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Shakin' Stevens: 'I was over the moon playing Elvis. The first time I got a regular wage'

He shot to stardom in the Elvis! musical – and became a staple on 80s kids’ TV. Shaky looks back on a decade of chart domination – and a wild night with Edna O’Brien

Something momentous happened in January 1980, something that profoundly affected the British charts for the most of the following decade: Shakin’ Stevens appeared on kids’ TV as a solo artist for the first time – on BBC1’s after-school show Cheggers Plays Pop – performing his third single for Epic Records, Hot Dog. By that point, Stevens had been a professional singer for 11 years, with barely a sniff of recording success.

Epic had signed him not because it had been tracking his career through the UK’s rock’n’roll underground – he and his band the Sunsets had been playing 50s music for years; John Peel had tried to make a record with them on his Dandelion label; they’d opened for the Rolling Stones in London in 1969. It signed him because because from November 1977 to April 1979, he had been one of the stars of the jukebox musical Elvis, in the West End of London. He was already a family entertainer, and you could sell family entertainment.

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