*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.
Can you believe we are over halfway through Guess Who Performed in Evansville? We have a few singers and bands who held concerts in Evansville. This singer needs no introduction; but, we got your three clues. Do you know who he is?
- He originally started his music career in England until moving to the United States in the late 1960’s.
- He regularly performed in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace and the Flamingo.
- His best-known songs are “Thunderball”, “It’s Not Unusual”, and “What’s New, Pussycat?”.
The correct answer is Tom Jones.
Jones, born as Thomas John Woodward, on June 7, 1940, in Pontypridd, Wales, England. He quit school when he was 15 and began singing when he was a child, performing for family functions and clubs. Jones got married when he was 17, to his first wife, Linda. By 1967, Jones went by the stage name, Tommy Scott, and performed with the Senators, a Welsh band. Shortly after, Jones met his future manager, Gordon Mills. Mills persuaded Jones to join him, change his stage name again (this time to Tom Jones), and sign a record deal with Decca Records. His first single was released in 1964 with no success; however, Jones’ first successful single, “It’s Not Unusual” was released 1965. Jones’ career skyrocketed later that year with the releases of two movie theme songs: “What’s New, Pussycat?” and “Thunderball” in 1965. By 1966, he won a Grammy for Best New Artist. By the end of 1960’s, Jones garnered a bad reputation by the press for his vulgar behavior on stage.
Jones continued performing in England; however, he and his wife, Linda, left England and moved to the United States where he could start performing in Las Vegas in 1971. His reputation continued to grow in Las Vegas: Jones was considered a “ladies’ man” because female fans would throw their underwear to him on stage. He continued to perform in Las Vegas his entire career. Jones’ continued to release albums for three decades, but they weren’t successful. In 1986, Jones suffered a setback: his longtime manager, Gordon Mills passed away; however, his son, Mark, would become his new manager. It wasn’t until 1999 when Jones saw his album, Reload, sell over 5 million (his biggest selling album in his career). As the new century approached, Jones would experience a career renaissance.
Jones released more two more albums in the 2000’s with relative success because his songs went back through his career and life. In 2006, Jones received the highest honor in England: he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. By the 2010’s, he continued working on his music by collaborating with singer Peter Gabriel, guitarist/producer Ethan Jones and numerous famous songwriters such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Leonard Cohen. In 2015, Jones became a voice coach on the hit television show, The Voice UK for two seasons until taking a leave of absence after his wife of fifty-nine years, Linda, passed away in 2016. By 2017, Jones rebounded and continuing touring and returned to The Voice UK.
Jones made a concert stop at Roberts Stadium on May 24, 1979 in front of a packed crowd of 4,115. Due to his popularity amongst the ladies, the Evansville Courier newspaper dubbed his concert as “Ladies Night”; however, Jones cracked a joke at the beginning of his performance by thanking all the gentleman who came up because there were hardly no men there. His songs were a hit with the crowd because fans were constantly screaming for you and giving him gifts such as flowers and handkerchiefs. Jones sang ten songs, including “What’s New, Pussycat?”, “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow”, “Love Me Tonight”, “Delilah”, and “Old Fashioned Love” (Guinn, 1979).
For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville.
Blumberg, N. (2020, April 8). Tom Jones. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Tom-Jones
Guinn, K. (1979, May 25). Tom Jones concert means ladies night at stadium. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/3cmqcP2
Biography. (n.d.). Tom Jones: Biography. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.tomjones.com/bio