Jess Conrad OBE (born Gerald Arthur James; 24 February 1936) is an English actor and singer from Brixton, South London. As a boy he was nicknamed "Jesse" after American outlaw Jesse James; as there was already an actor named "Gerald James" in Actors' Equity, a drama teacher who was a fan of Joseph Conrad suggested the stage name of "Jess Conrad".
Having started his career as a repertory actor and film extra, Conrad was cast in a television play Bye, Bye Barney as a pop singer. He was noticed by Jack Good who included him in his TV series Oh, Boy, and then was signed to Decca Records and had a number of chart hits, including "Cherry Pie", "This Pullover", "Mystery Girl" and "Pretty Jenny"; also recording for Columbia, Pye President and EMI.
Between the late 1950s and mid-1960s Conrad appeared in a number of films such as Serious Charge (uncredited), The Boys, Rag Doll, (filmed in 1960, and released in 1961); K.I.L. 1 and Konga as well as Michael Powell's The Queen's Guards. Conrad played Danny Pace in an episode of The Human Jungle called 'The Flip Side Man' in 1963.
During the 1970s he spent some time in the stage shows Godspell and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and also featured in a cameo role in the Sex Pistols film The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. In 1977 no fewer than seven of Conrad's singles were included in the 'World's Worst Record' list, chosen by listeners to Capital FM DJ Kenny Everett's show, and "This Pullover", voted 6th worst song ever, later featured on The World's Worst Record Show, a 1978 LP dedicated to the songs voted for, together with two other Conrad recordings "Cherry Pie" and "Why Am I Living?"
In the 1990s Conrad made regular cameo appearances on Jim Davidson's revived version of The Generation Game on BBC1. Also in 1992 Conrad appeared in the Christmas Special of Big Break, also presented by Davidson and John Virgo. He was the "booby" prize of the show presented to Hi-de-Hi! actress Ruth Madoc. Contestants who failed to make the final of Big Break were often nearly given a box set of Conrad's hit singles.
Since then, Conrad has appeared in a number of documentaries and television programmes, often offering stories of violent encounters with other famous people. In a BBC Arena documentary about the record producer Joe Meek, Conrad boasted of biting off part of the nose of the singer Heinz during a confrontation backstage at a package show in the early 1960s. Similarly, in Sex, Secrets & Frankie Howerd, he told of threatening to cut off comedian Frankie Howerd's ears when Howerd made undesired sexual advances to him in a dressing room.
In the 2009 film Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, Conrad is played by Nigel Harman. Conrad himself appears in one scene, depicting his backstage fight with Heinz and his biting of Heinz's nose. Conrad also plays the role of Larry Parnes in the film.
Conrad is a member of the show business fraternity the Grand Order of Water Rats, having served as "King Rat". He is also a Freemason and a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, the membership of which is made up of entertainers. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours for charitable services. In 2018, he appeared in ITV's Last Laugh in Vegas.