20111226Don Black celebrates the 75th birthday of Tommy Steele, Britain's first Rock 'n' Roll star who has enjoyed a highly successful career in recordings, on stage and screen, and is still going strong!
Thomas Hicks was born on 17 December 1936 in Bermondsey, London. He joined the Merchant Navy after school, and, between trips, would play skiffle in the coffee bars of Soho. But after hearing Buddy Holly, Tommy turned his back on skiffle and he would only perform Rock 'n' Roll - at that time, a brand new sound in the UK.
Tommy was approached by John Kennedy while performing in a coffee bar. He believed Tommy could be Britain's answer to Elvis and offered to become his manager. Tommy accepted, gave up the sea and began working with Kennedy and his management partner Larry Parnes. The name Hicks had to go though, and Tommy came up with "Steel" from his grandfather's name of Stil, an "E" was added and Tommy Steele was born!
Tommy was rushed into the studios and his first effort, Rock With The Caveman (his own composition) went to the top of the charts in 1956, quickly followed by a succession of similar hit recordings. Just a few months later, he was filming his life story and buying a new house in South London for his parents.
Larry Parnes once said "Tommy Steele was the greatest entertainer that I ever had on my books" and he slowly moved away from rock 'n' roll into more mainstream entertainment, including pantomime, stage and screen. Notable projects include The Tommy Steele Story, Hans Christian Andersen, Half A Sixpence, Singin' In The Rain, Some Like It Hot, and Doctor Doolittle.
A veritable polymath, Tommy also wrote The Final Run, a novel about World War II, and children's book Quincy. He is also a noted sculptor and painter who's exhibited at the Royal Academy. As he approaches his 75th birthday, he's touring the UK once more in Scrooge: The Musical.
Contributors include Julia Foster, Gillian Lynne, Laurie Mansfield, Michael Reed and Marty Wilde. And Tommy himself can be heard in conversation with Bill Kenwright tomorrow night from 10pm.
Don Black celebrates the 75th birthday of Tommy Steele, Britain's first rock 'n' roll star