Tommy Steele

Tommy Steele was discovered by John Kennedy in September 1956 singing at the 2I's coffee bar in Old Compton Street, Soho. Paul Lincoln who owned the 2I's had invited Kennedy along that night to listen to The Vipers skiffle group. Kennedy was looking for someone that would set London's West End 'alight'. During a break in the Vipers performance, a young lad in a blue shirt got up on the stage, and with The Vipers backing him started singing "Heartbreak Hotel", the Elvis number that had only just been released in Britain. The boy in the blue shirt was 19 year old Merchant Seaman Tommy Hicks, whose extraordinary personality captured Kennedy's attention. The crowd of youngsters in the 2I's loved it and after two more numbers, Tommy left the stage.

Tommy left the 2I's and walked to another nearby coffee bar where he again took to the stage and took charge of the proceedings. Kennedy, who had followed him, waited for him  outside. Tommy came out and Kennedy introduced himself and put forward his ideas on finding someone who could give Rock'n'Roll a decent name. Tommy was due back at sea in two weeks time and so said to Kennedy "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'm going back to sea in a fortnight - I'll do what you tell me until then. If we get anywhere I'll stay on". Kennedy rushed to his office in Fleet Street to start making phone calls.

A repeat performance in the 2I's was planned for that evening with The Vipers to back Tommy again with Hugh Mendl, the A&R man for Decca Records to be present, which he was. On that evening Tommy got up on stage with The Vipers. After only 5 numbers the Decca man got up to make his exit,  Kennedy asked Mendl what he thought. Mendl smiled and asked him to bring Tommy with him to do a Decca sound test for the following day. The next day Kennedy and Tommy arrived at the Decca studio, where Tommy sang "Rock With The Caveman" & "Rock Around The Town". The songs were cut to disc and they ended up agreeing a royalties deal. The name Hicks they changed to "Steele" after one of Tommy's grandparents.

Kennedy decided to arrange a covert publicity party - it went well and Tommy Steele who had been singing at the party almost non-stop for four hours went down a storm. At 3am he had only two strings from the original six left on his guitar. After nearly eight hours of singing the ploice arrived after complaints from neighbours about the noise. The Sunday papers had Tommy on the front cover under the headline "Rock'n' Roll has got the Debs too'. 15 million people read the article on Tommy that day. Using clippings from the papers, Kennedy secured an audition at the Stork Club, off Regent Street, London, where after just one number he was signed to play for the next two weeksat the princely sum of £20.00 a night plus supper.

After the first night's performance he was re-booked for another two weeks at £25.00 per night. Tommy did not go back to the Merchant Navy. Several weeks went by when an old friend of Kennedy's - Larry Parnes walked into the Stork Club. Whilst they chatted Kennedy realised Parnes was the man to help Tommy's career and so a proper contract was drawn up.

Read 2365 times Last modified on Friday, 07 October 2016 14:47
More in this category: « Tony Sheridan Tony Hall »
Login to post comments


John Barry -
The Man With the Midas Touch

Order our book here

Our book "John Barry - The Man With the Midas Touch" is now only available for purchase at a reduced price via this website.

Over 300 pages in length, with a foreword by Don Black, the hardcover book includes many unique photos, in both black & white and colour. Order now!

UK customers who order the book before Brexit is complete will receive a free copy of the CD -- John Barry - The Early Years  -- the only CD to include all the tracks John recorded for the Chappell Music Library in 1959.

Apologies that due to the high cost of postage we can only make this offer to UK residents.




John Barry -
The Early Years CD

You can order our CD here

The full track listing: 1. Be Mine - Lance Fortune; 2. It's Not Too Late - Johnny Gavotte; 3. The Clanger March - Des Lane; 4. Arrivederci Baby - Little Tony & His Brothers; 5. You Made me Love You - Johnny De Little; 6. Easy Beat - Bert Weedon; 7. Heartbeat - The England Sisters; 8. Youthful Years - Danny William's; 9. I Vibrate - Larry Page & The Saga Satellites; 10. Mood One - The John Barry Orchestra; 11. I want my Bed - Bobby Shafto; 12. Keep A Walkin' - Tony Rocco; 13. Mood Two - The John Barry Orchestra; 14. Action - Lance Fortune; 15. If the Young Ones can be Happy - Billy Cotton; 16. Mood Three - The John Barry Orchestra; 17. Love's a Secret Game - Dennis Lotis; 18. Love Me - Danny Davis; 19. Mood Four - The John Barry Orchestra; 20. The Makings of a Man - Peter Gordeno; 21. Marilyn - Larry Page & The Saga Satellites; 22. Moonbird - Des Lane; 23. Never Ending - Mark Tracey; 24. Nowhere in this World - Derry Hart & The Hartbeats; 25. Opposites - Billy Cotton & Kathie Kay; 26. Smoky Blues - The John Barry Orchestra; 27. Ramona - The Five Dallas Boys; 28. They - Johnny De Little; 29. Trouble Shooter - Bob Miller & The Millermen; 30. You're My Only Girl - Danny Davis; 31. Baby Talk - Bill & Brett Landis; 32. I Got Eyes - Peter Gordeno; 33. The Lolly Theme - The John Barry Orchestra; 34. Santa Claus is coming to Town - Nina & Frederik; 35. Silent Night - Nina & Frederik; 36. White Christmas - Nina & Frederik; Total running time 78' 59"

© 2020 - Oh Boy! Geoff Leonard. All Rights Reserved. was re-constructed from the original website. Template Design By ThemeLan.