Tommy STEELE (1936-)

Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 70
  • Subject No: 70
  • Broadcast live: Mon 27 Oct 1958
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.05pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 4
  • Edition: 5

on the guest list...

  • Ernest Maxin
  • Freddie Carpenter
  • Herbert Smith
  • R H Binger
  • Mary Green - aunt
  • Ron Mitchell
  • Ken Mitchell
  • Jack Pamplin
  • Martin Farrell
  • Reuben Helberg
  • Dick Campion
  • Kurt Littner
  • The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Band
  • Lionel Bart
  • Mike Pratt
  • Betty - mother
  • Thomas - father
  • Colin - brother
  • Roy - brother
  • Sandra - sister

production team...

  • Researchers: Nigel Ward, Michael Williams
  • Writers: Nigel Ward, Michael Williams
  • Director: Vere Lorrimer
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Pat Richardson of The Official Tommy Steele Society UK and Seb Lassandro for their contributions to this page
related pages...

Top of the Pops

charting the pop stars

Tommy Steele's Second Year climaxed by This Is Your Life

The entertainer's rise to fame

Tommy Steele: This Is Your Life

A profile of the entertainer

Lionel Bart

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Photographs of Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958


TOMMY STEELE nearly did not appear on This Is Your Life on Monday – in spite of the elaborate arrangements, made in great secrecy, to get him to the studio on time. On the way, Tommy called at Alma Cogan's Kensington flat to record an interview for her BBC radio show on Sunday, November 16.

On leaving Alma's flat, Tommy experienced great difficulty in getting a cab. He was almost on the point of phoning Eamonn Andrews to postpone their meeting, which he believed was only to discuss details of an appearance in Children's television.

But his agent, Ian Bevan, who was in on the secret, managed to hail a taxi with minutes to spare!

Backstage in the studio the clocks had been turned back ten minutes. Tommy was persuaded to go on stage for a photograph with Eamonn. Steele still believed there was ample time before the curtain rose on This Is Your Life as he was not wearing a watch!

That is how Tommy Steele came to be on the stage when the curtain rose to meet: Jack Campion, the man who first interested him in the guitar; Chas McDevitt and the Freight Train Boys, with whom he played when they were all amateurs; Herbert Smith, who produced the film, "The Tommy Steele Story"; Freddie Carpenter, who produced him last year in pantomime and does so again this year; plus the entire Hicks family.

One hour of songs and music from "Cinderella" – the pantomime at the Coliseum, London, featuring the melodies of Rodgers and Hammerstein – in which Tommy stars, will be broadcast in the BBC Light Programme on Christmas Day at 9.30pm.

The programme will be pre-recorded on December 23rd. This is two days after a similar recording session organised by Decca, who will release an LP early in the New Year.

At Wigan on Tuesday, for the first time since Tommy started work in variety, one of his regular Steelmen did not appear with him on stage. Because of a contractual difficulty, drummer Lou Pollini did not play. A replacement was brought in.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958



FROM a ship's steward to a £1,000-a-week rock 'n' roll star... that's the story of Tommy Steele.

And, last night, the BBC paid young Tommy the greatest compliment of his short career when they spotlighted him in their popular This Is Your Life programme.

Quite an accomplishment – to have your life-story told at the age of 22.

But Tommy deserves it. The Bermondsey-born lad who learned to play the guitar in hospital – "just to keep my fingers going" - has not let success go to his head.

And the man Tommy must thank for everything is Dick Campion who first taught him how to play the guitar.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958

Tommy Steele on 'Your Life' show

BBC TV was behind the times – ten minutes to be exact – last Monday night at the Shepherds Bush studios, but with good reason. All the studio clocks had been put back ten minutes as a ruse to get disc star Tommy Steele to be the subject of the This Is Your Life programme.

Tommy, ostensibly invited to the studios by Eamonn Andrews to discuss his forthcoming appearance on the children's programme "Crackerjack," was persuaded to go on stage for a photograph "as there are ten minutes to spare before This Is Your Life goes on the air."

Tommy fell for it; suddenly the clocks changed to present time and the Bermondsey boy's rise to fame was unfolded by a succession of guests associated in various ways with his career.

Forward stepped Dick Campion, his pal who taught him the rudiments of the guitar; then Charlie McDevitt and the Freight Train boys (Tommy sat in with them when they were an all-amateur group), Mike Pratt, who, with Lionel Bart, originated the Cavemen, another group with which Tommy Steele was associated.

And, of course, the family Hicks, Mum, Dad, Roy, Colin and Sandra.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958


THIS IS YOUR LIFE continues to fascinate, if only to discover how the programme planners lure the victim to the studio. Tommy Steele was the subject last night and they got him in the theatre on the pretext of meeting Eamonn Andrews to discuss a coming show. It was a pity, though, that the cameras were not correctly angled to capture the first scamper when Steele realised what he was in for.

OCCASIONALLY, This Is Your Life hops out of its trough of slop and sentiment – through the efforts of the people it so proudly tricks into the hot seat.

Tommy Steele was one of them. Nowhere near the class of that wonderful young man, A E Matthews, but good enough to stop me, for the first time in weeks, racing to the "off" switch.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958

With honours

In This Is Your Life the finger fell on Tommy Steele. When the programme pares away the trappings that publicity hangs on show business people the results nearly always do them credit. Tommy survived with honours.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source October 1958

THERE were some very strange omissions in Tommy Steele's This Is Your Life on BBC TV last week.

Where were the two men who pushed Tommy to fame – his managers, John Kennedy and Larry Parnes? Did the BBC decide that some of the publicity methods were best forgotten?

And where was the lovelight in Steeles's eyes - Ann Donague? Many viewers, after reading about the widely-publicised romance, must have wondered if the engagement has been broken off.

A spokesman at the Steele office describes the programme – not inaccurately – as "rather weird." He wouldn't venture opinion on the strange omission of Miss Donague.

"Tommy," he remarked, "is rather touchy."

Official word from This Is Your Life came from one of the investigators for the programme.

"Only a limited number of people who have figured in Steele's life story could be included. There just wasn't room for Miss Donague."

But nobody could blame Miss Donague and Messrs. Parnes and Kennedy if they felt a trifle injured.

They should have modified the title to "This Is Only Part Of Your Life."

Newspaper article - unknown source: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

Unknown source and date


WHEN the BBC made Tommy Steele the subject of This Is Your Life a few weeks back they received a great deal of mail. Most of it praising them and Tommy.

But there was one rip-snorting, angry attack on the programme, damning it up hill and down dale, typed on good business notepaper and signed with an extremely indignant fourish.

Producer's secretary turned it over as one demanding a careful answer and on the back saw a handwritten message to this effect: "I am the secretary who had to type this letter at the dictation of my boss. I don't agree with a word of it. If Tommy Steele is good enough for the Queen he is good enough for me. I feel I must tell you this."

The Manchester Guardian article: Tommy Steele This Is Your Life

The Manchester Guardian 30 October 1958

Strange new world


By our Television Critic

Television, which can in one day produce two such events as the splendid pictures of the state opening of Parliament, transmitted to most of Europe, and the dramatic announcement of the Papal election, also seen on Eurovision, can also startle by the extreme silliness of some of its entertainment.

Nothing could better illustrate this curious new world which it has largely fostered than two consecutive programmes seen on Monday, which presented in the most concentrated form the values to which apparently we are now expected to pay tribute.

On the BBC This Is Your Life was not introduced by Eamonn Andrews, but by another speaker, who was at pains to explain the elaborate trick with which Andrews was misleading the "subject" into appearing on the stage.

But this was not one of those painful episodes where some modest ex-serviceman or person with a record of good deeds or courage is hoodwinked into an embarrassed appearance; when the "subject" did appear he was Tommy Steele, who can hardly be terrified of publicity, though, to be sure, we were told he was "shaking like a leaf".

But let us listen to the shrinking Tommy. "I come to have my picture took for 'Crackerjack'". And now let us hear those who were brought forward to pay tribute. "Tommy's a very, very good actor, and a very, very good writer, and he's very flexible, and he has a wonderful mind." Or again: "He's absolutely amazing, he learnt everything so quickly." Now to a key question. "Were there any signs of all these talents when you were young?" Here let Tommy's schoolteacher answer. He was "an excellent reader" among other things.

I have no objection to Tommy Steele exercising his talents for those who enjoy them, but I do object violently to the mood of mental abasement which is invited when we are called on to admire a youth because he learnt to read at school. But this is, in fact, the level of much television, and it is a pity the BBC should encourage it.

Series 4 subjects

Jo Capka | Jimmy Edwards | Andrew Milbourne | Bella Burge | Tommy Steele | Ronald Shiner | James Edward Wood
Margaret Rowena Jones | John Griffiths | Freddy Bloom | Bransby Williams | Miriam Moses | Elsie Mullock | John Vidler
Florence Desmond | Noel Duckworth | Alfred Daniel Wintle | Ted Heath | Andrew Macdonald | Harriet Cohen
Willie Hall | Reginald Blanchford | Kenneth More | Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes | Miriam Jowett | Ted Willis
Alfred Southon | Tiger Sarll | Mary Ward | Roy Gill | Stirling Moss | Ethel Goldsack | Tommy Trinder