De Engelse zanger en acteur Tommy Steele viert vandaag zijn 85ste verjaardag.

Geboren als Thomas William Hicks in Londen, Tommy Steele is regarded as Britain’s first teen idol and rock and roll star. Steele worked in various jobs, including a brief period as a merchant seaman. When a ship Steele was serving on docked in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, he heard Buddy Holly and fell in love with rock’n’roll, turning his back on the British skiffle craze. He was discovered by freelance photographer John Kennedy, who believed Steele could be Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley. Steele became famous in the UK as the frontman for a rock’n’roll band, the Steelmen, after their first single, “Rock With the Caveman”, reached number 13 in the UK Singles Chart in 1956. Although Steele never proved a serious threat to Presley’s popularity in the UK, he did well on the 1950s UK chart and “Singing the Blues” got to Number 1 in the UK before Presley did so with “All shook up”. Only four months after his first chart presence, Gerard Bryant was filming his life story as The Tommy Steele Story. The soundtrack was the first album by a UK act to reach number one. Its two singles, “Butterfingers” and the double A-side “Water, Water” / “A Handful of Songs”, were both top-ten hits on the UK Singles Chart. In 1958, “A Handful of Songs” received the Ivor Novello Award for Most Outstanding Song of the Year, Musically and Lyrically. In 1959, The Tommy Steele Story became one of the few British films shown in the Soviet Union after Steele made a three-day promotional visit to Moscow for a screening at the Kremlin. During the trip, USSR Minister of Culture Nikolai Mikhailov is reported to have told Steele he looked like “a member of the Young Communist League“. (Bovenstaande foto is afkomstig uit de film.)
In 1960 his singing popularity was winding down – a tour of Australia was not particularly successful. On his return to England he received two offers, one to star in the play Billy Liar, the other to join the Old Vic Company. He chose the latter. So in the West End he appeared in She Stoops to Conquer and played the title role of Hans Christian Andersen. Steele’s other film credits include Half a Sixpence, The Happiest Millionaire and Finian’s Rainbow. He is also a songwriter (weliswaar als Jimmy Bennett), author  (among others, of a novel titled The Final Run about World War II and the evacuation of Dunkirk) and sculptor (of e.g. Eleanor Rigby which he sculpted and gave to the City of Liverpool as a tribute to the Beatles). His claim to have shown Elvis Presley around London, however, has been challenged by more than one source (as it is well-known that Elvis never came to England, apart from spending a few minutes on the tarmac at Prestwick Airport in Scotland where his military plane, en route to the United States after completing his army service in West Germany, stopped to refuel). [Wikipedia]

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