b. 1910, South Africa, d. September 1975, England. A songwriter, pianist and singer, Roberts’ early education took place in England. He subsequently attended university in South Africa before joining a law practice. Intent on becoming a songwriter, he returned to the UK where he had some success in the late 30s with songs such as ‘Angel Of The Great White Way’ (written with Elton Box, Desmond Cox and Don Pelosi), and ‘Horsey, Horsey’ (with Box, Cox and Ralph Butler) which became popular for Jack Jackson, Billy Cotton and Henry Hall. During World War II Roberts flew with the RAF, and when peace came he became an airline captain on BOAC Constellations. Subsequently, he returned to songwriting, and during the 50s, had several UK chart hits, including ‘The Book’ (David Whitfield), ‘Heart Of A Man’ (Frankie Vaughan), ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ (Anne Shelton), ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ (Max Bygraves), ‘Pickin’ A Chicken’ (Eve Boswell); and ‘Evermore’, ‘Softly, Softly’ (number 1) and ‘You Are My First Love’ (the last three sung by Ruby Murray). The latter song was featured in the British musical film It’s Great To Be Young, and Roberts wrote several other movie songs, including ‘In Love For The Very First Time’ (for An Alligator Named Daisy, starring Diana Dors) and the title number to The Good Companions. His other 50s compositions included ‘Johnny Is The Boy For Me’, ‘It’s A Boy’, ‘That Dear Old Gentleman’, ‘Send For Me’ and ‘The Three Galleons (Las Tres Carabelas)’.
Most of the aforementioned songs were written in collaboration with others, such as Hans Gottwald, C.A. Rossi, Geoffrey Parsons, Peggy Cochran, Jack Woodman, Gerry Levine, Ake Gerhard, Leon Land, Peter Hart, Garfield De Mortimer, Derek Bernfield, Augusto Alguego, G. Moreu, and Lester Powell (pseudonym of Ray Martin). However, towards the end of the decade, he was beginning to write unaided more and more frequently, and during the 60s he included several of his own, often wry, witty and sophisticated, numbers in an accomplished cabaret act. Probably the best-known of these is ‘The Ballad Of Bethnal Green’, which enjoyed a good deal of airplay, but there were many others too, including ‘The Belle Of Barking Creek’, ‘The Big Dee-Jay’, ‘Follow Me’, ‘Country Girl’, ‘I Love Mary’, ‘The Tattooed Lady’, ‘What’s All This Fuss About Love?’, ‘The Lavender Cowboy’ and ‘Don’t Upset The Little Kiddywinks’. Roberts won several Ivor Novello Awards, and held high office in the Performing Right Society and the Song Writers Guild.