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Tommy Steele

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Tommy Steele OBE (born December 17, 1936 in London, England) is an English entertainer. Steele is widely regarded as Britain’s first pop idol. Born Thomas Willam Hicks in Mason Street Bermondsey, London, his cheeky Cockney image and boy-next-door looks won him success as a musician, singer and actor.

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Before landing a singing career, Steele tried his hand at a number of odd jobs and had a brief spell as a merchant seaman. Like many singers of his era he never did National Service, having failed the medical examination because, at 18 years old, he was diagnosed as suffering with Cardiomyopathy. While on leave or during Dock strikes, he played guitar and banjo and sang in The 2i’s Coffee Bar in Soho, both as a solo performer and with Wally Whyton’s Vipers Skiffle Group. He was discovered by manager Larry Parnes, who believed Steele could be Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley. Parnes is widely credited with creating the stage name ‘Tommy Steele.’

Steele shot quickly to fame in the UK as the frontman for a skiffle band, The Steelmen. Steele and other British singers would pick known hits from the United States, record their cover versions of these songs and release them in the UK before the American versions could enter the charts. Most of Steele’s 1950s recordings were covers of American hits, such as “Singin’ the Blues” and “Knee Deep in the Blues”. Although Steele never proved a serious threat to Elvis’s popularity in the UK, he did admirably well on the 1950s British pop charts and “Singing the Blues” got to Number 1. Guy Mitchell was no. 1 with “Singing the Blues” on 7/12/56 and Tommy Steele on 14/12/56.

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