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Spotlight Artist - Tom Jones

 

This month's spotlight artist hails from South Wales.  He is the son of a coal miner.  He has been knighted and is known as Sir Thomas Woodward.  This great singer has performed in all venues of music from R&B, Rock, Country & Western, Show Tunes, to soul and gospel.  His voice had such a dynamic range and when his music was first heard many listeners thought he was a black singer.  Since 1965 he has sold over 100 million records.

Tom Jones started singing at a very young age in school.  Since he was dyslexic he, did not like school or sports.  Singing helped him gain his confidence.  At age 12 he suffered from tuberculosis which kept him recovering from bed.  While in bed with the disease he listened to music.  Jones made it no secret that Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley and The Comments were his early influences.

He married his high school girlfriend in 1957 and took a job in a glove factory.

Jones became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group, in 1963. They soon gained a local following and reputation in South Wales.

In 1964, Jones recorded several solo tracks with producer Joe Meek, who took them to various labels, but had little success. Later that year, Decca producer Peter Sullivan saw Tommy Scott and The Senators performing in a club and directed them to manager Phil Solomon, but their partnership was short-lived.

The group continued to play gigs at dance halls and working men's clubs in South Wales. One night, at the Top Hat in Cwmtillery, Wales, Jones was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager originally from South Wales. Mills became Jones' manager, and took the young singer to London. He contrived the stage name, "Tom Jones," which not only linked the singer to the image of the title character in Tony Richardson's hit film, but also emphasised Jones' Welsh nationality.

Many record companies found Jones' stage presence, act, and vocal delivery too raucous and raunchy. Eventually, Mills got Jones a recording contract with Decca. His first single, "Chills and Fever," was released in late 1964. It didn't chart, but the follow-up, "It's Not Unusual" became an international hit. The BBC initially refused to play it, but the offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline promoted it. The heavily orchestrated pop arrangement perfectly meshed with Jones' swinging, sexy image, and in early 1965, "It's Not Unusual" reached number one in the United Kingdom and the top ten in the United States.

 

 

During 1965, Mills secured a number of movie themes for Jones to record, including the themes for the film What's New Pussycat? (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and for the James Bond film Thunderball. Jones was also awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for 1965.

In 1966, Jones' popularity began to slip somewhat, causing Mills to redesign the singer's image into a more respectable and mature crooner. Jones also began to sing material that appealed to a wider audience, such as the big country hit "Green, Green Grass of Home". The strategy worked and Jones returned to the top of the charts in the UK and began hitting the Top 40 again in the USA. For the remainder of the decade, he scored a consistent string of hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jones had an internationally successful television variety show from 1969 to 1971, titled This Is Tom Jones. The show, which was worth a reported $9m to Jones over three years, was broadcast by ITV in the UK and by ABC in America, From 1980 to 1981, he had a second television variety show, The Tom Jones Show, which lasted for a series of 24 episodes. In recent years, both television shows have been the subject of litigation in relation to the original license holder, C/F International.

n the early 1970s, Jones had a number of hit singles, including "She's A Lady", "Till", and "The Young New Mexican Puppeteer", but in the mid 1970s his popularity declined, although he did have a big hit in 1976 with "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow", which went to #1 on the US country chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the early 1980s, Jones started to record country music. From 1980 to 1986, Jones had nine songs hit the top 40 on the US country chart, yet he failed to crack the top 100 in the UK or chart on the Billboard Hot 100.

After Jones' long-time manager Gordon Mills died of cancer on 29 July 1986, Jones' son Mark became his new manager. Mark recognised that Jones was incorporating modern music in his live shows and suggested that he should start to record songs from a fresh genre and leave country music behind.

In 1987, Jones re-entered the singles chart with "A Boy From Nowhere", which went to #2 in The UK. The following year, he covered Prince's "Kiss" with The Art of Noise. The song was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching #5 in the UK and #31 in the US. The video for "Kiss" was seen in heavy rotation on both MTV and VH1, and it won the MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video."

Jones received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989. His star is located at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, in front of Frederick's of Hollywood.

In 1993, he appeared as himself on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a television sitcom, and in animated form for an episode of The Simpsons.

Jones signed with Interscope Records in 1993 and released the album The Lead And How To Swing It. The first single, "If I Only Knew," went to #11 in the UK.

In 1999, Jones released the album Reload, a collection of cover duets with artists such as The Cardigans, Natalie Imbruglia, Cerys Matthews, Van Morrison, Mousse T, Portishead, The Stereophonics, and Robbie Williams. The album went to #1 in the UK and sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Five singles from Reload hit the UK top 40.

Tom Jones peformed in Las Vegas where he met Elvis Presley in 1965. They became very good friends until Presley's death in 1977.

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