Celebrities

He’s Not So Unusual: The Rock n’ Roll Lifestyle of Tom Jones

Tom Jones has been called a musical “shapeshifter,” someone who could transition gracefully in multiple genres. He is known around the world for his deep sultry voice. His songs topped the charts in both America and the U.K and his first big hit, “It’s Not Unusual,” graced the ears of music fans everywhere in 1965.

The singer’s performing scope has included pop, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, and soul. This versatility helped him become the mega-star that we know of today. But before Tom rose to stardom, he had to climb his way up to the top from a small town in South Wales.

A Young Lad in South Wales

Tom Jones was born Thomas John Woodward in South Wales on June 7, 1940. He began singing at a young age: he would regularly sing at family gatherings, weddings and in his school choir.

Despite being the best singer in the group, Tom preferred to sing solo. By the late 1950s, Tom had become entranced by the new rock ‘n’ roll sounds coming from the radio.

Suffering from Tuberculosis

Just after his 12th birthday, Tom was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and he spent nearly two years in bed recovering. In the 1950s, while recovering from his life-threatening sickness, he enjoyed listening to music since reading was difficult.

His favorites tunes were American blues, country, r&b, and rock—genres which would later influence his musical style. He credits this time in his life for really falling in love with music.

Struggling with Dyslexia

Tom did not like school or sports but gained confidence through his singing talent. As a school child, he struggled with dyslexia but enjoyed listening to music.

Some of his influences included Bill Haley, Little Richard, Brook Benton, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. Struggling with his disability, he was more interested in drinking and girls rather than his education, so he decided to quit school at age 16.

Married at 16

Tom started dating Linda Trenchard at age 15. A year later, in March 1957, Jones married his high school girlfriend when they were both just 16 years old. They were also expecting a child together at this time.

The couple’s son, Mark, was born a month after their wedding. To support his young family, Jones worked as a door to door vacuum salesman. He then took a job working in a glove factory and was later employed in construction.

Big Break

In 1962 Tom became the vocalist for a Welsh beat band called Tommy Scott and the Senators. In 1963 they recorded a five-song demo tape and achieved minor local success.

The group continued to play local clubs and dance halls until Gordon Mills spotted them in 1964. Tom hit it big when London-based manager Mills saw the band performing in South Wales. He signed Tom as a solo artist on the spot and the rest is history.

An Appealing Persona

Tom’s first manager Gordon Mills, who discovered him and launched him into fame, changed his last name from Woodward to Jones. Mills chose the name Tom Jones, inspired by the popularity of the Academy Award-winning 1963 film by Albert Finney.

Gordon Mills claimed Tom was a single, 22-year-old Welsh coal miner. Not only was he 24 and married, but he had a seven-year-old son. And while his father worked as a local coal miner, the star had never been down a mine.

On His Own

Jones finally landed a record deal with Decca in 1964. But there was a catch – the contract was for him alone, not the band. He took the deal, insisting that the Senators were used as his backing band. Jones would part from the band in 1969.

His first single was produced in 1965 called “Chills and Fever.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to drive him into stardom. However, his next song would put him on the charts and make him an international sensation.

Number One Hit

Tom’s first hit single “It’s Not Unusual” in 1965 wasn’t originally written for him. Written by Gordon Mills and Les Reed, Mills initially wanted the song to go to Sandie Shaw to sing, but she turned it down.

Tom pretty much had to beg his manager for the chance to record the song that skyrocketed him to fame. He stated, “Gordon This is it, I’m telling you. This is a hit song, I know it is.” The song eventually topped the charts and become a number one hit.

Famous Friends

When Tom was a teenager, his idol was Elvis Presley. In early 1965, they met at the Paramount stage, where Elvis was filming. After that, they became good friends, spending more and more time together in Las Vegas.

“We became friends from that day on, and that was in 1965. We were friends until just before he died. We worked Vegas a lot together, at the same time.”

Hits in the 1960s

Throughout the 1960s Jones went on to produce a string of hits including “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Delilah” and “Green Green Grass of Home.” He also recorded “Thunderball” for the “James Bond” movie and “What’s New Pussycat” written by Burt Bachrach.

These hits helped Jones gain popularity in American and success was granted in 1966 with a Grammy win for the best new artist. He soon became one of the most popular British solo artists in the US.

Vegas Baby

It was Vegas where he and Elvis met and he would later spend long periods of time in the city. He and Elvis had jobs in Vegas at the same time and would often stay up late singing gospel songs together.

In 1967 Jones struck up a 45-year romance with Las Vegas – launching his performances at The Flamingo and scoring lucrative contracts with Caeser’s Palace. This is where he got his reputation as a performer.

Evolution

The Wales-born singer became a fixture in Vegas, pulling in $100,000 a week. He gained quite the reputation, and his female following became more and more enthusiastic. Women attending his shows would frequently throw their clothing and hotel keys on stage.

Jones loved the attention and often took advantage of the situation. To avoid bad press, Mills smartly retooled Tom’s playboy image. He replaced Tom’s open-to-the-waist shirts and hip-hugging pants with classy suits and tuxedos.

Landing His Own TV Show

From 1969 to 1971 Jones had an internationally successful television show called This Is Tom Jones. The show was worth a reported $9 million to Jones over the three years it was broadcasted in the UK and America.

Jones was even nominated in 1969 for a Golden Globe for best actor. From 1980 to 1981, he had a second television variety show, Tom Jones, which aired 24 episodes.

Collaborations

Hosting a TV variety show gave Jones the remarkable opportunity to meet and collaborate with some of the most famous musicians at the time. This not only entertained audiences but increased Jones’ popularity and viewership.

Some memorable collaborations include duets with some of the most iconic artists in history: Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Chet Atkins, Little Richard, Sammy Davis Jr, John Denver, Tony Bennet, Dollie Parton, Janis Joplin, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash to name a few.

Country Vibes

Jones has made a career out of the unexpected. In the 1960s, when the charts were filled with group singers, pop bands and Beatles wannabes, Jones remained committed to signing solo.

His diverse taste in music was deeply rooted in his upbringing and his admiration for blues and country of the 1950s. He was able to channel his voice to many genres. One of his well-known collaborations was with Johnny Cash in 1969.

Cher Collaboration

In the late 1960’s Cher was one of the most popular female singers of the time. On This Is Tom Jones they sang “Cinderella Rockefella” together on TV in 1969.

Jones could adapt his singing style to any genre including pop, which was mainstream at the time. Tom and Cher also collaborated on “The Beat Goes On.” Cher later when on to sing Jones’ famous “Delilah” with singer Ester Ofarim.

Rock Goddess

Jones has soft spot for blues and rock so having rock goddess Janis Joplin on as a guest on This Is Tom was nothing but excitement. On December 4, 1969, the two sang a duet called  “Raise Your Hand” which Joplin had featured in her set at Woodstock earlier that year.

Despite her massive talent, Janis had always been known to be shy around people and so seeing her let herself loose and enjoy the show was quite sensational. Their dance performance was phenomenal!

The Great Aretha Franklin

On an episode that aired on October 9, 1970, Jones was joined by Bob Hope and the queen of soul herself, Aretha Franklin As the segment starts with Franklin behind the piano, Jones asks: “What should we talk about?”

Franklin’s answer: “I don’t know, but the more we talk, the less time we have to sing.” The two collaborated on her song “See Saw” and Nat King Coles’ “The Party’s Over.”

The Ladies Man

Despite being married since the age of 16, Jone’s still loved getting attention from other women. He was very open about being a ladies man and a was confident in letting everyone know.

He admitted to having his first affair just three years after his wedding and went on to have a couple of serious relationships while still married to Linda. One of which was with Mary Wilson of the Supremes in the 1960s.

Other Relationships

Another high profile long term relationship Jones dabbled in was with beauty queen and miss world Marjorie Wallace. This relationship was uncovered when they were pictures kissing a the beach in Barbados.

Linda had found out about this from the tabloids and was furious. She knew what he was doing, but she got to the point where it was so hurtful she didn’t ask anymore. One of his short flings resulted in a child.

Knighted

Jones was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1999 and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on March 29, 2006. Now Sir Tom Jones is a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Jones currently resides in Los Angles and has had a green card since 1976. When asked why he won’t become a US citizen, his response is, “read the name on my passport. Sir Tom Jones, the Queen, wouldn’t like it.”

Family Ties

Although he was not always there as a father, Tom mended the relationship with his firstborn son, Mark Woodward. Tom appointed Mark as his manager after the death of Gordon Mills in 1986. “We became closer as men through working together.”

Tom has even suggested Mark’s birth made him pursue his singing career more seriously. “I think it made me ­stronger,” he said. “I felt I had responsibility.”

He Only Loved One Woman

From the very beginning, he was not exactly Mr. Faithful. He openly admits to his affairs but says he doesn’t regret a thing. He also acknowledged that he only loved one woman, and that was Linda.

He said he would “never love again” after she died following a battle with lung cancer in 2016. They were married for 59 years, he still believes she was his soulmate.

The Voice

Tom Jones also became a coach on The Voice UK in 2012. His choice went on to coach the winner that season. Tom stayed on the show until the 2016 season.

This was the last season that aired on the BBC. Jones was not very happy about its cancellation. He took pride in being back in the public spotlight. He was able to mentor young singers and continue to showcase his own talents. He’s still got it!

Reunited

After the death of his wife, he reunited with an old friend in Hollywood. Rumors stating Tom Jones and Priscilla Presley were dating have been floating around the internet.

The Welsh singer admitted he does not think Elvis would have liked their newfound connection. “I really don’t know how Elvis would feel about us having dinner together. He probably wouldn’t be too sure.”

Long Term Consequences for Short Term Actions

As a result of a three-day love affair with a young model in 1987 in New York, Tom had an unexpected second child. For years Tom did not acknowledge his lovechild, but when a court-ordered DNA test in 1989 proved he was the father, Tom agreed to pay maintenance fees for his son.

However, Tom refuses to have a relationship with this illegitimate son. Tom’s response was, “It wasn’t something I had planned. If I had planned it, I would have done something more than just financially. But it wasn’t. I just fell for it. I just fell for the seduction.”

Rejection Was Rare

The Welsh “Sex Bomb” singer had many infidelities and has bragged that at the height of his career, he had relations with up to 250 women a year while on tour. All the while his wife Linda turned a blind eye and didn’t ask or tell.

However not every woman accepted his advances. Tom did not enjoy a 100% seduction rate with famous women. Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Dionne Warwick, and Darlene Love all managed to resist his charms.

How He Made His Marriage Work

Never once did Linda accompany Tom on any of his tours throughout his career. She stayed at home while he spent weeks or months away. Biographer Sean Smith said that while the couple had been married more than 50 years, they had probably only spent 10 years in each other’s company.

Trying to explain their bizarre but enduring marriage, Tom admitted preferring to talk to her on the phone. He said: “When you’re face to face with somebody, you realize that time has gone on but when you’re on the phone we’re both young again. You’re not looking at one another, I’m looking at an old picture I carry around with me and leave by the bed.”

Bel Air Mansion

In the 1970s Jones moved his family to the U.S. due to the resentment of Britain’s high taxes. He bought Dean Martin’s in Bel Air mansion in 1974.

Jones famously lived the nine-bedroom, 11,817-square-foot mansion on almost an acre for over three decades before selling it to Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage in 1998. Cage then put it back on the market for $35 million in 2007.

The Big Screen

Tom Jones would also become a talented actor and made his first appearance with a leading role in the 1979 film Pleasure Cove. In addition, he played Dick Turpin in an episode of the 1980s TV show Fantasy Island.

He also played himself in a Fresh Prince episode in 1993 and in Tim Burton’s 1996 film Mars Attacks! alongside Danny Devito, Jack Nicholson, and Annette Benning.

Becoming an Animated Character

Jones lent his voice to The Simpsons in 1992. He appeared as himself in the episode “Marge Gets a Job,” where Waylon Smithers kidnaps him.
The episode ends as Homer and Marge enjoy a private show performed by the captured Tom Jones, where he sings “It’s Not Unusual” in his usual Vegas fashion.

The Simpsons cast enjoyed working with Jones as a guest star. They said he was fun to work with and was nice, and he even offered to perform a concert after he was finished recording his lines.

Inspired One of the Most Famous TV Dances of All Time

There’s only one dance that goes with “It’s Not Unusual” and that’s “The Carlton Dance.” With so many episodes, and so many Carlton dances. They were usually set to Carlton’s favorite song by his hero, Tom Jones.

In 1993 Tom Jones guest starred on Fresh Prince of Bel Air as Carlton’s guardian angel. He visits Carlton in the middle of the night to show him how his family would live life without him. Tom also performs in this episode while actor, Alfonso Ribeiro dances along. This is one of the most memorable Fresh Prince episodes.

Still Got It

Despite age, Jones still has it going on! He is known for legendary chest exposure and a full head of curly hair. With nothing slowing him down, not even his greying hair, which he stopped coloring in 2009.

One of his biggest shows of the 21st century was his 2005 performance at Ynysangharad Park in his home country of Wales. He performed there in front of a crowd of about 20,000 people.

Can’t Stop Me Now

There is no slowing this man down. He has had a full touring schedule in the last few years and shows no sign of letting up. After postponing his US tour in 2017 due to hip surgery, he is now fully recovered and ready to get back at it!

He continued to have a full tour schedule in 2019 throughout the US and UK. The star plans to kick off a long European tour, traveling as far as Israel throughout the summer, with tickets selling out in some countries.

No Holding Back

Tom Jones released an autobiography entitled Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography in 2015 at the age of 75. This was the first time he got completely honest about his six decades in show business.

Tom shares his life and experiences with no holding back. The autobiography is an open and honest look at his life. He confidently states he has no regrets.

Performing for the Elite

Jones performed for President Bill Clinton at the New Year’s Eve White House Millennium Celebration in Washington D.C. Some big names in the business joined him including Bono, Kenny Rogers, Luther Vandross, and John Fogerty.

Tom has also performed for the Royal family including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and a concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium. It seems he continues to have friends in high places, all over the world.

The Shapeshifter

Jones has a voice which can fit any genre. He’s covered songs by famous artists like Prince, Leonard Cohen, Lenny Kravitz, Beatles, Ram Jam, Eric Clapton, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, and Engelbert Humperdinck.

Artists who have sampled Jones works are too many to name. Artists from all over the globe have sampled Jones recordings in every genre. They’ve added a bit of Tom Jones flavor into their music while still keeping their signature style.

Reloaded

Over the years Tom Jones has reportedly sold more than 100 million records. In 1999 his album Reload went to number one in the UK charts and sold over four million copies worldwide.

The album contains fifteen duets with a range of artists including the Cardigans, Natalie Imbruglia, Cerys Matthews, Van Morrison, Mousse T, Portishead, Stereophonics and Robbie Williams.

Voice Mentor

Jones mentored Leanne Mitchell on his first season of The Voice and won the first ever UK series of the show. The winner had this to say about Tom: “It was a no-brainer for me to go with Tom. He’s a legend after all! I was really starstruck but he’s very genuine and down-to-earth and it was great to work with him.

He was always a real gentleman on The Voice and to perform alongside him in the final was something I’ll never forget. I’ll always be grateful to him as he’s helped me get where I am now. But I hope he gets to hear it and I hope he likes it.”

Well Deserved

Jones has received many awards throughout his career, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966, an MTV Video Music Award in 1989, and two Brit Awards, winning Best British Male in 2000 and Outstanding Contribution to Music in 2003.

Tom received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989. He was granted a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV actor in 1970 and won a Bambi Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017. He has also earned a net worth of $250 million dollars.