Tom Jones Biography

Thomas Jones Woodward, 7 June 1940, Pontypridd, Mid-Glamorgan, Wales. After being seriously ill with TB when he was 12 years old he recovered to become one of the most famous pop singers of the past five decades. Jones began his musical career in 1963 as vocalist in the group Tommy Scott And The Senators. The following year, he recorded some tracks for Joe Meek, which were initially rejected by record companies. He was then discovered by Decca Records A&R producer/scout Peter Sullivan and, following the recommendation of Dick Rowe, was placed in the hands of the imperious entrepreneur Phil Solomon. That relationship ended sourly, after which Scott returned to Wales. One evening, at the Top Hat Club in Merthyr Tydfil, Gordon Mills saw Scott’s performance and was impressed. He soon signed the artist and changed his name to Tom Jones. His first single, ‘Chills And Fever’, failed to chart but, early in 1965, Jones’ second release ‘It’s Not Unusual’, composed by Mills and Les Reed, reached number 1 in the UK and in a further 12 countries. The exuberant arrangement, reinforced by Jones’ gutsy vocal and a sexy image, complete with hair ribbon, brought him instant media attention. Jones enjoyed lesser hits that year with the ballads ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘With These Hands’.

Meanwhile, Mills astutely insured that his star was given first choice for film theme songs, and the Burt Bacharach / Hal David composition ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ was a major US/UK hit. By 1966, however, Jones’ chart fortunes were in decline and even the title track of a James Bond movie, Thunderball, fell outside the UK Top 30. Mills took drastic action by regrooming his protégé for an older market. Out went the sexy clothes in favour of a more mature, tuxedoed image. By Christmas 1966, Jones was effectively relaunched owing to the enormous success of ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’, which sold over a million copies in the UK alone and topped the charts for seven weeks. Jones retained the country flavour with a revival of Bobby Bare’s ‘Detroit City’ and ‘Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings’. In the summer of 1967, he enjoyed one of his biggest UK hits with the intense ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, which climbed to number 2. The hit run continued with the restrained ‘I’m Coming Home’, and the dramatic, swaggering ‘Delilah’, which added a sense of Victorian melodrama with its macabre line: ‘I felt the knife in my hand, and she laughed no more’. In the summer of 1968, Jones again topped the New Musical Express charts with ‘Help Yourself’.

As the 60s reached their close, Mills put his star on the small screen where he hosted the highly successful show, This Is Tom Jones. Unlike similar series, Jones’ show attracted some of the best and most critically acclaimed acts of the era. An unusual feature of the show saw Jones duetting with his guests. Some of the more startling vocal workouts occurred when Jones teamed-up with David Crosby during a Crosby, Stills And Nash segment, and on another occasion with Blood, Sweat And Tears’ David Clayton-Thomas. Although Jones logged a handful of hits in the UK during the early 70s, he was now an American-based performer, whose future lay in the lucrative Las Vegas circuit he had been playing since the late 60s. Jones became enormously wealthy during his supper-club sojourn and had no reason to continue his recording career, which petered out during the 70s. It was not until after the death of Mills, when his son Mark Woodward took over his management, that the star elected to return to recording. His recording of ‘The Boy From Nowhere’ (from the musical Matador) was perceived as a personal anthem and reached number 2 in the UK in May 1987. It was followed by a re-release of ‘It’s Not Unusual’ which also reached the Top 20.

In 1988, a most peculiar collaboration occurred between Jones and the Art Of Noise on an appealing kitsch version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. The song reached the UK Top 5 in October and Jones performed the number at the London Palladium. Soon after, he appeared with a number of other Welsh entertainers on a recording of Dylan Thomas’ play for voices Under Milk Wood, produced by George Martin. Jones’ continued credibility was emphasized once more when he was invited to record some songs written by the mercurial Van Morrison, which appeared on 1991’s Carrying A Torch. After more than a decade on the Las Vegas circuit, Jones could hardly have hoped for a more rapturous welcome in the UK, both from old artists and the new élite, and he even appeared at 1992’s Glastonbury Festival. He entered the digital age with a dance-orientated album produced by various hands including Trevor Horn, Richard Perry, Jeff Lynne and Youth. Jones clearly demonstrated that his voice felt comfortable with songs written by Lynne, the Wolfgang Press and Diane Warren. A new album of duets and collaborations, recorded with a host of popular modern artists, topped the UK charts in October 1999. A cover version of Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down The House’, recorded with the Cardigans, also broke into the UK Top 10 singles chart.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Jones’ standing had never been higher, and in 2002 he collaborated with Wyclef Jean on the urban-orientated Mr. Jones. He was made a knight in the 2006 New Year Honours list.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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