BLUESFEST’S HEADLINING CROONER TOM JONES PROVES HE’S STILL GOT IT
Y ou can well imagine the scene, Tom Jones and Mel Gibson kicking back after dinner with a cognac and a cigar.
“We used to catch up over a cigar but (Mel) had to give them up. He used to smoke cigarettes and thought cigars would be better but he was smoking them like cigarettes and his doctor told him to quit.
“He doesn’t drink, of course, so now he can’t enjoy anything,” Jones says of his friend.
Jones is still enjoying most things at 75. He will have the occasional cigar at his Los Angeles home, smoking outside out of respect for his long-suffering wife Linda. The pair married in 1957 and she has remained by her man for almost 60 years despite his publicised flings.
Dismissing the silver locks and thickened middle evidence of his advanced years, little else appears to have changed.
On his latest record Long
Lost Suitcase, his voice is as strong and distinctive as ever.
And his secret? Jones claims it was giving up cigarettes in the late 1960s.
“I had my tonsils out in ’67 and the doctor told me I had to stop smoking cigarettes but if I must smoke, don’t inhale and make it a good one,” he says.
But just when you think his success has been due to limiting bad habits, the Welsh former hellraiser reveals he is being sensible and wants to protect his assets.
“I make sure I get enough sleep, you must drink plenty of water and I use a steamer to keep my throat moist,” he says.
His throat has been parched recently as Jones has chatted up a storm to spruik his album and Over The Top And Back autobiography.
The old-school charmer laughs heartily when asked if he bothered to do a count on the f-bombs littered throughout his recollections.
Jones assumed his expletive-ridden text would be cleaned up before printing. But then it wouldn’t have been a Tom Jones autobiography.
“Welsh people, we swear a lot and so do you Australians,” he says, chuckling. “We are also expert at putting a swear word in the middle of another word for emphasis.
“(The co-author) just wrote it down as I said it so I am glad my mother is not still alive.”
While there is no kiss-ortell in the book, much to the disappointment of everyone except his wife, Jones pulled no punches when discovering the inequalities he observed as his career took off in America.
After the breakout success of his first singles, It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat?, Delilah and Green Green Grass Of Home, Jones was given a chart-topping welcome in America.
He was a pop star who had befriended everyone from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin and had his own TV show, This
Is Tom Jones, in 1969. He was shocked when censors stopped him singing
Passing Strangers with black jazz singer Nancy Wilson.
“I hadn’t experienced anything like that until I went to America in ’65 and I was on a Dick Clark tour,” he says.
“There was a mixture of black and white singers and there were some cities we went into in the south especially, where the white people would get off the bus and get their sandwich at one cafe and the black people in another place.
“Even though it was 1965 and they said there was no segregation but there still was.”
Tom Jones plays the Mojo stage, Bluesfest, Byron Bay, March 28
Tom Jones, who will perform at Bluesfest this month, shows no signs of slowing down at 75.