Friday, December 17, 2010
Birthday wishes go out today to Britain's original teen idol, Tommy Steele, who's seen here performing one of his more obscure hits, Elevator Rock, in the 1957 film The Tommy Steele Story; Steele rose to prominence playing at various Soho coffee bars - including The 2i's Coffee Bar and The Cat's Whisker - both as a solo act and as part of such ensembles as Wally Whyton's Vipers Skiffle Group and The Steelmen.
Following a long career as a singer, actor, author, and sculptor, in April 2008 Steele felt the need to add fabulist to his resume, after an unlikely tale about a visit to the UK by Elvis Presley 'some time in 1958' came to light during an interview showbiz impresario Bill Kenwright gave to Ken Bruce on his popular BBC Radio 2 program in a segment called Tracks of My Years; Steele later confirmed the story in an interview with the Daily Mail. Presley famously made only one visit to the UK during his lifetime - a short stopover at Scotland's Prestwick Airport in March 1960 on his way home from a well-publicized hitch with the US Army in West Germany.
Given that in 1958 Elvis Presley was one of the most famous people on the planet, and would have been mobbed by hysterical women wherever he went, it seems unlikely that any disguise* would have been able to conceal him long enough to travel from Scotland to London and back - let alone while touring the capital for the day with Tommy Steele, including a visit to the Houses of Parliament - and not be spotted. As much as the Pop Culture Institute would like the story to be true, we're very much with Paul Merton** in doubting that it is. Lamar Fike - a former member of the so-called Memphis Mafia who was at the time Elvis' roommate - later claimed on a fan site that he was the man Steele showed around London on that day.
*Even an American military uniform and regulation short haircut.
**Who devoted considerable time debunking the story on Have I Got News for You, albeit with considerable aplomb; the discussion in the clip begins around the 6:30 mark...
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