Robbie Williams and his Dad: The fascinating story of the singing pair’s relationship

27 May 2020, 20:21 | Updated: 29 May 2020, 17:22

Robbie Williams may be one of the most famous singers in the world, but there is one person who has had more influence on his life than anyone else - his father, Pete Conway.

Robbie Williams' dad, Pete, 70, regularly comes on tour with his son and performs duets on stage in front of thousands of fans.

But in the star's early days Pete, a professional singer himself, tried to discourage Robbie, 46, from becoming one of the world's most successful pop stars.

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So what changed? From divorcing his mother when the Take That star was just a toddler to Pete's second wife reportedly leaving him for one of Robbie's friends, going on tour with the star and his recent diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, we take a look at the incredible story of Robbie Williams' father Pete Conway and the heartwarming relationship between the pair.

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It's widely known that Stoke-on-Trent native Pete Williams is a natural born entertainer.

The comedian and singer - who adopted the stage name Pete Conway - toured clubs and pubs in England when cabaret comedy was at its peak and regularly appeared on the bill with such comedy greats as Tommy Cooper and Roy Walker.

Robbie Williams often invites his father on stage to sing with him
Robbie Williams often invites his father on stage to sing with him. Picture: Twitter/Pete Conway

After the disintegration of his marriage to wife Janet, when a young Robbie was just three-years-old, Pete became the licensee at the Port Vale FC social club in Stoke-on-Trent, confirming his place on the town's entertainment scene.

Pete appeared on TV talent show New Faces in 1973 and recalls Robbie 'grew up backstage" and was fascinated with performing.

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“When he was on his summer holidays and wherever I was doing a summer season of a show, Robbie used to be backstage and watched the entertainers," Pete told the Irish Mirror.

Pete said that Robbie had decided early on that he wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps.

“He had an idea when he was about 10 or 11, ‘that’s what I want to do!’ I really tried to put him off it, of course I did!” He said, but to no avail.

In a bizarre turn of events, Pete recalls when he worked with pop musician Ross McManus, the star would also bring his son shows.

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“Ross used to bring his son, before Robbie was born, and he also used to sit in the dressing room.

"He is now Elvis Costello," he added, "It’s funny how he did the same thing as Rob."

Pete said he knew that Robbie had a natural talent that was evident when he was just a child. “Robbie did the amateur dramatics in Chitty Bang Bang and Fiddler on the Roof, he did all those things," he said, adding: “He had an ability, he was genuinely good at it.”

Robbie Williams pictured performing in Fiddler On The Roof as a teen
Robbie Williams pictured performing in Fiddler On The Roof as a teen. Picture: Twitter/Pete Conway
Peter often shares pictures of himself with Robbie with his Twitter followers, above.
Peter often shares pictures of himself with Robbie with his Twitter followers, above. Picture: Twitter/Peter Conway

Robbie Williams' biggest performance of his young life was when he was cast as lead character the Artful Dodger in a school production of Oliver!, when he was 14-years-old.

In memories from school friends however, Robbie put his father on such a pedestal that when he saw his dad in the audience he was crippled with stage fright.

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In the biography Robbie by Sean Smith, friend Zoë Hammond recalls the night Robbie's nerves got the better of him in front of his father.

"After fifteen minutes Rob came off the stage. Zoë could see he was upset and put her arms around him, and said, ‘I knew the moment you sang your first line. What’s up?’

"Rob started crying and told her, ‘I just said my first spiel and I looked down into the pit, like, and, b***** me, but I’ve looked up and there is my f****** old man in the front row.’

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"Rob had no idea his dad was coming to see him, saying: ‘How I remembered that song and how I remembered any of the words, I don’t know. I’ve got to get a grip before I go back on.'

"He put his dad on a pedestal, you see. But when he went back out he was brilliant," Zoë added.

Just two years later, in 1990 when Robbie Williams was just 16-years-old, he became the youngest member of newly formed boyband Take That.

Take That pictured in 1992. Left to right: Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow, Jason Orange and Howard Donald.
Take That pictured in 1992. Left to right: Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow, Jason Orange and Howard Donald. Picture: Getty

The band became superstars and Robbie was a heartthrob overnight, but his hard partying ways were affecting this bandmates and in 1995 he left the group.

Robbie was in the process of recording 'Angels' and 'Let Me Entertain You' when he turned his life around with a stint in rehab.

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The new Robbie Williams' fame was on the rise and his father Pete was by his side.

Pete performed at the reception of Robbie's marriage to wife Ayda Field in 2010, and in 2013 Rob returned the favour when Pete married charity fundraiser, Melanie Mills, 44.

However, the marriage was not to have a happy ending; after five years Melanie reportedly left Pete for an unnamed friend of Robbie's in 2018.

The star immediately rallied around to help his father.

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A source told The Sun: “It’s rather awkward but Robbie’s determined to help him through it.

“They’re really tight...Robbie and the rest of his family are very close."

Robbie was determined to distract a 'devastated' Pete and within two weeks of Melanie leaving, he had brought his dad on stage to help him judge acts on The X Factor and had duetted with him at Milan Fashion Week.

"Robbie wanted to do something fun and upbeat for him and spend as much time with him as possible," the source added.

Robbie Williams, pictured in 1997, spiralled into drug and addiction shortly after leaving Take That
Robbie Williams, pictured in 1997, spiralled into drug and addiction shortly after leaving Take That. Picture: Getty

Pete Conway has appeared on stage with his son so many times that he's as well known to fans as his son himself.

Speaking to the Mirror in 2017, Pete reflected on the amazing life he leads on tour with Robbie.

“I’ve had a new lease of life with Rob doing so well. It’s my 50th year in showbusiness,” he said.“We had a good year this year, we did 38 shows."

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“The travelling can be hard, the shows are the easiest, it’s such a pleasure. I just sing one song, we’ve done that for years.

Pete added how proud he was of his son: “We have similar mannerisms, he’s a good lad.”

However, a devastated Robbie recently revealed that Pete has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

The singer, who is in lockdown in L.A. told of his devastation that he is thousands of miles away from his family, but Pete remains optimistic and assures fans he speaks to his son everyday.

He told the Stoke Sentinel: “Robbie rings me just before he goes to bed when I’m just getting up, because of the time difference.

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“I miss the whole family and it’s the first thing I’ll do when lockdown is over. I have to keep adding to my bucket list because people keep saying ‘when lockdown is over we must [insert activity]!’

Speaking about his Parkinson's diagnosis he said: “A lot of people close to me didn’t even know I had it. I was diagnosed three years ago and, to be honest, I knew it was coming on. It was just one of those things.

Robbie Williams and his dad, Pete Conway
Robbie Williams and his dad, Pete Conway. Picture: ITV

“The symptoms come and go, it’s just a bit of a nuisance more than anything.

"Rob mentioned it in an interview last week, but I’ve had it for a long time and I’m just carrying on as normal.

“It’s not a secret and it was going to come out at some point - I just put up with it really.”

Pete had been due to join Robbie on stage at a Port Vale concert in June to raise money for local Stoke-on-Trent charities, but the concert has been postponed until further notice.

Fingers crossed we'll see Pete on stage with son Robbie Williams for many more years to come.