dismiss Tommy Steele as another ageing song-and-dance man who happens
to be appearing in a corny musical which is touring the country.
overnight sensation bit was true. It was the first time rock
'n' roll had ever been seen in Great Britain, and because it
was never seen before, you couldn't make any mistakes."
only was Tommy Steele Britain's first rock 'n' roll star, but he's
been a Hollywood movie star, composer, conductor, serious actor,
director and novelist. He's even a sculptor - did you know that
he created the popular Eleanor Rigby sculpture in Liverpool? Surely
he demands a bit more attention.
young Tommy Steele (real name Thomas Hicks) was a sailor travelling
the world. When his shipped docked in the United States, he heard
the music of Buddy Holly for the first time and brought rock 'n'
roll to Britain. Skiffle was all the rage back in blighty but he
was excited by rock 'n' roll.
and dance man: Tommy Steele in Scrooge
was spotted by Decca in the summer and got to number 13 in the charts
with Rock With The Caveman a few months later.
overnight sensation bit was true," said Tommy. "It was
the first time rock 'n' roll had ever been seen in Great Britain,
and because it was never seen before, you couldn't make any mistakes.
was all new, so therefore the people in this country wanted to see
more. No one else played guitar - especially country guitar - except
same year - 1956 - Tommy got to number one with Singing The Blues.
He was a teen idol who, just a year later, made a movie telling
the story of his sudden rise to fame. Not even the Spice Girls got
onto the big screen that quickly!
was all new, so therefore the people in this country wanted
to see more. No one else played guitar - especially country
guitar - except me."
by 1960, he'd turned his back on rock 'n' roll: "I was just
coming up to my 21st birthday and I did a panto [in Liverpool] -
my first time on a musical stage, as it were. I was given show songs
to sing and I was given steps to do. I loved it so much, I wanted
to do some more.
summer I was sent over to America to go and meet with Rogers &
Hammerstein to talk to them about them doing a musical for me at
The Colosseum [in London], which was Cinderella, which was the greatest
show ever seen in London in that idiom. That was how my career started
as a musical performer."
half a century later, Tommy Steele still has the 'cheeky chappie'
image and is still starring in musicals.
kind of audiences who come to see Scrooge are from eight to 80,
so you've got the higher echelon of the age group who remember the
rock 'n' roll days. Then there's the films, the television spectaculars
and the musicals as they go down the age scale - things like Some
Like It Hot or Half A Sixpence.
Anderson wasn't only a musical, it was a children's show, so lots
of families came. The mothers and fathers who grew up with [the
1959 hit] Little White Bull brought their kids to watch Hans Anderson,
who in turn, brought their kids to see Singing In The Rain."
yet seen Scrooge but the show is certainly getting excellent reviews
as it tours the country (the special effects are said to be outstanding),
but one thing is certain, its star is definitely one of Britain's
greatest all-round entertainers.
to Tommy Steele talking about his early rock 'n' roll career
(Real 56k, 2'49")