‘Johann’s Twist’, which she composed.
Her last appearance in the best sellers in Britain was in July, 1959, when she scored for a while with a number recorded in Australia, ‘Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll’.
Will her move to a new label see Winnie back in the charts once more? Cracks husband Lew Levisohn: “Let’s hope so. Then we could say Winnie’s records were selling like hot Pyes!”
© Alan Smith, New Musical Express, 18 May 1962