2019The ‘real’ P J Proby and the link to TJ Tom Jones
P J PROBY appears to have brought his career to a sudden halt after an off-the-record chat with a freelance journalist who saw fit to publish the raucus claims and remarks.
What is the real story?
By Ron Tennant
JAMES MARCUS SMITH real name of pop singer PJ Proby) was born in Houston, Texas, USA, on November 6,1938. So he is now 80 years old.
After an education at different military schools, Jimmy moved to Hollywood in 1957, with ambitions to become a film star. He wanted to replace top actor John Derek, who was regarded as the most handsome star in Hollywood at that time.
After only getting parts in cowboy TV series and movies as an “extra”, Jimmy changed his name to Jett Powers, and in 1958 he became a rock singer. He then recorded two great solo singles but neither became a hit. In 1959/60, Jett worked as a demo singer and he also signed up to Liberty Records. In 1961, his name was changed to PJ Proby, the name suggested by his songwriter friend Sharon Sheeley,who once had a boyfriend with the same name at high school.
In late 1961, PJ began writing songs and recording demos for top artists such as Johnny Burnette, Bobby Vee and Elvis Presley. In 1964, PJ came over to London at the request of Jack Good, to appear as a guest star on the TV show “Around The Beatles”. After the show was screened, PJ’s rocking guest slot aroused great interest in him. Jack Good then managed him and Jack produced the Proby single Hold Me,which reached No.3 and stayed 15 weeks in the UK hit-parade.
Other big hits soon followed. So, before Tom Jones or Engelbert H, etc., all became stars, PJ was 60s pop’s first great alpha male balladeer. The publicity at that time said PJ was America’s one-man counterattack on the British Invasion.
THOMAS JOHN WOODWARD (real name of pop singer Tom Jones) was born in Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan, Wales on June 7,1940. So he is now 79 years old.
He began singing at home at a very early age. His Uncle George (himself a good singer) gave toddler Tom his first lesson in stage technique. He was taken into pubs and put on a chair to sing.
At the age of five or six, Tom stood up in front of his school class and sang Ghost-riders In The Sky. But, later, at the age of 11, he became very ill with tuberculosis and had to stay in bed for more than a year.
At 13, Tom was better, and he then became tough, so he could look after himself in the hard area where he lived.
As a teenager, Tom’s idol was Elvis Presley. At the age of 16, Tom surprisingly became a father, after his girlfriend Melinda, aged 15, had a baby, and so they married in 1957.
By this time, Tom was working and he had jobs as an apprentice glove-maker and then he worked in a paper-mill. A work-mate of his named Billy said to Tom that he’d heard him singing and he told Tom he had a great voice.
So Tom soon quit his job and in 1961, aged 20, he joined the Senators group, and he did some great vocals.The group members decided that he should have a new name and it became Tommy Scott with the Senators.
The following year he recorded some tracks for Joe Meek, but Tom did not get a recording contract. Then, one evening at the Top Hat Club in Merthyr Tydfil, Gordon Mills saw Tommy Scott’s performance and he was very impressed. Gordon signed the artist Tommy and changed his name to Tom Jones, and the group became The Squires.
Tom’s first single, Chills & Fever” failed to chart, but in early 1965, It’s Not Unusual was a giant hit for Tom.
In February,1965, superstar PJ Proby had just begun a giant UK tour, co-starring top of the bill with Cilla Black. Also, lower down on the bill were Tommy Quickly, The Fourmost, Tommy Roe and Sounds Incorporated, all represented by Arthur Howes and Brian Epstein.
PJ was very popular and began to be known as Gentleman Jim. In September, 1964, he said: “Within six months, I intend to be at the very, very top! Instead of four Beatles at the head of the charts,the public will have only one…..me!”
Well, after six months, this big UK tour for PJ would and should have been a giant success for PJ: but on the first few dates at each show, PJ was splitting his trousers onstage. PJ said it was accidentally done. But he got accused of obscenity and forcibly “rested” when he was banned by the ABC chain.
Then, ABC TV banned PJ and a few weeks later, BBC TV also banned him from appearing on any shows.
PJ had only shown his knees and a bit of thigh when he split his stage trousers, but Mary Whitehouse and her morals committee got PJ permanently banned. She said he was so, so obscene.
Many people blame the British Government because they wanted him sent back to Texas. So, PJ was unfairly thrown off the tour and the then unknown Tom Jones, luckily came in as Proby’s replacement. This great tour eventually made Tom a big star and he even managed to win over some PJ fans who had previously lined the front row of the stalls with “We want PJ” banners.
Every evening on the show Tom sang It’s Not Unusual, and so it quickly reached No.1 in the UK. PJ, even though he was banned,was still having some hits with his single I Apologise, in the Spring of 1965, and also his LP “I Am PJ Proby”.
On Sunday,March 21, 1965, PJ and Tom performed on the same show for the very first time. It was the “Daily Express Record Star Show”, at Wembley in London. This is when PJ and TJ first met and became pals.
The next part of the PJ and TJ story is about some of the statements said to have been made by both of the top stars over the years, and also about some of the things they did together and apart in the years after their March,1965 meet-up, plus – of course – their Elvis connections.