Tom Jones, born in Pontypridd in 1940, has been one of the most famous and successful pop singers in the world since the 1960s. From a conventional rock’n’roll background he developed into a singer of standards and like Shirley Bassey (born in Cardiff in 1937) was constantly in demand in the world’s most glamorous nightspots, not least in Las Vegas. His early career is recalled by a former colleague, Chris Slade:
There’s Nothing Big-Time About our Tom
I looked at the name Tom Jones at no. 2 in the New Musical Express Chart this week and I suddenly remembered my dad coming home from a club in Pontypridd one night about six years ago. ‘Son’, he said, ‘I saw a young singer tonight who could knock that Tommy Steele into a cocked hat. Name of Tommy Woodward he was. And you should have heard him playing his guitar – marvellous!’
This Tommy Woodward had just joined my dad’s concert party. Dad did tap dancing but the concert party also had an operatic tenor and a comedian. Tommy was for the young folks. I remember thinking, ‘This singer might be OK but I’ll bet he’s not as good as Tommy Steele.’ Anyway I got to hear a lot about this Tommy Woodward after that. He lived in Laura Street in Treforest, not far from us, and I used to knock about with some lads who lived next door to him. After a while he joined a local group, the Senators, and changed his name to Tommy Scott. Quite a celebrity he was becoming. In fact all over South Wales I would say that Tommy Scott and the Senators became the biggest local attraction there was. Everybody used to shout, ‘When you goin’ to London, lads? When you going to show them Beatles a thing or two?’
Tom Jones – I mean Tommy Scott! – had been with the Senators a little while when I joined as a drummer. I used to work in a shoe shop in Treforest and after I heard the vacancy was going they auditioned me in a local pub called the Thorn Hotel. We had some marvellous times, Tom and I and the rest of the group. He’s a great guy with a marvellously earthy sense of humour – in fact Tom’s sense of humour helped us through some of the hard times before Unusual made the charts.
I remember when we ﬁrst came back to London to record, for Joe Meek it was. We were excited out of our minds about that. We really thought we’d made it. We travelled down in the van and we spent a day recording (Joe had been introduced to us by some managers we had then, Myron and Byron. Don’t ask me their full names – they never told us!) Two months just went by after that, but no record was released. Tom was dead choked and he was not the only one. After that we more or less just did gigs in South Wales and got to think we’d probably never be famous.
When we came back to London our new manager, Gordon Mills, used to give us £1 a day each to live on. I don’t know what we would have done without Gordon – he gave Tom and us our break and he more or less looked after us for about a year before It’s not Unusual. Nearly £2000 Gordon paid out ...
Tom is still the same he ever was – the only thing that’s changed is the Rolls and the cigar. But what’s wrong with those especially when you can afford them? He certainly has not become ﬂash or big-time since getting hit records ... One thing that just hasn’t changed is his determination to sing the kind of songs he really feels. In the old days he used to have his sideburns and wear tight leathers, but he didn’t want to sing just the pop songs like the other local groups!
(Chris Slade talking to Alan Smith, New Musical Express, 19 August 1967 [Tip: daliwch Ctrl a chliciwch dolen i'w agor mewn tab newydd. (Cuddio tip)] )