No sign of rust 
on the man of Steele

Tommy Steele, starring in Scrooge at Blackpool Winter Gardens.'Tommy is pictured with Roc McPherson as Tiny Tim.
Tommy Steele, starring in Scrooge at Blackpool Winter Gardens.'Tommy is pictured with Roc McPherson as Tiny Tim.
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I’d like a pint of whatever Tommy Steele drinks.

The fella is incredible – 76-years-old but with the energy of someone a third his age.

Maybe he’s just got used to being on the go after a lifetime of performing.

Steele, for the benefit of our more youthful readers, hit the big-time in the 1950s, discovered singing in a club in London and within week or so dubbed Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley.

He had chart hits galore, then switched seamlessly to acting and appeared in films and musicals.

For the last 10 years he has been Scrooge in Bill Kenwright’s production of a musical based on Charles Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol.

And that’s why I’m talking to him. He’s coming to Blackpool in December for a week-long run of shows at the Opera House.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s one of those shows I just love doing and there’s not many better places to perform than in Blackpool.

“I got a call from Kenwright a decade ago asking to meet for lunch, which always means something is afoot.

“He told me he had this show called Scrooge and wanted me to be in it. I said no, I’m too old for Bob Cratchett. He said I don’t want you for that part, I want you to play Scrooge.

“I thought you cheeky so and so, Scrooge is a cantankerous old fella. Then I thought, hang on, I am an old fella now. I read the script, loved it, and the rest is history.

“It is like a song and dance man’s King Lear. You have to be a certain age to play the role, but if you are fit enough it pays dividends because it is a great score, a great story – and the perfect Christmas show.”

Steele is a ball of energy throughout our interview, eyes sparkling, speaking at 100 mph. It’s hard to get a word in. But you don’t mind because his enthusiasm is infectious and it is abundantly clear he adores what he does.

“I always walk to the venue I’m performing at,” he said. “I stand outside, in a doorway out of way, and watch the
 audience arrive.

“You see these people going to see you – the smiles on the faces, the kids excited, all these folk at a marvellous theatre – and I know I’m going to be on the stage in a few minutes time. It is wonderful, the greatest feeling in the world.”

Steele’s rise to fame was astonishingly swift. He served in the Navy and while in America fell in love with rock’n’roll when he saw Buddy Holly and heard Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes.

“On my first night back in England I got up on stage at a club and played Blue Suede Shoes,” he recalled. “In those days a hit single in America would take three months to come over to England so no one had heard it, no one had heard rock’n’roll music before.”

When he finished his set, he was approached by a photographer asking him about the song and offering to record it. Steele made a record on the Thursday, it went to number three the following week.

“I did the Royal Command Performance eight months after singing in that club,” he added.

“Did I get carried away with fame? No because I didn’t know what I was doing was unusual as no one had ever done it before.”

A fascinating fella, Steele will perform in Scrooge at the Opera House from Monday December 16 to Saturday 21. Tickets from www.blackpoollive.co.uk