Winifred Atwell Biography

27 April 1914, Tunapuna, Trinidad, d. February 1983, Sydney, Australia. Atwell began playing piano at the age of four, gave classical recitals when six and played concerts at the Services Club, Trinidad. She went to New York and studied with Alexander Borovsky before moving to London for tuition with Harold Craxton. Supplementing her income from classical music by playing boogie-woogie gained her a contract with Decca Records and throughout the 50s she had great success with a series of ‘knees up’ sing along medleys and ‘rags’, mostly on her old honky-tonk, ‘other’ piano. The first of these, ‘Black And White Rag’, was later selected as the signature tune for Pot Black, BBC Television’s first regular snooker programme. Other 50s Top 10 hits were ‘Britannia Rag’, ‘Coronation Rag’, ‘Flirtation Waltz’, ‘Let’s Have A Party’, ‘Let’s Have A Ding Dong’, ‘Make It A Party’, ‘Let’s Have A Ball’, ‘Piano Party’, and two chart-toppers, ‘Let’s Have Another Party’ and ‘The Poor People Of Paris’. Atwell’s dubbing of John Mills’ piano playing in the 1956 film It’s Great To Be Young, included a jumping version of ‘The Original Dixieland One Step’. Interrupting the pop, there was also the ‘back to her roots’ single, ‘Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation On A Theme By Paganini’, which went to number 9 in the UK chart. Thereafter, she continued to combine the two musical forms. At her peak she was a huge UK star, but in the 60s her career declined and in the 70s she went to live in Australia, where she died in 1983.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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