Tom Jones is one of the most beloved male vocalists in the US. He is a pop icon of the 70s, a sex symbol, and an idol to many. As of 2006, he is Sir Tom Jones, having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music.
His beginnings in a small town in Wales were not as glamorous. Thomas Jones Woodward, as he was born, had a fairly normal and happy childhood. He began singing at an early age. But when he was 12 years old, Tom Jones contracted tuberculosis and had a brush with death. Young Jones recovered and was soon on his way to becoming a superstar.
His true musical career began in 1963 when he changed his surname from Woodward to Scott and created the group Tommy Scott and The Senators. The following year he worked with Joe Meek to record a few records that would later be rejected by record companies. Jones' real break came when Decca Records producer Peter Sullivan discovered the young talent. After being placed in the hands of manager Phil Solomon, he got a taste of the music business and decided he didn't like it. Jones moved back to Wales where he continued to sing for pleasure at local pubs. It was in the Top Hat Club in Merthyr Tydfil where Jones was again discovered by an agent. Gordon Mills soon convinced Jones to sign, and to start going by the name Tom Jones.
In 1964 Jones released Chills and Fever, which was not a great success. But the following year his career began to take off with the hit album It's Not Unusual. The title track climbed quickly to number one on the UK charts, and later in another 12 countries. The song is now a classic. The song, composed by Gordon Mills and Les Reed, paired with Jones' sexy image and powerful vocals, soon caught the media's attention. 'Once Upon A Time' and 'With These Hands' also enjoyed attention from the media and fans during the same year. Jones also hit it big when he performed 'What's New Pussycat?' by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The song became an instant hit in the UK as well as the US.
After a hectic two years in the limelight, Jones' career began to decline, as did record sales. Mills, still Jones' manager, decided it was time for an image change to attract an older, more mature audience. The sexy clothes were replaced with a more sophisticated formal look. Jones' looked good in a tux, and he knew it. His self-assurance only added to the new image. With only a year of decline, Jones was back on top again. By Christmas time of 1966 he released 'Green Green Grass of Home' which topped the charts in the UK and stayed there for seven weeks. It also sold over a million copies in the UK alone.
Hits continued to pour out of Jones. A wide variety of songs, revamped by Jones' gutsy vocals, were added to the list of his chart-topping repertoire. Songs that Jones made famous include 'Detroit City', 'Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings', and one of his biggest UK hits ever, 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again'. With his rekindled success, Jones began pursuing a television career to supplement his fame in the music business. He began hosting the highly successful show, This Is Tom Jones. The variety show attracted some of the hottest acts of the 70s. Guests like David Crosby and David Clayton-Thomas made the show stand apart from other variety hours of the time. During the down time of the show Jones became primarily a US artist, his roots and successes in the UK nearly forgotten. He began concentrating his tour in Las Vegas. For years he was making out so well on the Vegas touring circuit that he did not find time to record any new material, and Mills, still his manager, did not push the idea.
When Mills died in the late 70s, Jones' son Mark Woodward took over as manager and encouraged his dad to get back into the recording studio. By 1987 his album The Boy From Nowhere had topped the charts in the UK. Throughout the 90s, Jones collaborated with different groups, experimenting with his sound. He also continued touring. Though his recording career never quite matched the success of his early years, his shows on the touring circuit are still very popular.
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