The instruments Sterling Conaway brought to a session might lead to the conclusion that a bluegrass or oldtime type had arrived, ready to provide whatever is needed on either mandolin, guitar or banjo. This player was actually associated with the early days of jazz, beginning with Duke Ellington's very first combo and continuing with a 1920 line-up of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He also had a brother who played both banjo and guitar, Lincoln Conaway. By 1923 Sterling Conaway had relocated from Washington D.C. to Chicago, where he began collaborating with Carroll Dickerson.
A great deal of work in Europe soon followed. Conaway associated himself with Noble Sissle's group in 1931, Freddy Johnson a few years later and continued swinging amongst the expatriate community through this decade. Naturally this led to a 1938 stint with Leon Abbey, one of the more active American bandleaders abroad. Conaway also led his own band in Europe and largely remained in the role of a multi-instrumentalist, ignoring the trendy focus on guitar which began to dominate the jazz scene. Perhaps this wasn't such a great decision, but for whatever reason this performer retired from full-time music following his return to America in the '40s.