Elvis the same year: He is said to have rung Steele to ask, 'Are you as good as me?'

Revealed . . . Elvis's secret visit to London

Show business impressario Bill Kenwright, made a startling revelation on national radio yesterday. He told BBC Radio 2 host Ken Bruce that Elvis Presley made a secret visit to England in 1958 and was shown the sights of the capital by UK rocker Tommy Steele.

�Listen to the interview on BBC Radio 2

(Follow the BBC Radio Player and listen to Ken Bruce's Tuesday show)

They say the King never set foot in England....

But in 1958, an American boy with a sneering smile and perfect Southern manners was shown around town.

His guide was a cheeky Cockney lad with a mop of blond hair.

But the day a young Tommy Steele showed Elvis Presley the sights of London has remained a rock 'n' roll secret for 50 years.

Until one of Steele's friends blurted it out on the radio yesterday.

Had the pair been spotted together in Britain at the time there would almost certainly have been a riot.

Presley, then 23, needed military guards to control crowds whenever he appeared in public in the U.S. while 21-year-old Steele was widely, if briefly, being billed as his British equivalent.

The story of Elvis and Tommy's trip around the city was told in a pre-recorded Radio 2 interview yesterday with show business impresario Bill Kenwright, who has known Steele for decades.


Rock rival: Tommy Steele in action in 1958

He let listeners to Ken Bruce's show, Tracks of My Years, know how Steele had told him about the visit. Unfortunately he hadn't realised the singer had guarded the secret for so long.

Yesterday he told the Daily Mail: "I'm absolutely steeped in 50s rock 'n' roll. I love it.

"So when I get together with Tommy Steele I just say, 'Tell me about Buddy Holly...tell me about Guy Mitchell, and that sort of thing'. He's a great storyteller and he can just reel them off.

"I remember him telling me about when Elvis came to England very quietly.

"Evidently Tommy got home one night and the phone rings. A voice says, 'They tell me you're good'.

"Tommy says, 'Who's this?' 'Elvis,' says the voice. 'Get outta here,' says Tommy. 'Are you as good as me?' says Elvis...and they sort of started this mock rivalry.

"It all came from that. It's quite something, isn't it - the thought of them wandering around London together?

"But the impression I got was that they never got out of the car. It was more like, "There's Buckingham Palace ...there's the Houses of Parliament".

"Tommy is a very private person who doesn't go into the past. It's only me who makes him talk about it. As soon as I started talking about it on the radio I wondered if I'd done the right thing.

"I remember saying, 'Bloody hell - I hope that was all right'. I'm sure Tommy will want to kill me when he finds out."

Mr Kenwright said the date of the Presley visit was some time in 1958 - the year Pele's magic won the World Cup for Brazil.

That timing raised the possibility that Presley, who joined the U.S. Army in March that year and saw service in Germany, might have been in uniform, his slicked back quiff shaved into a military short back and sides.

Everywhere he performed, his female fans were swept into the kind of hysteria that would not be seen on this side of the Atlantic until the advent of Beatlemania.

Yet Britain - already jiving to Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock - never got to see an Elvis show.

He returned two years later for the briefest of stopovers, not getting any farther south than Ayrshire. At the time he was returning to the U.S. after serving in the Army in Germany in March 1960.

He stopped off at Prestwick airport when the military DC-7 touched down to refuel.

Archive pictures show him there in his sergeant's uniform, signing autographs and phoning his teenage sweetheart Priscilla, soon to become his bride.

That night he told the crowds gathered to see him: "This is quite a country. I must see more of it."

But he never did. And the belief that the airport stopover was his sole visit was set in stone. So why didn't Tommy Steele simply set the record straight?

Last night the 71-year-old entertainer-performing in Dr Dolittle in Woking, Surrey, retained his discretion.

In a note to the Daily Mail he wrote: "What actually happened many years ago is something secret and memorable.

"It was an event shared by two young men sharing the same love of their music and the same thrill of achieving something unimaginable.

"I swore never to divulge publicly what took place and I regret that it has found some way of 'getting into the light'."

"I can only hope he can forgive me."

Kenwright says, "Elvis flew in for a day and Tommy showed him round London. He showed him the Houses of Parliament and spent the day with him."

A spokesman for Elvis' Graceland estate says, "To the best of our knowledge there was only one stopover at Scotland.

By Paul Haris - www.dailymail.co.uk 

Posted:  24th. April 2008 

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