A couple weeks ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I was thinking to myself, “I really should do something Irish today!” That’s when I stumbled upon the movie “Finian’s Rainbow” on TV. The movie, made in 1968 and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starred Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. Playing the part of the Og – the leprechaun was Tommy Steele. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Tommy Steele, so I decided to look him up, only to find that he originally played in a skiffle band in England! He had been discovered by Larry Parnes and was often refereed to as Britain’s first teen idol and ‘Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley’. In 1957, he had a number one hit in the U.K., Singing the Blues.
According to the website BeatlesRarity.com, “George (Martin) wanted to get Parlophone into the rock ‘n’ roll market by 1957 but passed on Tommy Steele who ended up signing with Decca and becoming the first major rocker from Britain.”
In November 1963, The Beatles, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Bacarach, Tommy Steele and others were on the list of performers at the annual Royal Variety Performance. Beatles fans may remember this night from John Lennon’s memorable quote, “…those in the cheap seats should clap their hands; whilst the rest could just rattle their jewelery!”
Tommy Steele is also the designer and sculptor behind the Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpool!
Well, I just couldn’t read enough about Tommy, so I decided to buy a copy of his autobiography: Bermondsey Boy: Memories of a Forgotten World. All I can say is…I’m in love! And not with just the book…
Tommy Steele was born in Thomas Hicks in 1936. He grew up in the poor Bermondsey section of London across the river Thames. From a very early age he dreamed of performing on stage like his idol Danny Kaye. This book tells his story from birth to becoming England’s First Pop Idol in 1956 to telling his manager and Decca that he was leaving rock n’ roll in 1959. From his Gran – the bookie, to his dad (Darbo) hustling people at the horse track, Tommy’s story reads like a combination of Ringo Starr and Oliver Twist. But Tommy tells his story with joy and laughter.
I couldn’t put this book down and it pleases me to know that Tommy Steele is still performing to this day. If you’re in London, you can see him starring in ‘The Glen Miller Story“. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!