At sixteen years of age Pete Williams left school and he joined the police cadets in Stoke-on-Trent, a career he stuck with for seven years. Pete’s dream job was to be a professional entertainer and in the late sixties Stoke-on-Trent had a thriving cabaret club circuit. He soon became well-known enough in the pubs and clubs to allow him to quit his police job, which he swapped for a part-time job at a local firm. It was at this electrical components sales company he selected his stage name by browsing the employee list and checking which name went well with Pete.
On New Year’s Eve 1970 Pete appeared at The New Gaiety Club, Rugeley alongside another future New Faces act, Danny and Dereth. He also made several appearance with Irish showband star Joe Dolan and Jazz Pop musician Ross McManus, who used to let his son Declan sit in the dressing room before the shows. Declan McManus is now better known as Elvis Costello.
Talent Show Success
Comedian Pete Conway, decided that as most comics seemed to come from Liverpool, he would pass himself off as a Scouser and it was a success. His early material was ‘borrowed’ from a mate who had emigrated to Australia and it was this material that won him a local talent show and a £2 prize. He won a couple of talent show finals, each with £5 prizes (at a time when the weekly wage was less than £20). He was soon offered more bookings and gave up his job to persue his comedy act.
In June 1973 Pete was the ‘warm-up’ act for ATV’s The Golden Shot with Norman Vaughan where he is likely to have caught the eye of New Faces producer Les Cocks.
Just a couple of months after his first New Faces appearance, in Dec 1973, Pete was landlord of Red Lion pub in Burslem and his wife Jan was giving birth to their son, Robert Peter Maximillian Williams. Growing up around Pete Conway the entertainer and visiting his dad in holiday camps in the summer, it is no surprise that his son grew up to be a star in his own right, initially with Take That and subsequently his own hugely successful solo career.
The lure of the clubs and cabaret circuit soon got Pete back out on the road but this caused his marriage to break down and he left Jan when young Robert was just two years old.
The Return to New Faces
Pete was one of the selected returning acts that featured in the opening show of the second series of New Faces in 1974, along with fellow comic Les Dennis, who was actually from Liverpool. Pete finished third, behind second placed Les.
By 1977 Pete was comparing shows around the country including a show at the Derby Playhouse with another New Faces star Ricky Disoni, who had appeared in the 1973 series one final.
In the 1980s Pete was performing at various holiday camps including Perran Sands, Cornwall and Seashore Holiday Village, Great Yarmouth and by the 1990s he was found on either comparing duties at Warners Alveston Hall, Nantwich or as the Head of Entertainment at Carmarthen Bay Holiday Park.
Panto, Television and Touring
As we entered the new millennium Pete was still entertaining, appearing in Dick Whittington (2009-2010) at Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent alongside childhood friend of his son, Jonathan Wilkes and Sheila Ferguson.
In October 2014 Pete was a guest on the TV show Never Mind The Buzzcocks where he successfully picked out of a line-up, comedian Sara Pascoe, one of his own backing singers from back in 2001.
Pete was back on stage in 2017, singing Sweet Caroline with his son on his European and Australian tour, playing a total of 38 shows. The following year he teamed up with his son again, completing the talent show journey from act to judge, when he briefly took over Robbie’s judging chair on an episode of the 2018 series of the X Factor.