Harry Parr-Davies

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Light music composer Harry Parr-Davies was born in Neath, South Wales in 1914 -- a self-taught piano prodigy, he was eventually discovered by Sir Walford Davies while serving as a church accompanist during…
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Light music composer Harry Parr-Davies was born in Neath, South Wales in 1914 -- a self-taught piano prodigy, he was eventually discovered by Sir Walford Davies while serving as a church accompanist during his teens and planning a career as a classical performer. Instead, at 14 -- shortly after completing his first opera, The Curfew -- Parr-Davies made the acquaintance of show biz impresario Julian Wylie, who suggested he write a song for a new musical in its pre-production; the stage would remain his focus for the rest of his life, a path cemented when, in 1931, he was hired to accompany musical actress Gracie Fields. Parr-Davies remained with Fields for the remainder of the decade, composing songs for all of her films, among them Sing As We Go, Looking on the Bright Side, Look Up and Laugh, The Show Goes On, Queen of Hearts, We're Going to Be Rich, and Shipyard Sally. With the onset of World War II, Parr-Davies turned his attention to writing for the rash of wartime musicals in production: his Black Velvet opened in November 1939 and ran for 620 performances, launching the blackout hit "Crash, Bang, I Want to Go Home." Parr-Davies also composed in full the musicals Haw-Haw, Come Out to Play, and Top of the World before teaming with George Posford in 1942 for the smash Full Swing, which headlined London's Palace Theater for 12 months. The 1943 follow-up The Knight Was Bold was a flop, but the war-themed Lisbon Story was a commercial blockbuster, ending its run abruptly in July 1944 when heavy bombing forced the majority of London's theatrical venues to temporarily close; Parr-Davies' Jenny Jones opened later that year, followed in 1945 by Fine Feathers, and in 1946 by The Shepherd Show. Concurrently he enlisted in the Irish Guards, but when Fields was asked to tour with the Entertainment National Service Association, she balked at performing without Parr-Davies as her accompanist, so his duties were re-routed. After the war he wrote the hits Her Excellency and Dear Miss Phoebe; his greatest success was 1951's Blue for a Boy, which ran for 650 performances. 1953's The Glorious Days proved Parr-Davies' unexpected finale -- after a lifelong fear of doctors, he refused treatment for a perforated ulcer, dying from internal hemorrhaging on October 14, 1955.