P J versus T J – Jimmy versus Tommy

Sep 2019 P J versus T J – Jimmy versus Tommy

By Ron Tennant

Part two. Two great 60s male vocalists who were rivals but also good mates. Some of the things P J and T J did together after their first meeting in mid March,1965.

TOM SAID in February, 1965: “I am not trying to copy P J Proby. I’ve only worn a bow in my hair once and my latest group, The Squires, laughed themselves out of sight.”

Tom also said, a few months later: “It bugs me up the way people constantly compare me with Proby. We are totally different!”

At the “Daily Express Record Star” show at Wembley in late March, it was most unusual. Anyone thinking then that Tom Jones is a one hit wonder would have been astonished at his Wembley performance.

He reminded the giant audience of the early Elvis Presley. But the loudest screams of the day actually went to P J Proby, who closed the show.

In a black velvet suit, he could rouse near hysterics at the flick of a finger. And when he lay among the flowers which banked the stage and he waved his legs at the audience, lots of girls ran down the aisles towards him.

In March 6,1965, edition of Melody Maker magazine, there was a super article titled ‘T J versus P J’.

Here it is: “If P J Proby is blasted from his stronghold as the country’s rave male singer, it will leave a huge gap on the pop scene. Now everyone is asking: “Can Tom Jones snatch Proby’s crown?”. P J can go on making great records like I Apologise, but, banned from vital TV shows and theatres, he will lack their tremendous exploitation powers.

Jones is now basking in the publicity barrage originally trained at Proby. T J replaced P J on the sensation-wracked tour with Cilla Black, and with miraculous timing, It’s Not Unusual was released simultaneously. Already a winning song, it gained an extra boost. Yet modest Jones does not seem to have fully grasped the significance of the situation.

“Could I take over from Proby?” said Tom uncomfortably. “I would like to – in a few months? I wouldn’t like to say. I think he has a great voice but he overdoes things a bit! When I took over on his tour, I was a bit scared of all the Proby fans at first, but after a while everything was fine.”

And a few weeks later in The Disc magazine, a reader’s letter was published titled “No Proby”.

It was written by Mrs Maria D’Arvigny of Bishop’s Stortford: “Tom Jones may be a likeable, talented lad, but he cannot be considered on the same plane as P J Proby, who has sheer genius. Whoever snatches P J’s crown has got to be able to offer the public more. But that would be some task…..P J for me everytime”.

When Tom Jones first met Elvis Presley at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood in 1965, while Elvis was filming ‘Paradise Hawaiian Style’. they got on very well together.

Elvis told Tom he had a great voice. They then both spoke about P J and Elvis said he had played American football with Proby in about 1960, a few times. Elvis cracked that it was a bit of a drag!

The football matches from 1960 were played in Hollywood at the Beverly Glen Park, usually every Sunday. Elvis was the captain of his own team and now and again they played against singer Rick Nelson’s team,which contained fast running Jett Powers (P J).

Other stars also played such as Sonny Bono and Herb Alpert. Elvis often said; “Watch that boy (P J)….who is that guy anyway?” (El sort of remembered P J from 1955 when P J’s step-sister dated Elvis a few times in Texas).

In July, 1965, Tom said: “Many people have labelled my voice on With These Hands as sounding like a poor man’s P J Proby. Well, maybe there is a little similarity in our voices but only very slightly”.

In 1966, P J remembers doing some taunting of Tom, with the hope that Tom would pick up the banner and carry it along. P J said: “My idea in that feud was to create enough excitement so that Tom and I could do a big show together and pack the place out with respective fans”.

In the Daily Mirror newspaper of February 23,1967, there was a super article entitled ‘Proby V. Jones-it’s fighting talk!’ Two great pics of both singers were shown, with the text starting: ”There’s only one person who doesn’t believe that Tom Jones has streaked ahead of all of the world’s solo singers, and that’s P J Proby, who says about Tom: “I can whip him at any time”.

Other opening text read: “Two years ago (1965), the two singers were vying for popularity. Now they’re feuding again-on record. Proby with Niki Hoeky and Jones with Detroit City.

Meanwhile just read what they’re saying about each other…..Well, here are a few of the things P J said about T J: “I’m still streets ahead of him and he’ll never catch me. When I was last in Britain, I whipped Tom at every point. And Tom now saying that I split my trousers deliberately is something he is going to regret. I swear it was all accidental.”

Tom also spoke about P J, and here are a few of the things he said: “If you really want to know how I feel about Proby – I think he is a nut. I am convinced the trouser-splitting incidents were quite deliberate. Surely he’s not serious about wanting to meet me with fists? I think hair bows suit him better than blows!”

Also in 1967, P J said: “I am greater than Tom stage-prescence-wise and also vocally. I challenged his management to put him on-stage with me but they could not.”

In 1967 the great song-writer Les Reed, with partner Barry Mason, wrote a special song entitled Delilah and they thought it would be ideal for P J to record. Sadly, P J did not really like this song even though he did record it first of all.

Les wanted P J to put this song on his latest vinyl LP album Believe It Or Not, released in 1968, but P J decided not to put this song on his latest LP release back then. So Gordon Mills,the manager of singer Tom Jones back then, kind of grabbed that song, told Tom how to sing it, released it as a single and it was a giant UK hit,reaching No.2 in the hit-parade.

These days, P J actually does like the song Delilah, and in 2008, at his 70th birthday party, P J sang it onstage with Les backing him on piano, and it’s now out on a Proby CD.

Also in 1967, Tom Jones recorded another great Les Reed song I’m Coming Home and that was also another big UK hit for him and also reached No.2. P J also recorded this song and in the UK it was part of his LP Believe It Or Not produced by Les. P J also had it released in a few other countries as a single.