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Sir Tom Jones

Sir Tom Jones

Singer from Pontypridd, Wales

Long show business career with many stage and TV appearances. He also appears in the hit movie 'Mars Attacks' with Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Michael J Fox and lots more. With 36 hits in the UK and 19 in the USA he's a world class act!

Now a knight, Sir Thomas John Woodward OBE was born on June the 7th 1940. Tom's father is actually English, like many in South Wales his family is mixed between English and Welsh. They lived in Kingsland Terrace, Treforest, Pontypridd where he was born. Interestingly this area has seen some other great vocalists, Sir Geraint Evans and Stuart Burrows. Tom is in good company so it's fair to say he considers himself Welsh.

Typical of families in the area Thomas Woodward, his father was a miner. When Tom contracted tuberculosis at twelve years of age one can only imagine the worry at home. Tom is quoted as saying he spent two years in recovery, mostly in bed. Listening to music was something he could cheer himself with. Put into perspective, recovering from a lung disease at this age means when other fourteen year olds could find work in the local mines it was probably out of the question, not that he'd particularly want to go 'down the pit' anyway. There used to be a saying in South Wales "Don't send your boy down the pit until they put windows in".

These early years backed by an interest in blues and R & B singers Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson and Brook Benton as well as Jerry Lee Lewis gave him good grounding, as a child he had a good voice which was now maturing with these influences.

Just two years after he recovered from his illness he discovered girlfriend Melinda was expecting. Right and proper for those days (arguably now too) by 1957 they were married with son Mark being born shortly after. Now at sixteen he had a family (don't forget, it was quite normal to start work at fourteen then) Tom worked in a factory and later on building sites.

Since the mid 1960s, Tom has sung many styles of popular music including pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, soul and gospel. His voice has sold over 100 million records. At the time of writing (2012) he's considered the most accomplished singer in the United Kingdom.

There are songs dating to the 1960's which are still so common that across the age-groups they're are recognised, this is the mark of classic performances. Songs such as "It's Not Unusual", "What's New Pussycat", "Delilah", "Green, Green Grass of Home" are the best known. In an interview Tom revealed his secret was imagination. He will try to imagine what and who a song is about, then 'act out' that persona, clearly a technique that delivers an emotive and enduring performance.

His musical career began as singer for 'Tommy Scott and the Senators', a Welsh beat group from 1963. They quickly gained a local following playing pubs and clubs in South Wales. By 1964 the group recorded several solo tracks with producer Joe Meek, who took them to various record labels, unfortunately no contract was signed. Later that year Decca producer Peter Sullivan saw them performing which generated interest but still nothing to establish themselves on the music scene nationally.

A gig at the Top Hat club in Cwmtillery, Wales, Tom was spotted by a London-based manager originally from South Wales, Gordon Mills. Gordon became Tom's manager and moved him to London. Gordon also instigated the stage name 'Tom Jones'. With the previous introductions at the Decca label it's not surprising he found his first full recording contract with them.

The first single, "Chills and Fever," was released in late 1964. It didn't chart, but they followed it with "It's Not Unusual" which became an international hit after Radio Caroline (an offshore pirate radio station) promoted it. Early 1965 "It's Not Unusual" reached number one in the United Kingdom and the top ten in the United States. In 1965 Gordon secured some movie themes for Tom to record including the themes for the film 'What's New Pussycat?', Tom thought this was a joke song when he first heard it! He also sang the theme for the James Bond film "Thunderball". Topping off this 'golden age' he was awarded the Grammy Award for 'Best New Artist for 1965'.

Things moved quickly on the music scene in the 1960's just a year later Gordon felt it would be best to style a new image, as a crooner. Tom also began to perform numbers that appealed to a wider audience such as the 'Big Country' hit "Green, Green Grass of Home". This new style worked returning him to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and began hitting the Top 40 again in the United States. For the remainder of the 1960's he performed a scored numerous hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tom Jones, the onstage character and of course the man himself has received many awards during his career, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966, two Brit Awards—winning In 2000 the Best British Male and an MTV Video Music Award. Aside from his musical career, Tom was given an OBE in 1999 then in 2006 received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for "Services to Music".

He is currently a coach and mentor on television show 'The Voice' UK.


Connection: He was born in Pontypridd.