• Biography
  • Milestones
  • Quotes
  • Photos
  • Learn More

Lance Hayward

June 17, 1916-November 9, 1991

Despite being blind from infancy, Lancelot Hayward became one of Bermuda’s most respected and best-loved musicians. Largely self-taught, he played with most of Bermuda’s popular bands of the post-war era as well as fronting his own groups and trios.

During the heyday of Bermuda’s hotel and nightclub scene in the 1950s and 1960s, Hayward was in demand as an accompanist by star singers who performed in Bermuda, such as Marvin Gaye, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. He performed with jazz legends like Arthur Prysock, Joe Williams, Buddy Rich and George Benson, and in 1987 recorded an album with legendary jazz bassist Milt Hinton. He also appeared on television and radio in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.

Frustrated at the lack of opportunities for musicians in Bermuda and the prejudice he felt as a black, blind man, Hayward moved to New York City in 1966 where he worked with influential musicians and up to his death enjoyed a loyal following as the house pianist at the Village Corner in Greenwich Village. In 1984, he formed The Lance Hayward Singers, a group of blind and sighted singers that still performs to this day, often using his original arrangements. 


Lancelot Henry Stuart Hayward was born into a musical family in Spanish Point, Pembroke, on June 17, 1916 to Henry and Olivia (nee Lathan) Hayward. He had four siblings—brothers Hadley and Hammond and two sisters, Cecile Williams and Dorie Trott. 

Hayward was not born blind, but his family detected problems with his sight during his first year of life. He was diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma by a visiting American doctor, who began treating him. But when the doctor died, the family was unable to afford the necessary overseas treatment and Hayward soon went completely blind.

His parents sent him to a neighbour’s home to learn math and spelling and Lance soon proved he was not going to let blindness hold him back. He played football and cricket with neighbourhood children and even learned to ride a bicycle.

Coming from a musical family–his father played the clarinet, his mother, the guitar, his brothers, the cornet and sister Cecile, the piano—the young Lance also found an outlet in music. By the age of six, he could play the piano, picking out many tunes by ear.


At age 13, he had the opportunity to study at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. As a student, Hayward was described as “an impressionable, energetic youngster with an imaginative, inquiring mind”, and he learned to read books and music in Braille. But constant teasing from boys who had been there since the age of five or six, and were therefore more advanced, forced him to return home after three years.

He began playing in local churches and within a year his talent had earned him his first professional job, with local bandleader Al Davis. Hayward also began taking lessons to improve his technique from Joseph Richards, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music, and steadily built a reputation working regularly around the Island’s nightclubs.

In 1948, with distant cousin Robert Hayward, he formed the Hayward & Hayward Vocal Ensemble for which they wrote and produced shows. The group toured Toronto and Montreal in 1949 and in 1950 recorded an album, The Hayward & Hayward Vocal Ensemble, in New York. Lance Hayward later formed an all-male chorus, the Mu-En Chorale. Popular Bermudian singers Violeta Carmichael, and Pinky and Gene Steede valued him as a vocal coach.


Hayward married Mary Jackson, a schoolteacher, in 1940, but the young couple struggled financially as work for musicians dwindled to almost nothing during the Second World War. But things improved in 1946 when Hayward’s quintet—trumpeter Mansfield Allen, drummer Truman Tuzo, saxophonist Nathaniel Proctor, and guitarist Leon “Beezey” Blakeney—started a residency at the new Sea Horse Grill at the Imperial Hotel in Hamilton. The band featured regularly on ZBM’s new Saturday night radio show, ‘Live from the Sea Horse Grill’.

Although Hayward played many residencies at smaller hotels, like Belmont, Harmony Hall, Inverurie and New Windsor, larger hotels rarely hired him, claiming that his blindness prevented him reading music to accompany top overseas acts—even though Hayward’s excellent ear meant that when the hotels did call in an emergency, he was able to quickly learn whatever was required. Top stars like Marvin Gaye and Sarah Vaughan frequently requested his services when they played in Bermuda.

From 1957 to 1961, Hayward, drummer Clarence “Tootsie” Bean, guitarist Milton Robinson, and bassist Max Smith—enjoyed a popular winter residency at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. In 1959, they caught the attention of young British-Jamaican Chris Blackwell who recorded them for his fledging record label. Lance Hayward at the Half Moon, a live album of jazz standards, became the first release on what became Island Records, one of the world’s most famous recording labels.


In 1966, frustrated by racial prejudice and the practice of hotel owners employing overseas musicians on contract at the expense of local musicians, Hayward moved to New York, leaving his family—including children Stuart and Sylvia—in Bermuda.

Hayward soon found work playing at various hotels and clubs on Long Island before striking up a lifelong friendship in the early 1970s with a Greenwich Village club owner, Jim Smith, who employed him first at Jacques-in-the-Village and then at the Village Corner, where he played regularly for 16 years until his death.

In New York, Hayward played with jazz legends like Buddy Rich, George Benson, Mongo Santamaria, Nancy Wilson, Howard McGhee and Bill Lee (father of the filmmaker Spike Lee). He also taught jazz piano and voice and continued to take classical piano and organ lessons himself well into old age.

Through his friendship with Bill Lee, Hayward was credited as one of the musical consultants on the Spike Lee jazz movie Mo Better Blues (1990) for which Bill Lee was musical director.

His few recorded works include A Closer Walk, by Lance Hayward & Friends (1984); Hayward & Hinton, with Milt Hinton (1987); and Killing Me Softly, with bassist Lyn Christie and drummer Tootsie Bean (1987), the latter with liner notes by influential jazz writer Nat Hentoff.

Hayward, who was an avid cricket fan and supporter of  the St. George’s Cup Match team, returned regularly to visit his family and to perform.  In 1985, he became the first Bermudian to perform as a featured artist at the Bermuda Festival. Such was his reputation as a musician that when he died from complications of duodenal cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital, aged 75, on November 9, 1991, Lance Hayward’s obituary was carried in the New York Times.

His contribution to Bermudian music was recognised with several awards including the Queen's Certificate and Badge of Honour in 1980 and a National Heritage Award in 1984. In 1988, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 1988 and in 2010, he was posthumously inducted into the Bermuda Music Hall of Fame.

Hayward’s two children also made names for themselves—Stuart as a writer, independent MP and one of Bermuda’s leading environmentalists, and Sylvia as a women’s rights activist.

- By Chris Gibbons

Bookmark and Share


June 17, 1916 —born in Spanish Point, Pembroke

1929-1932—attends Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts

1933—first professional job, playing with bandleader Al Davis

1940—marries schoolteacher Mary Jackson

1946—Hayward’s band begins a successful residency at the Imperial Hotel and a regular feature on ZBM’s Saturday night radio show, ‘Live from the Sea Horse Grill’.

1948—forms Hayward & Hayward Vocal Ensemble with cousin Robert Hayward

1949—Hayward & Hayward Vocal Ensemble tours Canada

1950The Hayward & Hayward Vocal Ensemble album is recorded in New York

1959Lance Hayward at the Half Moon, a live album of jazz standards recorded at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is the first record released on Island Records.

1966—leaves Bermuda for New York City, eventually becoming the house pianist at the Village Corner in Greenwich Village for more than 16 years

1980—awarded Queen's Certificate and Badge of Honour

1984— presented with National Heritage Award

1984—releases A Closer Walk, by Lance Hayward & Friends

1985—forms The Lance Hayward Singers in New York

1987—Releases Hayward & Hinton, with Milt Hinton and Killing Me Softly, with bassist Lyn Christie and drummer Tootsie Bean.

1988—Presented with Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bermuda Arts Council

November 9, 1991—dies in New York at age 75.

2010—inducted into the Bermuda Music Hall of Fame

“The work was [always] seasonal—3 or 4 months steady, 3 or 4 months ‘iffy’, and the rest of the year no work at all. A lot of good musicians gave up music for a steady job doing something else. If a musician can’t work steadily at music, it’s almost impossible for him, or her, to continue musical growth. And when a musician stops growing it's a dead end.”Bermuda Heritage magazine, 1986

"It was better to eat apart than starve together."—describing the effect on his family of his move to New York City in 1966 (Bermuda Heritage magazine, 1986)

“It's been very gratifying to know you can come from a little place like Bermuda and get recognition in the US. But it’s sad that with a tourist industry so great, Bermuda's musicians have to go away to get the kind of recognition and money they’re worth. But I feel I’m doing a service; Bermudians don't have to feel locked into Bermuda—if I could get away and make it, anyone can.”Triumph of the Spirit —The Heroes and Heroines of Bermuda, Part 1 (The Writer’s Machine, 1996)

 “The inspiration is here; the stimulation is here. I remember sitting at a club one night and there were five noted pianists in the place at the same time. In Bermuda I often felt very lonely. There were few people who could talk my language. This I can get in New York every night of the week.”Bermuda Heritage magazine, 1986

"For Crissake, lady, I’m just blind, I’m not deaf!”—son Stuart recounting his father’s response to a lady shouting in his ear (Hall of Fame speech, 2010)

Above, Lance Hayward at the keys.

Right, from top, Lance's albums Killing Me Softly, Hayward & Hinton, One More Time and A Closer Walk. [Click on images to hear audio clips]




Rare footage: Lance Hayward can be seen playing in Birth of A Trust - a documentary
about the history of Bermudian entertainment seen through the eyes of many of the
country's most notable musicians.
[The Lance Hayward segment begins 19:00 into the 45-minute film].

Dread & Baha Productions, 1997


Listen to tracks
from Lance Hayward's albums.

Further reading

Lance Hayward by Stuart Hayward (from Triumph of the Spirit—The Heroes and Heroines of Bemuda, Part 1) - Edited by Dale Butler (The Writer’s Machine, 1996)

Gombeys, Bands and Troubadours by Ronald Lightbourne (from Bermuda Connections, Ministry of Community & Culture)

The Lance Hayward Singers website - www.lancehayward.com

Keep On Running—The Story of Island Records (Universe, 2010)

© Bermuda Biographies. All Rights Reserved.
Site design by Kaleidoscope Media