Joe "Mr. Piano" Henderson

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A popular English composer and pianist who enjoyed several homeland hits as well as earning a name in film composition.
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b. 2 May 1920, Glasgow, Scotland, d. 4 May 1980, London, England. A pianist and composer, Henderson formed his own band to play at school dances before turning professional at the age of 13. In the early 50s he served as accompanist for former child actress and singer Petula Clark, who featured frequently in the UK charts, and subsequently recorded several of her ex-pianist’s compositions. Henderson himself became extremely popular on the UK variety circuit, alongside other solo piano acts, such as Winifred Atwell, Russ Conway and - much later - Bobby Crush. He survived the radical changes in popular music that began to take place in the 50s, and still retained an audience. He also featured in Bumper Bundle on Radio Luxembourg, and had his own television series Sing Along With Joe and Mr. Piano Plays. Henderson’s first hits came in 1955 with ‘Sing It With Joe’ and ‘Sing It Again With Joe’. These consisted of short piano medleys of jolly standards, such as ‘Margie’ and ‘Somebody Stole My Gal’. In 1958 he had another UK Top 20 hit with ‘Trudie’, accompanied by the Beryl Stott Chorus. It was the best-known of his mostly bright, catchy compositions, and won an Ivor Novello Award for The Year’s Best Selling And Most Performed Item. He earned another Ivor the following year for the movie title song ‘Jazzboat’, The Year’s Most Outstanding Composition In The ‘Jazz’ Or ‘Beat’ Idiom. Jazzboat was one of three films that Henderson scored that starred Anthony Newley. The others were Idle On Parade, the film that launched Newley’s singing career (he co-wrote some of the songs) and Let’s Get Married. Henderson’s other compositions, published by his own company, included ‘Why Don’t They Understand?’ (a US and UK chart hit for country singer George Hamilton IV), ‘Chick’, ‘Treble Chance’ (his last Top 30 entry, in 1959), ‘Dear Daddy’ (with lyrics by Jack Fishman, featured on Ruby Murray Successes), ‘Matchbox Samba’, ‘Coffee Bar Jive’, ‘What A Day We’ll Have’, ‘I’d Have A Long Way To Go’, ‘When You’re Away’, ‘Dream Of Paradise’, ‘First Theme’, ‘I Need You’, ‘Somebody’ and ‘Crinoline Waltz’. His other recordings included Charles Chaplin’s ‘Smile’, Leroy Anderson’s ‘Forgotten Dreams’, ‘The Theme From the Threepenny Opera (Moritat)’ and a lively version of the novelty ‘Don’t Ring-A Da Bell’. On the latter he played harpsichord, while the vocal was by the British actress Shani Wallis, who went on to play Nancy in the movie of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! A very likeable and genial personality, Henderson continued to entertain for many years after the hits dried up, particularly in the seaside summer season, at top venues such as Blackpool and Bournemouth.