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Sir Tom Jones’s husky baritone voice was first recognised when he was six years old – this distinctive talent would set him apart from scores of artists and propel him to international fame. He started out at working men’s clubs in Wales, where he refined his singing and ‘seductive’ dance moves that in later years would lead women to throw underwear at him during performances. The singer celebrates his 80th birthday today and is being celebrated with a number of TV tributes. His impressive career has spanned six decades and allowed him to rub shoulders with some of the most notable crooners of the last century. They included US heart-throb Elvis Presley who recognised similarities between the pair and even gave him tips to further ensure he was a success.
The unforgettable encounter happened in 1965 shortly after Sir Tom Jones had soared to Number 1 in the UK charts with ‘It’s Not Unusual’.
While touring in the US he met Elvis Presley, who he had admired for many years and even admitted to trying to imitate his style in a 2009 Telegraph article.
They quickly struck up a rapport and Sir Tom claimed to have learned from him that “the really successful people were usually the most down-to-earth”.
He said: “It’s the ones who would like to be really successful, but aren’t, who are the real pains in the a***.
“Elvis was so confident, except he wasn’t big-headed with it. He just knew exactly what he liked.”
Around the time they met, Sir Tom had just finished recording an album of “swing standards” and the ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ star advised him it was a bad move.
Elvis told him: “I liked your new record but we don’t do standards. We leave that to people like Frank Sinatra.”
Whereas some would have been insulted by the brutally honest comment the Welsh crooner was flattered, he said: “‘We!’ I couldn’t believe he was including me with him.”
A few weeks after the advice he claimed to have met Frank Sinatra in a bizarre encounter that he swore was “true, hand to God”.
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But in stark contrast the New York-born blues and swing singer gave him contradictory advice.
Sir Tom recalled: “Frank Sinatra said to me, ‘You’re a great standards singer, Tom. You should do more old stuff.’
“And I’m thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, what a position to be in. Frank Sinatra is telling me one thing and Elvis Presley is telling me another.’ Oh, it was, it was unbelievable!”
Sir Tom’s remarkable raspy voice led him to sell over 100million records worldwide, achieve 36 Top 40 hits in the UK and 19 in the US.
He was knighted by the Queen in 2005 for his services to music and currently features as a judge on BBC talent show ‘The Voice’.
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