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Tom Jones: it is unusual. 19 things you didn't know about Tom.

26 June 2015

Sean Smith, author of Tom Jones: The Life, reveals 19 little-known facts about the pop legend and The Voice judge.

1.) His breakthrough hit It’s Not Unusual wasn’t written for him. His manager Gordon Mills wanted Sandie Shaw to perform the song but her agent turned it down. Tom had sung the demo but pleaded with them to give him the chance to record it.

2.) The Welsh singer, whose songs also include Delilah and What’s New Pussycat?, was first thrown a pair of knickers by a woman in the audience at the Copacabana Club, New York, in 1967. He grew to dislike it, thinking it deflected attention from his voice.

3.) If his mother and father, Freda and Thomas, had a row and were not speaking, young Tom would be sent to wash the coal dust and grime from his father Thomas’s back as he washed in the old tin bath after a tiring day down the mine.

4.) When It’s Not Unusual was released, the first press statement said Tom was 22, single and a miner. In reality, he was 24, had a wife called Melinda, and a young son, Mark, and the nearest he had been to the mines was, of course, washing his dad’s back.

5.) Tom was just 16 when Melinda gave birth to Mark. He didn’t go to the maternity hospital with her because he was on night shift at a local factory where he was an apprentice glove cutter.

6.) The first time Burt Bacharach played Tom What’s New Pussycat? he thought it was a joke. It’s his least favourite of all his famous songs, because, he says, ‘It’s just not me.’

7.) Tom was never in the school choir in his home village of Treforest, Pontypridd, South Wales, despite being the best singer. He preferred to go solo, even pretending he was sick when his friends called round to take him carol singing. When they had gone, he would slip out to perform alone: ‘I made more money singing by myself,’ he said.

8.) His famous hand gestures were devised as code for the band so that they were always in perfect synch when they performed. 

9.) He never forgot the advice of his Uncle George, who told him, ‘Let people see what you are singing about.’ From his earliest concerts, Tom would pick out a young woman in the audience and sing one of his greatest love songs directly to her as if she were the only girl in the room.

10.) Soon after his 12th birthday, Tom complained of being very tired with no energy. An X-ray revealed he had tuberculosis and, as a result, he was confined to his bedroom for two years.

11.) Tom’s favourite performer was Jerry Lee Lewis and he saw his hero in concert in Cardiff. After the show, he spotted Jerry Lee leaving in a limo so jumped into a taxi and followed him. At a traffic light, he jumped out and asked for an autograph.

12.) Tom’s least favourite singer was Cliff Richard and he hated having to sing The Young Ones at the local dance halls around Pontypridd, even though his band, The Senators, loved playing it.

13.) Tom hated his misshapen nose, which had been broken many times in fights when he was a Teddy Boy. Eventually, he persuaded his manager to let him have it fixed in an operation that was officially to ‘repair some nasal cartilage’. He had regular cosmetic surgery for the next 40 years.

14.) Songwriters Les Reed and Barry Mason originally wrote Delilah for Tom’s sixties rival PJ Proby. The Texan, however, loathed the song so they ended up giving it to Tom instead. 

15.) Tom didn’t enjoy 100% seduction rate with famous women. Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Dionne Warwick and Darlene Love all managed to resist his charms.

16.) He was offered the lead role in the racy movie The Stud, opposite Joan Collins, but turned it down because there were too many F-words in the script and he didn’t want his mother to hear such swearing.

17.) Tom’s best friend throughout his life was Dai Perry who grew up in the same street in Treforest. Whenever they met up, Tom would give his pal an envelope containing £500 in cash.

18.) When Dai died, Tom turned up at the chapel of rest in Treforest to see the open coffin and say goodbye. When he stepped out of his people carrier, the staff nearly choked on their sandwiches.

19.) Tom’s acclaimed 2010 album Praise & Blame was slated by an executive at his record label, who thought it sounded like a collection of hymns. ‘Is this a sick joke?’ he asked. 

Tom Jones: The Life by Sean Smith is out now (HarperCollins, £18.99) 

For news about Tom, visit


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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