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Winifred Atwell - JPop.com
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Winifred Atwell

Winifred Atwell

Winifred Atwell


Winifred Atwell (February 27, 1914 - February 28, 1983) was a pianist who enjoyed great popularity in Britain in the 1950s with a series of boogie woogie and ragtime hits. Atwell was born in Tunapuna in Trinidad and Tobago. Her family owned a pharmacy, and she trained as a druggist, and was expected to join the family business, Winifred, however played the piano since a young age, and achieved considerable popularity locally. She left Trinidad in the early 40's Read more on Last.fm
Winifred Atwell (February 27, 1914 - February 28, 1983) was a pianist who enjoyed great popularity in Britain in the 1950s with a series of boogie woogie and ragtime hits. Atwell was born in Tunapuna in Trinidad and Tobago. Her family owned a pharmacy, and she trained as a druggist, and was expected to join the family business, Winifred, however played the piano since a young age, and achieved considerable popularity locally. She left Trinidad in the early 40's, she travelled to the United States to study with Alexander Borovsky and in 1946 moved to London, where she had gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music. To support her studies, she played rags at London clubs and theatres particularly the London Palladium and Prince of Wales Theatre. She gained huge popularity in the UK with her Honky Tonk style of playing that people closest to her disliked, but this became her ticket to unrivalled success. She earned only a few pounds a week initially, but suddenly it shot up to over $50,000.

By 1950 her popularity had spread nationally and internationally, she signed a record contract with Decca in 1951, millions of copies of her sheet music were sold she also went on to record her best-known "hits", such as Let's Have a Ding-Dong, Poor People of Paris (which reached number one in the charts), Britannia Rag and Black and White Rag. This last piece became famous again in the 1970s as the signature tune of the Pot Black snooker programme on BBC television. It was also at this time other West Indians were excelling abroad with Edric Connor and Cy Grant singing for the BCC Radio and Rudolph Dunbar becoming the first black conductor to appear at the Royal Albert Hall. Atwell also performed numerous concerts, including Royal Variety Performances and television appearances. A typical concert would start with classical music played on a grand piano, followed by popular music on a honky tonk piano, which she lovingly referred to as 'my other piano'.

It had been bought for £2 10s. at a Battersea junk shop in the late 1940s. In 1955 she arrived in Australia and was greeted with international celebrity. However, her popularity started to wane at the end of the decade, and attempts to combine more contemporary music, such as Rock 'n' Roll hits, with her own honky tonk style were unsuccessful, however she still continued to perform at clubs and gave the odd concert performance every so often. Winifred often returned to her Trinidad, and on one occasion she bought a house in St. Augustine a home she adored and later renamed Winvilla which was later turned into the Pan Pipers Music School by one of her students Miss Louise McIntosh.

In 1971 she and her husband the former British comedian and her manager Lew Levisohn settled in Sydney. Her career there spanned about 25 years. In 1983 following a fire that destroyed her Narrabeen apartment, she suffered a heart attack and died while staying with friends in Seaforth. Read more on Last.fm.

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