Today’s Guest: Tom Jones, singer, TV star, “This is Tom Jones”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview with singer Tom Jones, conducted by Mr. Media, Bob Andelman, was originally published in the St. Petersburg Times on May 10, 1985.)
“The first time I came here was 1965. ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was number one March the first. It’s 20 years now.”
Tom Jones, the hip-swiveling, 44-year-old Welsh heartthrob is celebrating two decades on the American music scene. In a recent telephone interview, he recalled his first work experience in the States.
“I came over and did a Dick Clark ‘Caravan of Stars’ tour,” Jones said. “It was Peter and Gordon (“Peter” is Peter Asher, now Linda Ronstadt’s record producer), the. Shirelles, Joe Royal, Brian Hyland, the Jive Five – I don’t know what happened to them – oh, and Jackie DeShannon.”
The Caravan was hard work, but exciting. “We did it on a bus,” he explained. “I always knew that America was a big country, but when you actually go on the road in a bus trying to cover the country… I thought, my God, this is unbelievable.
“IT WAS ONE show a day,” Jones continued, “but the trips in between were so long. Sometimes, you’d finish one show and then drive to the next town. It would take so long you wouldn’t have time to book into a hotel, you’d go straight to the job. That’s how far (apart) they were.”
TOM JONES interview excerpt: “My voice has dropped a tone, but my lower register is much stronger now.”
Dick Clark, in his book Rock, Roll & Remember tells of “blowout parties” every two weeks to relieve the Caravan’s travel tension. At one such backstage event, Jones performed in one of the Shirelles’ wigs and dresses.
More than a decade has passed since what might be called Jones’ prime – when songs like “Delilah,” “She’s A Lady,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “What’s New Pussycat?” and “Daughter of Darkness” went gold, and a TV show put the singer into millions of American homes every Friday night – but his popularity has endured.
Tonight’s concert at the Bayfront Center should be the same mix of whirling dervish and sex appeal, although the songs have changed – a lot. This year, for instance, Jones said he will open the show with the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” Then comes Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On,” from Beverly Hills Cop and a surprising choice, Prince’s “Purple Rain.” He’ll also do Billy Ocean’s “Loverboy,” Paul McCartney’s “No More Lonely Nights” and “Memory” from the Broadway show Cats.
JONES’ OWN HITS have been reduced to a medley, although he denied growing tired of them. “They get such a great reaction – that always keeps them fresh. The audience applauds, keeps the songs alive,” he said. After a lifetime of singing, Jones has been fortunate with his voice, never needing or taking lessons other than breathing control when he was 19. And aging has only deepened and matured his very masculine sound.
“My voice has dropped a tone,” he conceded, “but my lower register is much stronger now.”