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Tom Jones International » Back In The Day

Tom Jones International

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Back In The Day

Tom Jones fans are often not only Tom’s fans. They are also fans – sometimes friends — of the people onstage with Tom and they frequently come to know those who work and travel with him. Here we’ll take a look at some of the people who’ve been with Tom at times over the last 40 years. If you have any memories and/or photos to add, please send them to us.

In the Beginning, There Was Gordon Mills…


It could be argued that if there were no Gordon Mills there would be no Tom Jones as we know him today.

Born in 1935, Gordon began in music as an award-winning harmonica player. In 1958 he joined two others to form The Viscounts, a group that met with some success in the UK, charting a hit with Who Put the Bomp.

gordon, john moran tom 1983 pontyFinding success as a songwriter, he left performing and, as most of Tom’s fans know, he saw Tom in in Wales and managed him to superstardom. He later managed Englebert and discovered and managed Gilbert O’Sullivan.

Gordon’s life and career — particularly his time with Tom — is detailed on a tribute website. The site contains some discrepancies in songwriting attributions and, perhaps, a bit of revisionist history, but there is no question that Gordon Mills was clearly key in shaping Tom’s career. There’s great video and music on the site.

Gordon died suddenly in July 1986 and, since then, as you probably know, Tom’s career has been smartly managed by Mark Woodward, Tom’s son. It was Mark who (with Tom’s help, of course) who kept Tom relevant and cool.

PHOTO AT RIGHT: In 1983, Tom (alighting from the hydroplane in the rear of the photo), Gordon (in white slacks, front left) and Tom’s then-PR person John Moran (next to Gordon) arrived in Pontypridd. Thanks to Nancy Rosas for the photo.

…And, Then, Lloyd Greenfield.

with lloyd with lloyd w'buryroman greenfield

When Tom first came to the USA in 1965 to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show Gordon Mills arranged for New York City attorney Lloyd Greenfield to represent Tom in the US.

Soon Lloyd was travelling with Tom and became well-known (and well-liked) by the fans. In addition to his other duties, it was Lloyd who arranged backstage visits for the fans. Lloyd served as Tom’s management representative and liaison when Mills was out of the country — much as Sandy Battaglia does today.

He was with Tom for 35 years until his retirement in 1997. He died in 1999 and fans still remember him fondly.

(Photo top left: Tom and Lloyd in Valley Forge, PA, in 1975 perusing a newspaper a fan brought to Tom from Ponty. When Tom was with fans, Lloyd was there, too. In the photo bottom left, they are outside Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in the early 90s while Tom signs autographs. The black and white picture is of Lloyd and comic Freddie Roman who opened for Tom in the 1970s.Thanks to Nancy for the photos of Tom and Lloyd and of Lloyd and Freddie Roman. on left; Thanks to Vince for the one of Tom at Westbury.

He Wrote the Songs….and Arranged…and Conducted….and Played Piano…les reed

Les Reed, OBE, was — pardon the pun — instrumental in Tom’s career as composer, conductor, arranger and, sometimes, pianist, on Tom’s early recordings. These include Green Green Grass of Home, Delilah, It’s Not Unusual, Daughter of Darkness, I’m Coming Home and With These Hands, among others for Tom, as well as The Last Waltz, There’s a Kind of Hush and Les Bicyclettes de Belsize and all of the hits for the Dave Clark Five.

les reed and tom

In 2002, Les was honored by BMI (Broadcast Music Inc. is an American performing rights organization that represents more than 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music) with the Million-Air Award to signify that It’s Not Unusual had been played more than three million times on radio or television in the United States alone — the equivalent of approximately 17 years of continuous airplay. At the awards ceremony in London, he talked about the song and about Tom Jones.

Reed co-wrote the music and lyrics for Beautiful and Damned, a musical version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald semi-autobiographical book that tells the story of the author’s marriage to Zelda Sayre. The show had a successful limited run in London and will open in November in Alabama, the state where Zelda was born.

Les Reed celebrated his 70th birthday last summer and he is still very active on the music scene, composing and restarting his Chapter One Record company. Check out his website.

There you’ll learn — among other things — that Tom was not the only person to chart with Delilah. Peter Alexander’s version hit #1 in Germany in 1969. Tom’s version hit #2 in the UK and #15 in the US in 1968. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s 1975 cover reached #15 in the UK.

A Bit of Trivia 1

And, speaking of Les Reed’s work, when Tom appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to sing Delilah, the censors made him change the words to the song. No surprise from the show that only photographed Elvis from the waist up. What is surprising is the change they asked for.

They didn’t seem to mind “I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.” Killing a woman was, apparently, OK. The change was to “At break of day when that man drove away I was waiting.”

Apparently it’s all right to murder a woman, but it’s not all right for a woman to spend the night with a man to whom she is not married.

Go figure.

Back In the Day: The People Fans Knew Who Worked With Tom

Big Jim Sullivan

big jimFrom 1969 to late in 1974, Big Jim Sullivan was Tom’s guitar player. A legendary musician, Englishman Big Jim is exceedingly accomplished on his own and also played sessions with the likes of Eddie Cochran. His work can be heard on more than 1,000 chart hits, including records by P.J. Proby, Billy Fury, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey (on Goldfinger), Sandi Shaw…….the list just goes on and on.

Big Jim’s website tells his full story. He writes:

big jim niagara falls

“I got on well with Tom. That’s why I’m throwing him over the Niagara Falls. Don’t worry Tom fans, it was all put on for the photograph.

“Still the memories from those days are with me until I die. I think I had more experience of life in the five years working with Tom than I did all the rest of my life put together.

“The problem was none of it was to do with music.

“I will put it all down in a book one day but I think one of us — or even both of us — should be dead. Neither of us would like to sue the other but it could end up like that.

“Tom is a great guy and lives for the road. He has such a disciplined lifestyle and keeps himself very fit. I don’t think he has many intellectual pursuits, but he leads a very full life. (Chuckle)

“I do think that Tom would have been one of the greatest operatic singers that ever lived if he had classical training. I have never heard such a powerful and tuneful voice in my life as a musician. When we rehearsed you could hear his voice over the top of the full orchestra. His pitch was total on every note and his feel for time and phrasing was impeccable. I know musicians from all styles had great respect for Tom. I have heard him sing the blues with a voice like Howlin Wolf and BB King put together. The man is a total natural and very few people have this kind of talent.

“I only left Tom because my own way in life was not compatible with the life on the road.”

So many fans still smile at the onstage interplay between Tom and Big Jim. It was great.

with big jim, dizzy gillespie Big Jim, Dizzy Gillespie and Tom.

A Bit of Trivia 2

Did you know that Elton John (then called Reg Dwight) sang backup at the 1970 recording session for Daughter of Darkness? Over the years, other session musicians included Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones who later formed Led Zepplin?

The Blossoms

the blossoms

Beginning in 1971 and continuing for 21 years, The Blossoms were Tom’s backup singers. At the time thie group was made up of Darlene Love, Jeannie King and Fanita James and they’d known success on their own.

Before joining Tom, The Blossoms had backed Elvis, Sam Cooke, Duane Eddy, Paul Anka, Buck Owens, Bobby Darin and recorded with the legendary Phil Spector. Their records were released under several different group names, leading one writer to call The Blossoms “the premier West Coast hit vocal group that the public never knew.” A prime example of this is their recording of He’s A Rebel. They sang it, but when it was released they were called The Crystals. They had also been regulars on the TV show Shindig! and had backed Elvis.

With Tom they mostly sang back-up for his live shows but, on occasion, did sing on his recordings (notably doing so on The Body and Soul of Tom Jones in 1973.)

The Blossoms: Jeannie King (front), Cynthia Woodard (back left), Fanita James.

After Love left in the 80s, Cynthia Woodard came on board. Following Jeannie King’s death in 1983 there were four singers who succeeded her, although none of them could truly replace her. The Blossoms finally left Tom’s shows in 1992 when his career went in a new direction.

darlene love

Of all of the singers who worked with the Blossoms over the years, Darlene Love is the one with the longest-running career. Living in Los Angeles, Love joined the Blossoms in 1957 and, without success, they recorded as a quartet for Capitol Records from 1958 and 1960, and then as a trio for Challenge and Okeh records. They also did backup singing in Los Angeles, supporting Bobby Boris Pickett (Monster Mash), James Darren (Goodbye Cruel World), Bobby Day (Rockin’ Robin) and many others.

Love was brought to Phil Spector’s attention by his partner Lester Sill when he was looking for a lead singer for He’s a Rebel. which was to be released under the Crystals; name. When Darlene was asked if she knew about this she said “So what? The man just paid me triple scale.” She figured that it was a cute song, but it was probably going nowhere She was wrong and she continued to record with Spector, working with Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans and had some hits under her own name. Over the years, Love toured with Elvis Presley, sang back-up for Aretha Franklin and, of course, with Tom Jones. Today, she’s thriving on Broadway, playing Motormouth Maybelle, the Baltimore DJ, in Hairspray.

She has some good stories of her time on the road as part of Tom’s act in her book, My Name Is Love

Johnnie Spence

johnnie spence

In 1969 Johnnie Spence became Tom’s musical director, continuing a pattern that has been constant throughout his career. That is, Tom Jones has always, and consistently, worked with the best musicians and Spence was undeniably one of the best of his time.

The Johnnie Spence Big Band had been a staple on the British music scene for several years before he joined Tom and he was a well-known composer and arranger in his own right. In 1962 Spence had a chart hit with The Theme From Dr. Kildare (on which Big Jim Sullivan played) and he was arranger and/or conductor for artists including Shirley Bassey and Ella Fitzgerald. He scored the original two-hour pilot of the 1970s CBS series The Amazing Spiderman.

Spence was still working with Tom when, on August 15, 1977, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Tom was a pallbearer at his funeral.

Thanks to Nancy for this 1976 photo of Spence take n at Baltimore Washington Airport.

A Bit of Trivia 3

Did you know that the original lyric of Sexbomb said “Sexbomb, sexbomb, I’M YOUR sexbomb?” Donna Woodward, Tom’s daughter-in-law and publicity manager, suggested a change to “YOU’RE MY sexbomb” so the level of egotism in the lyric would be less. Or, the level of modesty, greater.

From the Beginning: A Look Back at the Band and Some Early Photos

with mike morgan

(Michael Morgan with Tom in July 1982)

Nathalie Lanoir, an avid TJ fan from France, was kind enough to share her research on Tom’s musicians and singers over the years. Since this was originally posted, corrections and additional information has been added by others. Please continue to send us information and photos as they are deeply appreciated and we like to have the most accurate information possible.

As Nathalie and others who contacted us noted, it’s been only relatively recently that band members have gotten their due in the TJ tourbooks, so it is especially difficult to reconstruct the band make-up from early days.

Until 1967, The Squires were touring with Tom (Vernon Mills at the bass, Chris Slade — who would later play with Manfred Mann and AC/DC — at the drums, Vic Cooper at the keyboards and Bill Parkinson at the guitar) with an orchestra. Musical director was Johnny Harris until Johnny Spence took over in 1969, with his own orchestra. First mention of The Blossoms as backup vocals I found was in 1972. Johhny Spence passed away in 1977 (a few days after Elvis died).

rostill smallJohn Rostill (right) was with Tom from 1970 to 1972. The bassist found great success with The Shadows and, when they broke up, he joined Tom’s outstanding band. A terrific musical career was predicted for him had he not died at 31 in an accident in 1973. Photo from Nancy.

morgan jones small Mike Morgan, on the right in this photo, was Tom’s MD as noted elsewhere. He is seen here with Alan Jones (no relation) who, like John Rostill, was with The Shadows. Jones took John Rostill’s place in the band for three years. Though sidelned for awhile by a severe accident in 1988, he continues to play today. A bit of trivia about Alan Jones: While playing with Tom his contract forced him to decline an invitation to join Elvis’ band.

The next band mentioned was in 1983:

marty harris flipped

Musical director: Marty Harris (above in November 1981)

Backup singers: The Blossoms

bill bass Bass: William Von Ravensburgh (here in July 1981)

barry  morgan july 1982

Drums: Barry Morgan (above in July 1981)

Percussion: Bobby Torres Guitars: Michael Morgan Keyboards: Robert Wooley Trombones: Bill Stappleton Trumpet: Gregory Wing Saxophones: Stevie Rominelli and James Nuzzo

In 1987 some changes:

mike morgan

Musical director (and guitars): Michael Morgan (above, July 1983)

Bass, drums, backup singers, trumpet and percussion: same people Guitars: Steve Ezzo Keyboards: Andy Michlin Trombone: Brian Matson Saxophones: Peter Gordon and Marl Hollingsworth

In 1992 Brian Monroney (below with Tom) joined the band as a guitarist.

A brand new band was put together in the UK after Tom’s show The Right Time aired in 1992. (It was later shown on VH1 in the US.)tj brian This band did most of the touring in the UK and Europe in the early to mid-1990s. Keith Airey replaced Tim Renwick from the band on the TV show. Graham Ward replaced Ian Thomas around this time — then replaced David Zarlenga as the drummer for the US band in May 1996 when Brian Monroney (left, with Tom in the mid-90s) became musical director.

That fall the US band, with Graham on drums, played Tom’s UK tour, but the British Band continued to do other overseas dates occasionally through up until 1998 or so.

Musical director and bass guitar: Steve Pearce Backup vocals: Ian Harrison, Zeita Massiah and Aileen McLaughlin Drums: Ian Thomas Percussion: Jody Linscott Guitars: Keith Airey Keyboards: Pete Adams Trombone: Neil Sidwell Trumpet: Simon Gardner Saxophone: Dave Bishop

That fall the US band, with Graham on drums, played Tom’s UK tour…but the British Band continued to do other overseas dates occasionally through up until 1998 or so.

The US band from the beginning of 1993: Musical director and drums: David Zarlenga Backup vocals: Sharon Hendrix, Darelle Holden and Christi Lynn Black Bass: Tom Tucciarone Percussion: varied between Melena Francis, quickly switched to Gary Gardner, then again to Norman Arnold, who played percussion with TJ for about 2 1/2 years. Guitar: Brian Monroney Keyboards: Wally Minko Trombone: Art Velasco Trumpet: Dan Fornero Saxophone: Glenn Berger

From 1994 to 1997, Steve Spence played bass.

For awhile there were overlapping US-based bands and UK bands used in overseas touring. Since about 1999 the US band has traveled with Tom worldwide, occasionally supplemented by other musicians.

For the next few years, there were changes in the band.

Sal Rodriguez was percussionist for about a year, 1995-1996, until percussion was eliminated from the US band.

At various times during those years, Sal Cracchiolo, Stan Martin, Dan Miller and Danny Falcone all played trumpet.

In 1998, Shem Schroek played bass.

That same year, Frank Strauss joined Tom at keyboards.

In January 1999, Les King, Peter Olstad, Kenny Anderson and (on trombone) joined the band.

Backup vocals, keyboards and saxophone: same people Drums: Graham Ward Percussion: Sal Rodriguez Trombone: Fred Simmons Trumpet: Matt Fronke

2001, Michael Turnbull is playing trombone and Kevin Richardson is playing trumpet with Pete Olstad.

2003, Herman Matthews is in as the drummer, Tony Reynolds replaces Christi Black and Keith Airey is not mentioned anymore, although he does play with the band on some shows.

les king with les king

Les King was Tom’s bass player from 2001 through 2005. Photo left of Les at Chumash Casino, July 2005, courtesy of www.dwightmccann.com. Photo at right was taken at Irving Plaza in New York City, November 2005.

In 2005, Michael Mennell takes Les King’s place on bass.

peters choiceWith Tom for nine years, trumpet player Peter Olstad left at the beginning of 2008. He attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston and the University of Northern Colorado in Greely.There he received the Downbeat Jazz Soloist Award for three consecutive years. After college Pete worked as a freelance musician in LA and New York (for 10 years in each city). He has played with Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Brian Setzer, Frank Mantooth, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Mel Tormé.

michaelmennellSoft-spoken and pleasant, bass player Michael Mennell joined Tom’s band for the Las Vegas opening of the 2006 tour.In addition to other gigs, the LA-based musician has played with Mick Taylor (formerly with the Rolling Stones) and at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami with Jimmy Buffett’s book show Don’t Stop the Carnival.
jourdan smallWe have photos of a few people but need a bit more information about some of them and dates they were with Tom for all of them.First, the guy holding the horn on the left is Keith Jourdan. The photo was taken at Painter’s Mill in 1976. Keith, obviously, plays the trumpet and toured with Sinatra and Mathis, as well as Tom.

parnello small

To the left is Joe Parnello. He was Tom’s musical director (we think after Johnnie Spence) and was also MD for Frank Sinatra. Pianist and composer, too, Joe was with Tom for awhile, but we’d like to know when.