Thomas Jones Woodward was born in 1940 and began singing at an early age. In his teens Tom became a tear away and lived the life of a larrikin entranced by the new rock 'n' roll sounds coming from the radio. Tom’s love of the music was ironically brought about when he contracted tuberculosis and spent almost a year in bed. Aged 17, now married with child, Tom worked nights in the local Paper Mill. In 1963 he joined a local beat group called Tommy Scott and the Senators. Tom’s musicianship was limited but his singing voice was just right and when Tommy Scott left the band to become a welder. Tom took over.
Gordon Mills spotted the young Thomas Jones Woodward in 1963. Apparently Gordon Mills had gone to see Mandy Rice Davis in cabaret at a Pontypridd nightspot but Mandy did not turn up for the gig. Instead the management replaced her with the local group. Mills was knocked out with his performance and signed him up before taking him to London. Tom’s new stage name came from the Henry Fielding novel of the 18th century libertine by the same name which had coincidently been made into a popular film. The Senators became the Playboys then later the Squires. Eventually Decca signed Tom and his group and they recorded "Chills and Fever", which bombed.
Tom and The Squires (aka Playboys) were kitted out for the stage dressed in 18th century period costume. The fashion fad was short lived but the era brought other artists like PJ Proby to public attention. Mills dropped the novelty attire and Tom’s second single was to prove quite a different story. Originally It’s Not Unusual was a song for Sandie Shaw but when Jones convinced Mills he could do justice to the composition, and then history was made.
The BBC banned it as too sexy but the Pirate Stations brought it to the record buying public and sold in its thousands. "It's not unusual" became Number 1 in the UK, knocking the Seekers of the top of the charts. Although Tom's career was launched on Ready Steady Go, he was too old and quite out of place among the young Mods. Blues mad youngsters were however impressed with his voice but all things equal Tom was destined to become a one hit wonder. Manager, Gordon Mills recognised the problem and quickly moved to broaden the singer’s appeal to the 25 years and over age demographic. Tom Jones’s next project was to sing the theme tune for a new film featuring an unknown New York comedian, called Woody Allen. Bacharach and David wrote the music and lyrics and Tom gave it, his best shot. What’s new pussycat established Woody Allen as a king of comedy and The Voice had international exposure.
During his musical transition Tom recorded "Not responsible", which although was a hit, failed to showcase the full potential of his voice.
After a car accident and losing his tonsils Tom had to work hard to improve his singing voice. All worthwhile because Tom recorded the theme tune to the new James Bond film, Thunderball.
Mills pulled the artist out of the Pop show extravaganzas and took the consummate performer onto the lucrative working men's club circuit (UK). Country and Western Music was very popular with the British audiences so Tom recorded a country single. Green, green grass took Tom back into the charts only this time his fan base were older.
Keen to crack the American market the next single was deliberate in its appeal to the US. What followed was a US tour where the Welsh crooner performed in The Flamingo, Las Vegas. Tom's time in Las Vegas saw him elevated to superstar in America and he not only impressed his audiences but also brought a reclusive Elvis Presley to his shows Tom also won the admiration of Old Blue Eyes, and Frank Sinatra considered himself to be Tom's number one fan.
By the early seventies Tom Jones relocated to America and appeared regularly in Las Vegas. When live performances overtook recording Tom went solo and the Playboys disbanded. Another clever marketing rouse paid off and Toms’ televised shows featuring many other stars sold well across the globe keeping the popular singer upfront with is adoring fans.
After Gordon Mills untimely death Tom’s management was taken over by his son, Mark Woodward and gradually the singer returned to his studio work. By now the singer was an established country singer and released several Nashville styled country pop albums. Over his long career Tom embraced every style of music using his robust baritone full throated voice. Prior to being seen in the US many people believed his was a black performer and was one of the first white artists to feature on Black Radio stations in the US. The Voice’s physical presence on stage and obvious sex appeal, earned him a loyal following from his fans both male and female. Tom’s management could easily have started a lingerie business from the lady’s and men’s underwear thrown in admiration during his concerts. Tom appeared on Jonathan Ross' show (The Last Resort) and performed a version of Prince's Kiss. It appeared so popular Tom recorded it with The Art Of Noise, and the subsequent success of Kiss took Tom into the charts.
Now introduced to a new sea of young dance fans his chart success continued with “You can leave you hat on .”
Much of Tom’s renaissance is due to Mark’s influence who has engineered much collaboration between Tom and contemporary popular artists. Tom and family live in the US but he tours regularly and is a frequent visitor to Australia.
Worth a listen:
Chills & fever (1964)
It's Not Unusual (1965)
With these hands (1965)
What's new Pussycat? (1965)
Not responsible (1965)
Green green grass of home (1966)
Detroit City (1967)
Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings (1967)
I'll never fall in love again (1967)
I'm coming home (1967)
A minute of your time (1968)
Help yourself (1968)
Without love (1969)
Love me tonight (1969)
Daughter of Darkness (1970)
She's a lady (1971)