Our very own Tom Jones

At 65, Tony War­ren still has the abil­ity to send his fe­male au­di­ence into a frenzy.

The Star Malaysia - - OUT & ABOUT - By SONJA MUSTAFFA

J ust like his 70-year-old idol, Sir Tom Jones, Tony War­ren, 65, a.k.a. the Tom Jones of Malaysia, is not ready to bid show busi­ness adieu just yet.

“God will­ing, I’ll be singing for a long time to come. Per­form­ing gives me an adren­a­line rush,” he says when we meet at his cosy home in Bukit Maluri, Kuala Lumpur.

His wife Ce­cilia Weller and my mum, Bar­bara, are lis­ten­ing in on our con­ver­sa­tion. All of them go back a long way. It was mum who ar­ranged this lit­tle re­union af­ter hav­ing lost touch with the War­rens for many years. The two are Taip­ing Con­vent alumni, while War­ren was trained as an English teacher, like mum, at the Malayan Teacher’s Col­lege in Pan­tai Val­ley, Kuala Lumpur.

My mum tracked them down via the tele­phone direc­tory af­ter she spot­ted War­ren pot­ter­ing around in his back­yard from the train. His house borders the train tracks. The War­rens and our fam­ily were also neigh­bours in Rawang where War­ren and mum taught at the same school. She re­calls that War­ren’s son, Andrew, and my brother, Shaz, were play­mates. I was just a babe in arms then.

“He per­formed at the col­lege dances. Live bands and dances were the in-thing in that day and age. I’m a fan of Elvis Pres­ley and Tom Jones, and his ren­di­tion of their songs im­pressed me,” mum says.

While teach­ing, War­ren moon­lighted as a singer. He has re­tired from teach­ing, but not from singing. He says singing has been his pas­sion since he was 17 (he had a band in Ipoh called The So­cialites), but you can’t raise a fam­ily on en­ter­tain­ing alone. Recog­ni­tion came in 1969 af­ter he per­formed at a Hetty Koes En­dang (a pop­u­lar In­done­sian singer then) con­cert in Sta­dium Ne­gara.

“It is a day I’ll never for­get. The sta­dium was packed. My band and I were just one of the sup­port­ing acts, but af­ter I

fin­ished singing Jones’ Green, Green Grass of Home, I Can’t Stop Lov­ing You and I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, I got a stand­ing ova­tion and the em­cee de­clared: “We now have a Tom Jones of KL’.”

“Then I pol­ished up my act and earned the ti­tle Tom Jones of Malaysia. I made my name per­form­ing at the Cop­per Grill in The Weld (on Jalan Raja Chu­lan) in the 80s. I have per­formed in Sin­ga­pore, Jakarta and Cam­bo­dia. YouTube calls me The Best Tom Jones Tribute Artist in Malaysia,” he says proudly.

In­deed War­ren was re­cently in­vited to per­form in Perth, Aus­tralia.

“A tal­ent scout, Wen­dell Par­nell, got wind of me and came to watch one of my Thurs­day night per­for­mances at the Royal Se­lan­gor Club in KL,” says War­ren. “He was blown away, called me to his ta­ble and asked if I would be in­ter­ested in per­form­ing in Aus­tralia.”

In Novem­ber last year, the War­rens were given an all­ex­pense paid trip to West­ern Aus­tralia where War­ren per­formed in a telethon by Chan­nel 7 (the na­tional TV sta­tion) and at the Bur­swood Re­sort and Casino.

“It was just a one-hour show

for the high-rollers, but when I started singing, they stopped play­ing and started singing and dancing along. Even the staff. Af­ter the show, they took pic­tures with me.

“The gen­eral man­ager was so awed he up­graded us to a suite. We stayed for three nights and were treated like roy­alty. The Aus­tralians gave us such a warm re­cep­tion,” he re­calls.

In March this year, War­ren gave a small con­cert in Perth where both the young and old at­tended. He is op­ti­mistic there will be more shows Down Un­der. Mean­time, he is kept busy here too, be­ing hired to per­form at three or four cor­po­rate func­tions a month.

“I’ve done a lot of shows for the Bri­tish and Aus­tralian em­bassies. They re­ally get into it there. They’ll throw their panties at me and I’ll mop up my sweat with them,” War­ren grins.

(Knick­ers of vary­ing colours were thrown at Tom Jones in 1968 af­ter he per­formed at the Copaca­bana in New York. While per­form­ing in Cae­sar’s Palace in Las Ve­gas, he even had room keys thrown at him.)

“One guy even threw his box­ers,” says War­ren’s wife Weller, who claims she is not both­ered by these an­tics. “He is randy on and off stage.”

“Some have even come on stage to dance with me . . . there has been grop­ing, but I ward them off,” says the cheeky War­ren, ex­plain­ing that this is usu­ally the re­ac­tion to Jones’ songs.

Turn­ing se­ri­ous, he says he is dis­ap­pointed that there are a few im­per­son­ators out there us­ing his name — Tony War­ren — to get jobs and fool the pub­lic. He feels his name is be­ing smirched.

“It isn’t easy to em­u­late The Voice. I stud­ied him since Green, Green Grass of Home first came out. I can sing like Elvis and En­gel­bert, but I re­ally took to Jones,” says War­ren, who in an old ar­ti­cle once said that he watched all Jones’ videos, read all the sto­ries writ­ten on him and stud­ied his moves.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween him and Jones, he claimed, was that he could gy­rate fully, while Jones only did it half­way.

To keep fit, War­ren jogs and prac­tises Taek­wondo. For three to four hours a day, neigh­bours will hear him giv­ing his vo­cal cords a workout. Some­times he is joined by his grand­chil­dren, Shaun, five, and Sa­man­tha, two.

“Shaun loves to play the gui­tar, while Sam­Sam gets a kick out of singing: Sex bomb, sex

bomb, you’re a sex bomb . . . That’s one of Jones’ lat­est songs, which I have in­cluded in my reper­toire,” says War­ren.

At one time, there was talk of War­ren — who has three CD com­pi­la­tions of songs by Elvis, En­gel­bert, Jones and oth­ers to his name — find­ing his own voice and putting out a record of songs writ­ten and com­posed by him and son Andrew, who has an events plan­ning com­pany in Ban­dar Sri Da­mansara called E. H. Q. Sdn Bhd, but he was dis­suaded by an old friend, for­mer EMI gen­eral man­ager, Frankie Cheah.

“Frankie said there is no mar­ket for English songs by lo­cal singers. That is sad be­cause we have re­ally good pub singers with good dic­tion. I like Ja­clyn Vic­tor be­cause she has a pow­er­ful voice and is one of our best singers,” says War­ren.

This let-down aside, it’s been a won­der­ful world for War­ren: he has met his idol twice, his pop­u­lar­ity is on the rise and he still has the re­quired sex ap­peal. Not bad for a 65year-old, no?

Tony War­ren per­forms at the Royal Se­lan­gor Club in Dataran Merdeka ev­ery Thurs­day night. To get in touch, call: 012-303 9594 or e-mail: tony­war­ren2010@hot­mail.com.

Left: Tony War­ren, the Tom Jones of Malaysia, is not ready to throw in the towel. He has be­gun to hold shows in Aus­tralia. — SIA HONG KIAU/ The Star

Above: Tony War­ren (left) with a Chan­nel 7 host back­stage. — cap­tured from YouTube

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