William Price King meets some legends – Sir Tom Jones – The Early Years

Sir Thomas John Woodward Tom Jones has enjoyed a stunning career spanning six decades that has been embellished with a colourful personal life as well as some highs and lows as he navigated the changing trends within the music industry. To achieve this Tom Jones has successfully and consistently produced great music across several genres including pop, rock, R&B, Broadway, country, soul and gospel. He has sold over 100 million records with 36 Top 40 hits in the UK and 19 in the US. His top hits include It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat, Delilah, Green, Green Grass of Home, She’s a Lady, Kiss and Sex Bomb.

He has also received a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966, two Brit Awards for Best British Male singer in 2000 and Outstanding Contribution to Music in 2003. He was awarded the OBE in 1999 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music in 2006.

I am going to hand you over to William now to take us through the early years.

Thomas John Woodward, who would one day take the stages of the world by storm, was born in 1940 in Pontypridd, South Wales.. His parents were Thomas and Freda Woodward and his father was a miner. Thomas attended both primary and secondary school in Pontypridd, but having dyslexia, he found it a challenge. However, he did find enjoyment in listening to the BBC radio and its mix of American Blues, R&B and rock. At the time Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley were hitting the charts and their style influenced Thomas’s singing in his early career.

As you can see from this live performance of Elvis Presley there are clearly element of style and charisma that carried over into Tom Jones’ early performances. It was not long however before Tom Jones had developed a style that was uniquely his own.

Singing was something that the Welsh Valley towns have always excelled at and Thomas was a natural. He had a powerful voice and apparently was often told off in choir practice at school for drowning out the other singers in School assembly. It was not long before he was singing at family gatherings, weddings and even for his mother’s Women’s Guild meetings. Unfortunately at age 12 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was confined to bed for two years as he recovered. This was tough for any young boy, particularly one who was beginning to enjoy the limelight with his singing. However, he spent his time listening to music and drawing.

Perhaps it was this two years away from school, and a desire to catch up with his life, that led to some tearaway years. Eventually he left school at 16, getting married that year to his girlfriend Linda and becoming a father shortly afterwards. Tom was working in a paper mill at nights to support his new family, but it meant that he could spend little time on his first love, singing. In the end the singing won and Tom gave up his job at the mill.

In 1963 at the age of 23, Tom became lead singer for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a local group whose former frontman had a preference for ballads. When he failed to turn up one night, the band leader Vernon Hopkins offered Tom a crate of beer to perform with them at the local YMCA. That one off appearance lit the fuse of what has been, and continues to be a glittering, roller coaster ride that has been Tom’s career. He did experiment with playing guitar and the drums, but his real talent lay in his rich, upbeat baritone voice that is so suited to the blues and R&B songs of the day.

The group had a great local following in South Wales, but there was a limit to their exposure in the area. There were some attempts to interest record labels, and they were even talent spotted by a Decca producer who saw them perform; however this led to nothing. But, Tom’s luck was about to change one night, when the Tommy Scott and the Senators were performing at the Top Hat club in Cwmtillery in Gwent, Wales. A London based talent manager from London, Gordon Mills, who originated from South Wales, spotted Tom and persuaded him to let him manage his career. He took him to London and to take advantage of the Academy Award-winning film Tom Jones of 1963, he changed Tom’s name.

Decca Records signed Tom Jones and his first single was released, but to a lukewarm reception by the radio stations.

Tom Jones’ first single was a cover of “Chills and Fever,” originally recorded by Ronnie Love who managed to make it to #15 on the R&B charts and #72 on the Pop charts in 1960. Jones recorded this single on Decca Records and the result was a go-go stomping version with background girls and sharp horns. Critics thought the song was too over produced. The song failed to chart after it was released in late 1964.

The same could not be said for his follow up release “It’s Not Unusual” which was  written by Les Reed and Gordon Mills. This was the second Decca single Jones released, reaching number one in the UK in 1965, and peaking at #10 in the US. The BBC initially refused to play the song because of Jones’ sexy image, but it got overwhelming airplay on the UK pirate station, Radio Caroline. Jones performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show in the US on 2 May 1965.

This success was swiftly followed up by  Gordon Mills who secured a number of film theme songs for Tom to record including what would become a Tom Jones classic.

“What’s New Pussycat” was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David as the title track for the 1965 American comedy directed by Clive Donner and with his first screenplay, Woody Allen. The film starred Peter Sellers, Peter O’Toole,, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss and Ursula Andress. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1966 but lost out to “The Shadow Of Your Smile” from the film The Sandpiper.

“What’s New Pussycat” peaked at #11 in the UK charts and #3 in the US.

“Thunderball” was the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name . It was composed by John Barry and Don Black. It became Jones’ third Top 40 hit in America, and has been part of his Las Vegas show ever since.

On being offered the chance to record this song, Jones said: “I was thrilled to bits when they asked me to do ‘Thunderball.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, a song for a James Bond film. The most memorable thing about the session was hitting that note at the end. John told me to hold on to this very high note for as long as possible. I hit it but I had to hold on to the wall of the sound booth to steady myself in case I fell down. Thank God, I didn’t. I knocked off the recording pretty quickly. I think John and I became very good friends, simply because he didn’t have to spend long on my part.”

Tom Jones was now one of the leading artists that had invaded the American music scene and it was confirmed with the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for 1966.

And to crown his achievements in Hollywood; a meeting with his childhood idol, Elvis Presley.

Buy Tom Jones Music: https://www.amazon.com/Tom-Jones/e/B000APJ7YA

You can buy Tom Jones’ autobiography: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Memoir-Sir-Tom-Jones/dp/0718180682/

You can keep up with news and performances: http://www.tomjones.com/news/

Additional material: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Jones_(singer)

About William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect to William

Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484

You can find all of William’s posts on Jazz, Classical and Contemporary artists in this link: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-a-man-and-his-music-jazz-classical-and-contemporary-legends/