William Davies

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A longtime star of the BBC Radio Light Programme, pianist, composer, and arranger William Davies later wrote a series of scores for British television. Born in Lancashire on June 26, 1921, Davies studied…
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A longtime star of the BBC Radio Light Programme, pianist, composer, and arranger William Davies later wrote a series of scores for British television. Born in Lancashire on June 26, 1921, Davies studied piano under his uncle Harold, winning a series of festivals as an adolescent. At 14, he was nevertheless apprenticed to a bookbinder, but continued playing music as time allowed. After his family relocated to Birmingham, Davies began working at International Chemical Industries' Witton laboratory, moonlighting as the organist at Aston's Lozells Picture House; during World War II he served with the RAF, and while stationed at the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare he made his BBC Radio debut as a standby accompanist. During a subsequent stay in Ceylon, Davies broadcasted over South-East Asia Command and All India Radio, and when his tour of duty ended in 1946 he accepted the position of organist with Wolverhampton's Gaumont Theatre, transferring to the Gaumont's London venue the following year. As an ever-expanding freelance schedule elevated his profile, Davies signed in 1953 with bandleader Jack Hylton as pianist and musical director. Three years later, he joined the BBC's London Studio Players, earning much notoriety for his uncanny ability to improvise clever, graceful material on little more than a moment's notice. During his stint with the BBC Radio Light Programme, Davies emerged as a household name throughout Britain, and even headlined a series of easy listening LPs. He left the Beeb in 1964 but remained a radio fixture, hosting the series The Organist Entertains, Music Box, and Just William, for which he conducted his own orchestra. As light music's commercial zenith drew to a close, Davies turned to television, most notably scoring Alistair Cooke's 1972 series America and Alan Bennett's 1975 project Sunset Across the Bay. He enjoyed stints with BBC Wales, Harlech TV, and Southern TV prior to retiring in 1990, and continued serving each Sunday as a London church organist until 1995. Davies died in East Sussex on March 2, 2006, at the age of 84.