You'd never know it to look at film of him today, but during the summer of 1956, Tommy Steele became England's first home-grown rock & roller. Or he wasn't a rock & roller at all. Some 43 years after he first charted a record, many pop music scholars still question whether Tommy Steele belongs on a list of rock & roll performers. But whatever he was, in 1956, England had never seen anything quite like him. He was born Tommy Hicks on December 17, 1936, in Bermondsey, South London, to a working-class family. In 1952, at age 15, he joined the merchant navy, and for the next four years, he worked on the Cunard line. He was hospitalized at one point during his time at Cunard, and during his convalescence, learned to play the guitar. Hicks began singing and performing for his fellow merchant seamen and discovered that he had a natural ability as an entertainer, with a special affinity for country & western songs, and for comedy.