Paying tribute to Sheffield's own Elvis - Steve Denton
Family, friends and fans of Sheffield’s own Elvis, Steve Denton, are celebrating his life at a tribute night on Friday. Here we look back at his life...
Steve was born Steve Richardson July 1942 and passed away in October 2001.
He was born in the Woodseats area of Sheffield, and attended Woodseats Junior and Jordanthorpe School.
Fan Mike Lawton said: “Even as a lad he had a strong powerful voice, and he was able to put it to good use in the 50s.
“When he started visiting pubs that had a piano player, he would take sheet music with him, so they could accompany his singing.”
This was in the days when few pubs had public address systems – and not many other singers could make themselves heard above the hubbub of conversation.
“Steve's early influences were Elvis of course, Steve having a natural sound-a-like Elvis voice - but his talking voice was pure Sheffield,” Mike added.
Mike first heard Steve sing at The Greengate pub in High Green, in the mid 60s.
“I’d recently turned 18, and was able to go to pubs legally, not that beer was a big attraction to me. It's the music I wanted to hear,” he explained.
Some of Mike's older friends knew Mike was a keen Elvis fan.
“Derek Calton and Roger Outram had told me about a singer who sounded like Elvis, and when he came to The Greengate, about eight of us went to see him.
“I could hardly believe it when he started singing, because his voice was so much like Elvis.
“I became a confirmed fan and saw him on many occasions, after that right up to his last public appearance.”
Early in his career Steve was advised to change his stage name for something more suitable as it was thought Richardson was too long to catch on.
Mike said: “Travelling home by bus, along Chesterfield Road, towards Woodseats, he passed Denton Road, and thought, ‘Steve Denton, I'll use that’.”
Despite sounding so much like Elvis, Steve would never dress up in the style of Elvis, except for one occasion.
Mike said: “He was asked to perform as an Elvis tribute, at Bailey's nightclub, a few days after Elvis died in 1977.
“Steve had never dressed as Elvis on stage before, and wasn't comfortable doing so, but he was talked into it by the Bailey's management.
“As it turned out it was the right thing for that night, as for Elvis fans like myself, it was a very emotional time, and seeing Steve looking, and sounding like Elvis, suited the occasion.”
Many would attest to the Elvis-like quality of his voice.
“Fellow Elvis fans, Carole and Brian Froggatt, told me of the first time they heard Steve sing,” said Mike. “In the 60 and 70s, they used to live on Taplin Road, Hillsborough, and over their garden wall was situated a community centre, in which various functions would be held at weekends.
“One summer evening, Brian was working in the garden, and it being a warm night, the doors to the community centre were open.
“Brian called to Carole, ‘Come and listen, they are playing Elvis records’, so they both sat in the garden, and listened.
“A few days later, they learned that the music had actually been performed live, by a singer called Steve Denton.
“After that, they kept their eyes open for his name popping up, and quite a while later, they heard he would be appearing at The Silver Fox, in Stocksbridge.”
Carole said: ''We obviously went to see him, and were so impressed by his voice.
“He didn't look like Elvis, he didn't dress like Elvis, but he certainly sounded like Elvis.''
Another friend and longtime friend was Suzanne Reed.
Suzanne became a friend of Steve's, when they were living in the same area of Heeley, during their teenage years.
Mike said: “She loved Elvis, and when she realised that Steve sounded just like him, she started going to his gigs, whenever she was able to do so.”
Although Steve had this great soundalike Elvis voice, he wasn't one for pushing the fact.
“They were in a pub at Meadowhead one night when there was an Elvis singers competition on,” said Mike.
“She asked Steve to get up, which he declined to do, and she had to pester him to sing.
“He finally agreed to do so, and duly won the competition, and the prize of a free meal for two, which he promptly gave away.
“She also tried to encourage him to take bookings when Elvis died.”
Steve was inundated with agents ringing him up to do tribute nights, but said he did not want to cash in on Elvis’s death.
“The only one he finally agreed to do was the one at Bailey's night club, which took some persuasion,” said Mike.
“This was in spite of the fact that he didn't have a long time regular job, and did things such as working in an amusement arcade, on some days.”
Away from singing and entertaining Steve loved walking and could often be found out in the Peak District.
“Apparently he missed gigs on a couple of occasions, getting stranded up Kinder Scout when a heavy mist came down, making it unsafe to continue walking,” said Mike.
“He also went off on a walking trip around Ireland on one occasion, taking a tent ,and a rucksack on his back.”
Many others over the years would comment on Steve's similarity to Elvis
Howard Copley, of the Mercury newspaper, told how he had watched a ‘reasonable’ Elvis tribute act win the Stars in their Eyes final.
"I say reasonable, because last month I saw more imitation Elvis than I could believe,” he said. “In all this number, there were none fit to hold a candle to the daddy of them all, the late great, Steve Denton. Steve and Elvis will be serenading them up in heaven, with nobody being able to differentiate between the two of them. “
Steve was married twice, firstly to Helen, with whom he had a son, John, and daughter, Claire, and then to Anne, the mother of his daughter Katie.
Mike said: “Anne and Katie also told of another funny moment that happened at a club Steve had played several times previously.
“This club had a catwalk from the stage that went into the audience, but on this particular night, part of it was missing for some reason.
“Unaware of this, Steve came on stage singing, with the lights out, and a spotlight on him, blinding his vision.
“He walked along the catwalk singing, as he had done on previous occasions, then fell through the gap. The audience gasps of horror, turned to laughter, as Steve, out of sight, down the gap, continued singing. The show must go on!”
Steve was a performer till the end, when in the late 90s his health took a turn for the worst.
John Firminger, when he realised the extent of his health problems, arranged a tribute night at St Phillip’s Club in July 2001.
Various local musicians took part including the Hillbilly Cats, Frank White, Ian Morley's Hollydayz (a Buddy Holly tribute band), and the New Dentonaires, featuring John Firminger, Ron Blythe, Alan Wood, Dave Hopper, Gerry Scanlon, Dale Storr, John Crookes and Chris Firminger, with Steve's son, John, joining in at one stage, singing the Beatles song Get Back', all hosted by Sheffield's Tony Capstick.
St Phillips was packed out for the night, and Steve was accompanied by family, and friends.
Mike was surprised when it was announced from the stage that Steve would be getting up to sing.
Mike said: “He was helped to the stage, and I wondered what he was going to sound like.
“I needn't have worried, that magnificent voice exploded from the speakers, singing King Creole, and I was taken back to when I had first heard him, nearly 40 years previously. That was the last time I saw Steve."
Steve moved into St Luke’s Hospice.
“Tony Wordsworth had gone to visit him that evening, staying for about three hours, during which Steve told him their time spent gigging together had been the happiest years of his life.
"Two hours after leaving St Luke's, Tony received a phone call from Anne, to say that Steve had died.
“It had been a long time ambition of Steve's, to visit Elvis Presley's home, Graceland. Even when he became ill, he still hoped to do it before he died, but sadly, it was not to be. A friend of the family, who had a trip to Graceland planned, knew of this ambition, and offered to take Steve's ashes there.
"Although not strictly allowed, the friend was able to scatter some of Steve's ashes, both on Elvis' grave, and also at the Tupelo home, where he was born, and spent the early years of his life.
“So it was there that Steve found a final resting place with Elvis, the idol of his life.”
> Friends and family are celebrating Steve’s life with a tribute night – and raise money for St Luke’s Hospice which gave care to Steve in his final days.
There will be Elvis and Steve tracks played during the evening, with music from rock ‘n’ roll band, Mystery Train, including a number of Elvis songs.
The event will take place Friday October 22 at The Railway, Penistone Road, Wadsley from 7.30pm.