|Thomas Hicks born December 17th 1936 in London
Tommy Steele was one of Britain's first Rock and Roll stars. Much of his early output consisted of cover versions of (usually 'soft') American rock and roll. Artists covered by Steele included Guy Mitchell, Ritchie Valens and Freddy Cannon.
However the song featured here was homebrewed; co-written by Mike Pratt and Lionel Bart who would have greater success with the new music before the 1950s were out. In fact Tommy Steele had started his career with a number co-written by himself and the same team- 'Rock With The Caveman'. None of these early UK
written numbers can be regarded as 'classic' Rock and Roll- that would have to wait until Cliff Richard's 'Move It' in 1958. However, they do indicate the first stirrings of a UK industry that would show greatness in a few years time.
As the competition in the Rock and Roll field heightened so Tommy shifted his ground nearer the 'Middle of the Road' and became a successful family entertainer before finally fading into virtual oblivion.
|Jim Smith born August 15th 1935
Jim Dale had ambitions to be in comedy from an early age and most people will recognise him from his involvement in most of the highly successful 'Carry On' movie series.
It was as a 'warm-up' comedian for the new rock and roll TV show Six-Five Special that he found himself thrust in as a singer. Through this he unwittingly became a pop star.
This record was his first and most successful release, achieving the #2 spot. 'Be My Girl' was a quite different song to the Dennisons' 1963 release of the same name.
Jim was to have three more hits, the last of which was a cover of the McGuire Sisters' 'Sugartime'.
Jim Dale's Carry-On colleague Bernard Bresslaw was also
to have chart success during 1958 with 'Mad
'Wake Up Little Susie' was a typical cover of a US number. Unfortunately for the King Brothers, the Everlys had already caught the attention of the UK record buying population through 'Bye Bye Love' a few months earlier.
The British recording did not exhibit the Everly's distinctive sound. However, the Everlys only managed #2, and maybe this disc was responsible for depriving them of the top spot.
The King Brothers, voted top UK Vocal Group of 1957 by readers of the 'New Musical Express', really were brothers (led by Denis King) who made their first national appearance on a BBC TV programme for children 'All Your Own'. Their first UK chart success was a cover of Marty Robbins' 'A White Sport Coat' which was also covered by the UK's Terry Dene. The group had a total of eight chart entries; the last of which was '76 Trombones' which is probably now their best remembered song.
Denis King went on to become one of Britain's most successful musical composers, particularly for the theatre.
|Terence Williams born 20th December 1938 in London
This record was one of the Marty Robbins songs covered by budding UK rock and rollers. His material was popular with record companies not yet familiar enough with rock and roll for them to venture too far from the 'easy listening' stuff they thought they knew. So Robbins' material with its strong C&W conections was a good less intimidating than some others with roots closer to R&B.
In actual fact, Terry Dene was not a bad rock and roll singer by the modest UK standards of the 1950s. This is evidenced by some of the recordings that can still be found of him singing real rock and roll songs.
However, Terry Dene's modestly successful career was short lived. After committing a few youthful misdemeanours, which caught the attention of the newspapers, he soon became portrayed the 'bad boy' of British rock and roll.
After showing reluctance to be conscripted into National Service (which ceased a few months later), he was effectively destroyed by the press. This was not a proud moment for British journalism as he suffered a nervous breakdown shortly afterwards.
|Don Lang- Gordon Langhorn born on 19th January 1925 in Halifax, Yorkshire
Don Lang and his 'Frantic Five' were resident musicians on TV's Six-Five Special and were responsible for the theme tune that Don sang to start the show each week.
Rock and Roll was an obvious opportunity for Don Lang who would otherwise have been running a Jazz combo. They were in roughly the same mould as Tony Crombie and his Rockets, though perhaps not copying Bill Haley as closely as the latter.
The group's TV exposure allowed them to make hits from four covers of American songs. These included 'School Day' and even 'Sink The Bismark'
'Witch Doctor' was their greatest success and gave them a #5. The original David Seville version only managed to reach #11. Mercifully, Don Lang and his group did not try to emulate any of David Seville's later recordings with the 'Chipmunks'.
Don Lang died in London on 3rd August 1992
|Alma Cohen born May 19th 1932 in London
If male British rock and rollers were rare in the 1950s then female ones were non-existent. Consequently any female rockabilly that appeared was easy prey for a girl as talented as Alma Cogan. In 1956 she even covered the Frankie Lymon classic 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love' reaching #22, although the US original went to #1.
Although hardly a rock and roller she was versatile and had the advantage that she could actually sing. This Dodie Stevens number was typical of the kind of novelty that Alma liked to record, although it didn't make the chart.
Alma had a total of 21 hits between 1954 and 1961, but this included only one #1 'Dreamboat' in 1955.
Alma always kept up to date with musical trends and cut the Exciters 'Tell Him', but narrowly missed out to the other British cover made by Billie Davis. She also made a competent recording of the Beatles' 'Eight Days A Week' which is highly prized by Beatles collectors.
Sadly, Alma Cogan was diagnosed with cancer in early 1966 and despite seeming to make some progress died during October of the same year.
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