One night in 1956, Kennedy was drawn to the sound coming from the 2i’s basement and was smitten by Tommy Hicks’s good looks and tousled hair.

The legend – which Kennedy invented – is that after seeing Hicks sing at the 2i’s, Kennedy immediately offered to be his manager and publicist. In fact, two minor figures in London pop music were already interested in Hicks, and invited Kennedy to see him perform at the 2i’s.

For years, Hicks stuck to the script, telling the BBC that Kennedy had followed him out of the 2i’s, and asked him if he wanted to turn professional. Both Kennedy and Hicks were amateurs, but Hicks said yes. 

First, Hicks needed a new name. He became Tommy Steele, and – through outrageous and amusing manipulations of the British press – Kennedy made him Britain’s first rock’n’roll star.

By extension, he helped create a new era in Britain’s pop business.larry

To help fund his hype of Steele, Kennedy turned to showbiz entrepreneur Larry Parnes (left in the photo with Kennedy), who became his business partner.

These days Parnes is better remembered than Kennedy. “Mr Parnes, Shillings and Pence” was a svengali who went on to create a school of British pop stars with names like Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Georgie Fame, Johnny Gentle, Dickie Pride, and Vince Eager. His methods were . . . .


To read the rest of this article about Kennedy's fascinating career at AudioCulture go here.


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