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Interview With Tom Jones

Aired November 7, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Tom Jones, the sexy singer who's been driving ladies wild for almost 40 years. It's an in-depth and personal hour with a one-of-a-kind entertainer. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tom Jones, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's great pleasure, after all these years, to finally welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Tom Jones, one of the great icons of the latter part of the 20th century. Had his first hit in 1964. That means he's been a major figure on the music scene next year will be 40 years. In commemoration of that, we have a new CD out, "Tom Jones Reloaded: His Greatest Hits."

Finally, it's a great pleasure to welcome you.

TOM JONES, SINGER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: How long have you had the beard thing? I like that.

JONES: This year.

KING: Just added it?

KING: Just added it because when I take time off, you know, if I have a week or two off, I always grow a beard. So I started to shave, and I came down to here and I thought, I wonder what it would look like if I just left a little bit there?

KING: You're going to leave it.

JONES: Yes, I think so. I mean, for now, anyway. You know, you never know.

KING: How do you explain to yourself your -- for want of a better term -- endearing popularity?

JONES: Well, I think it's two things. It's because I have this very strong voice.

KING: And different.

KING: And it's different. Yes. And I like to sing a lot of different kinds of songs. I've never been stuck in one area, you know, that has sort of gone out of fashion.

KING: They can't label you, then. JONES: Right. Exactly. But sometimes that's misleading. You know, they say, What is Tom Jones? Is he a rock singer? Well, he sings rock songs. Is he a country singer? Well, he does sing -- you know. So sometimes that's -- but I think the thing that's kept me going is that I've kept my ears open. I've listened. I keep listening to music all the time. And I like a lot of what I hear. So it's not being stuck in the '60s. Some of the people that I started with, you know, they got lost in the '60s. They're still -- .

KING: And they live in that time.

JONES: Yes, they're still there. But I kept, you know, listening, and I think that's what it is. And the love of it. You know, you still have to have -- you have to love.

KING: You love singing.

JONES: I love to sing.

KING: As much as you always did?

JONES: Oh, definitely. I mean, I've got to say to myself, Don't sing tonight. I mean, if I'm in a club somewhere on a night off and there's a good band playing...

KING: You want to get up.

JONES: Exactly. So I've got to say to -- you know, people say, Tom, you know, please. You got -- you know, you got a week of shows coming or a month of shows coming, so it's, like...

KING: When you first hit -- "It's Not Unusual" was your first hit.

JONES: Jones.

KING: It was No. 1 in Britain, No. 10 in the United States.


KING: And it became kind of a standard, almost. Still played.

JONES: Yes, yes. It was a hit all over.

KING: Do you realize most people thought you were black?

JONES: Yes. When they started playing it on radio in the States, they played it on black radio, so when I was...

KING: Like Presley. Presley also got played on black radio.

JONES: Exactly. So when I was coming over to do an Ed Sullivan show in the early part of '65 -- a man called Lloyd Greenfield (ph) had brought me over -- you know, in New York, and so deejays were calling Lloyd, and they said, you know, When Tom comes over to do "The Ed Sullivan Show," could you bring him up to the station? And Lloyd said, Tom Jones is white.


JONES: And these deejays, you know, black deejays, they said, No, no, no. Whoever is singing this song is not white, you know. He said, He is, believe me. I've met him, you know, and...

KING: Did you always sell well, then, in the black communities, as well?

JONES: Yes, yes.

KING: Because there's an association with...

JONES: Oh, yes. Definitely. I mean, even now black -- you know, black people -- even black kids in Vegas, you know, when I'm going through the casino or something, you know, black kids, say, Hey...

KING: He's one of us.

JONES: ... That's Tom Jones. You know, That's Tom Jones. So it's great to be appreciated with -- because I listened so much to black music when I was growing up, you know, and listened to black singers. So it's great to be appreciated by a black audience.

KING: How did Thomas Woodward pick the name Tom Jones?

JONES: Well, Jones...

KING: From the novel?

JONES: Well, it was sort of partly, because my mother's name, my mother's maiden name was Jones...


JONES: ... because Jones in Wales is like Smith in England -- you know, "Alias Smith and Jones," you know, because they're the most common names.

KING: Very common in the United States.

JONES: Right. Exactly. So I never -- I never used Jones when I was in Wales because it was such a common name. And it was my mother's maiden name. So they wanted that to be in the middle of my name, Thomas Jones Woodward. So we were just looking for, you know, a different kind of name in Wales. So it was, like, Tommy Scott, I was known as, you know, because it was different.

So then when I went to London, there was already a Tommy Scott recording, so my agent said, Well, Jones is in your name. And this movie, "Tom Jones," just came out...

KING: Big hit.

JONES: Yes, in '63 with Albert Finney. So that's when I started to use it.

KING: Wales we know for poets and actors.


KING: Burton.


KING: Do we know many singers from Wales?

JONES: Well, there's an opera singer at the moment called Bryn Terfel, which -- he's a baritone, and he's one of the best, maybe the best baritone in the operatic world today.

KING: But in the pop world it's rare, isn't it?

JONES: In the pop world -- Shirley Bassey.

KING: Oh, yes.

JONES: You know, Shirley is...

KING: What a singer. Jazz.

JONES: Yes. So she's from Cardiff. And now there's Charlotte Church.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) girl. What a voice. Scares you.

JONES: Yes. So there's -- but they're mostly classical singers. You know, they're operatic-type singers.

KING: When did you know you wanted to do this as a life?

JONES: When I was a child because...

KING: Always had a good voice?

JONES: Yes, thank God. I mean, I used to get up in school and sing, and that would attract attention. So all kids love to, you know, attract attention, and that was my strong point, was my voice, rather than sport. You know, a lot of my friends, they were rugby players, you know, or, you know, great athletes. My strong point was my voice, and I knew that at an early age.

KING: And Tom, did the family approve?

JONES: Oh, yes, because in Wales, most people sing anyway. So you're encouraged to sing.

KING: It's a lyrical country?

JONES: Yes. So as a child -- you know, kids are always asking, Oh, come on, come on, give us a song. So some children, they'll stand in the corner and they'll be a little shy. KING: You aren't.



JONES: Apparently, one of my cousins were asked a few years ago, What was different about Tommy, you know, to the rest of my cousins because I've got a lot of cousins, and they all sang. And they said, What was different? Was there anything different about him, thinking that they were going to say something about my voice. And my cousin said, Well, the big difference between Tommy was, when we were asked to sing, you know, we would stand in the corner shyly and we would sing. Tommy would jump on the table, you know?


JONES: So that's what they remembered, more than the way I was sounding, was...

KING: Did you start the typical way, singing in little clubs and the like?

JONES: Yes. Yes, I sang in -- well, first of all, in school. And I sang in chapel. And then, when I left school, I started singing in pubs and clubs.

KING: Now, the Beatles were getting famous then, right?

JONES: Yes. We were -- because John Lennon and myself are the same age. You know, we were both born in 1940.

KING: Oh, yes?

JONES: Yes. So all of us teenagers in the '50s were listening to American music, you know, and being influenced so much by rhythm and blues, blues, gospel, and then, of course, rock-and-roll. So -- and I was one of those kids, you know, and -- but I was living in Wales, moreso than England. But it was the same time.

KING: Same era.

When we come back, multi-platinum singer, pop icon Tom Jones. He's got a new CD, "Tom Jones Reloaded." I love the title. We'll come back and talk about his incredible career right after this.


KING: His father was a coal miner, his mother a homemaker. She just died, huh?

JONES: Yes, just died this year.

KING: And you had tuberculosis?

JONES: Yes. KING: Any fear of what -- did you come close to dying?

JONES: No, they caught it early. It was in the '50s, and a lot of my -- a lot of the kids in school had it. It was, like, a bit of an epidemic all around.

KING: Were you dyslexic?

JONES: Yes. Still am.

KING: Still have it.


KING: So you see the "S" reversed?

JONES: Not so much. I read fine. It's -- but I can't retain. You know, when I go to write, the words are not there. I have to really...

KING: That had to affect you as a student.

JONES: It did. It affected -- because it affects all your lessons, you know, everything -- you have to write everything down. So it's -- reading is no problem with me, but still now, I'll start a word in the middle.

KING: Really?

JONES: Yes. And then I think, My God, I -- so I've got to sort of...

KING: So you might sign an autograph with M O Tom (ph).



JONES: I've got to backtrack to it, to put (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: OK. The concept of early marriage -- you're still married to the same woman, right?


KING: You got married at 17?

JONES: At 16.

KING: So you've been married...

JONES: What is that...

KING: For 47 years.

JONES: Yes, it's... KING: Yes, 16, and you're 63, right?

JONES: Exactly. Yes.

KING: Explain how you do that, how -- how that came -- how? How?


KING: I mean, with all your attention from ladies, the influences in your life, the appeal you've had all over the world...


KING: ... how you were able to retain a sane, normal married life.

JONES: Well, I think...

KING: Assuming you did.

JONES: Well, yes.


JONES: I think teenage love is the purest love of all. I think when kids -- when they're going through puberty, you know, when you become teenagers, you're really passionate. I was, anyway. And so was my wife. We were like -- you know, it was like -- you know, like that. And -- but I -- and we were lucky enough to fall in love because I think a lot of teenagers, of course, they fall in lust, you know, because...

KING: Or puppy love.

JONES: Yes, yes. And the hormones are going crazy. So -- but we were lucky enough to -- you know, to fall in love. And that love just -- just kept going.

KING: And still goes?

JONES: Oh, yes. I mean, it was strained a few times, you know, because of show business. But she -- I never wanted to leave my wife, and she never wanted to leave me.

KING: How many children?

JONES: One son, and I've got two grandchildren. My grandkids are grown up now.

KING: How old's your boy?

JONES: My son is -- how old is he? He's 46.

KING: Wow.

JONES: And my grandson is 20, and my granddaughter's 16.


KING: Time goes too fast.

JONES: It's unbelievable!

KING: Did your wife ever mind the fact that so many women were attracted to you and the way you did your act, with all the moves? Did that ever bother her?

JONES: It didn't -- it didn't bother her, but she used to get nervous. You know, she would come and see the show and get nervous for me, you know, with the singing and the attention. She didn't really -- she didn't mind me getting it, but she didn't really want to see it.


JONES: You know, she didn't want to sit in the audience.

KING: In the middle of the crowd. How did you react to it, like, the first time it happened? I remember Sinatra told me, the first time it happened with bobby soxers, he thought he'd faint.

JONES: Yes. Well, it was -- I mean, singing from a child, you get -- you're getting attention from the opposite sex anyway, even in school, but on a much smaller...

KING: But not screaming and pandemonium and throwing things.

JONES: No. No. Exactly. That's when you get your first hit record. And when "It's Not Unusual" first came out at the end of '64, I was in a -- I was doing a tour and I was in a pub because we did two shows a night then in theaters, you know, in Britain. And I went to this pub with a lot of other rock groups because it was, like, a package tour. And I didn't realize that "It's Not Unusual" was climbing the charts as fast as it was. So I was just in the pub, having a pint with the -- you know, pint of beer with these other rock groups that had hit records. And there were kids outside the pub, you know, screaming and carrying on. So I thought, Well, I better get back to the theater now for the second show, thinking that these girls were screaming after these...

KING: For the other guys.

JONES: For the -- yes. Exactly. And I walked straight into a crowd of kids, not knowing, and it was, like, they were tearing my clothes off and...

KING: Were you shocked?

JONES: Yes! I mean, I was frightened, to begin with because there were so many and you're going to, you know, get trampled. So the police had to get hold of me and get me to the theater. And I thought, This is it. You know, This is it. This is going to be... KING: Did you always have, then, that movements, the gyrations and the like? Was that natural to you?


KING: That's not something you sat down and said, I'm going to do this.

JONES: No. No.

KING: It comes to you as you perform.

JONES: Yes. Even when I was a kid. And I saw -- the first recollection that I have of it, really, was when I saw the Jolson pictures that Larry Parks (ph) did.

KING: Yes, he did that. Al did that.

JONES: Exactly. So that was the -- the big influence on me. You know, when Al Jolson had that ramp going down the theater, he wanted to get as close to the people as possible. And you know...

KING: You ain't seen nothing yet.

JONES: Exactly. So that was the first big influence on me. And then watching people like Frankie Lane, you know, people that had movement, and Billy Daniels, you know, when I watched in the movies...

KING: And of course, Presley, right?

JONES: And then, you know, in the '50s, Elvis Presley.

KING: What impact did he have on you?

JONES: He had a big impact on me. I was already singing. You know, I was already doing it, but he sort of reassured me that this kind of thing can be done, you know, that you can get up there and express yourself with movements, as well as with, you know, your vocal...

KING: And it's part of you, right?

JONES: Exactly.

KING: You can't take that away from you. I'll bet you move when you record.

JONES: Yes. So it's a -- and it relaxes you, as well because when you first get up on the microphone, you grab the mike with both hands, you know, when you're a kid, and you're there...

KING: Scared.

JONES: Yes, you're scared and you're just getting the sound out. So you think, God, if I could just, you know, loosen up, and then I would be -- it would be a lot easier and more natural. So that's what I did.

KING: Did you get to know Presley?


KING: What was he like?

JONES: He was a great guy. You know, he was a...

KING: Never heard a bad thing about him.

JONES: No. There was nothing really bad about him. You know, he was a honest person. I think because he became so big, you know, so young, it had an effect on him that he didn't live a normal...

KING: Got sheltered.


KING: Too much too soon.

JONES: Yes. But I think he liked that because he wouldn't have done it so much otherwise because he had all those guys around him, you know, and he didn't really want to go to restaurants.

KING: Yes.

JONES: You know, he never really learned about -- but I don't know whether he wanted to.

KING: Jackie Gleason told him he should go to restaurants. You're going to be a lonely life, if you don't go out.

JONES: Well, there you go. But you know, he did that.

KING: Did you ever think of hiding?

JONES: No. Only when I had my TV show, for instance, you know, when that -- in the late '60s. Then it was more difficult to get...

KING: Go public.

JONES: ... to get around, yes.

KING: Tom Jones is our guest, the multi-platinum singer. The album, the CD, "Tom Jones Reloaded: His Greatest Hits." It includes "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat?" "Delilah," "Kiss," "She's a Lady," "Thunderball," "Baby It's Cold Outside" -- I love that song -- "The Green Green Grass of Home," one of the great songs ever.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with Tom Jones, his first visit to this program, but hopefully, will not be his last. And it's a great pleasure to welcome him to this scene.

Do you live in LA?


KING: You do?

JONES: Yes. I moved here in 1976.

KING: Are you an American citizen, or are you still a citizen of Wales?

JONES: I'm still a British...

KING: Subject.

JONES: ... a British subject.

KING: And you got the Order of the British Empire, did you not?


KING: What's it called, OBE?

JONES: OBE, yes.

KING: Do they dub you or something?

JONES: No. You just go in front of the queen, and she takes the medal and she puts, you know, puts it on you.

KING: Now, next thing is sir, right?

JONES: Hopefully.

KING: Yes. Not bad. Well, you deserve it. If I can help, give me a call.



KING: I'll be happy to call the queen. We're really getting carried away. Your first hit -- your first song was not a hit, right?

JONES: Right. It was called...

KING: What was it?.

JONES: "Chills and Fever," because when I was playing in the clubs and the pubs, I was doing a lot of rock tunes, you know, in the '50s. So the guy that recorded me -- Peter Sullivan (ph), his name was -- he thought this is the way to -- you know, to get me away. So there was a song called "Chills and Fever."

KING: Do you remember it? JONES: Yes. Oh, yes. So it was -- it's a rock tune, you know, and -- but it...

KING: You ever sing it?

JONES: Yes, when I first did it. It was a hit in Australia, funnily enough, so...


JONES: So sometimes, you know, when I -- when I...

KING: How did you get "It's Not Unusual"?

JONES: It was written by my manager at that time, called Gordon Mills. His name was Gordon Mills.

KING: He was a songwriter?

JONES: Yes, a performer, songwriter, you know, and -- so he wrote this song for a girl called Sandy Shore (ph), who was a British...

KING: I remember that name.

JONES: ... singer. And she'd had about two or three No. 1s, and...

KING: Did you like it right away?

JONES: Well, I did the demo on it. You know...


JONES: So they said...

KING: So that other singers could listen and see if they want to record it.

JONES: Exactly. So Gordon said, Tom could you do this song? He was singing it to me in the car as we were going to the studio. So when I recorded it, when I did the demo, the demonstration disk, and I listened to it back, I said, Gordon, this is it. And he said, No, it's a pop song. It's not strong enough. It's not -- you know, you're a rock singer. And I said, Look, this is a hit song. I mean, I could tell. So they said, OK, if we're going to do it, we have to beef it up or something because it was a much milder version when we...

KING: Oh, really?

JONES: Yes, more like a sort of a...

KING: Ballad?

JONES: ... "Brazil 66" type thing. KING: Oh, oh. I...


JONES: You know, like that, and...

KING: Different tempo.

JONES: Yes. So Peter Sullivan said, If we're going to do it, we have to hit hard with it.

KING: Boy, did you!

JONES: So we put brass, you know, on the -- you know, because it was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beat. And then it fit it.

KING: And that, of course, the springboard for you, right?

JONES: Oh, yes.

KING: Did that bring you to the States?


KING: That record.

JONES: That record. Right away. It came out at the beginning of '65, and I was on "The Ed Sullivan Show," you know, in that spring.

KING: And was "What's New Pussycat" second?


KING: How did they get you to do the -- that was a song for a movie.

JONES: Yes, for a...

KING: Burt Bacharach wrote it.

JONES: Yes, for a Woody Allen film. So Burt Bacharach wanted me to do it.

KING: Just from "It's Not Unusual."

JONES: Yes. And I did -- it was -- the flip side of "It's Not Unusual" was a Burt Bacharach song called "To Wait for Love Is Just to Waste Your Life Away." So I don't know what -- which one -- but he knew that I had this big voice. So he said, We need you to do this song, you know, to give it some strength because it's a crazy song for a crazy film. So we need a song to sort of, you know, make it burst. So...

KING: Did you like the song right away?


JONES: Burt was an a flat in London at the time because he was doing the music for the film. And he was with Angie Dickinson at time. So I was at his flat, you know, and this was 1965. It was my first year. And my manager was with me, and the music publisher was there. And Burt said, OK. So he sits at the piano. And you know, Burt is not the greatest singer in the world, you know, I mean...

GRACE: No. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) light and fluffy sound...


JONES: And the song was so different. So Burt's started -- and I'm thinking, What the hell is this?


JONES: You know. And then he goes, "What's New Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa...


KING: That's the way he sounds!

JONES: And I thought, Jeez. And I said -- so he finished. He said, So? I said, That's not the song, is it?


JONES: I said, You're putting me on, right? You're pulling my leg. So my manager went white, you know, the music publisher, and all the blood drained out, you know, because there's Burt Bacharach, you know, singing this song to me, and I'm not -- I'm not getting it.

KING: So what convinced you to do it?

JONES: Well, he said, I'll demo it tomorrow, you know, because I understand that the tune is not an ordinary kind of song. You know, it's different from anything that I ever heard before.

KING: Yes.

JONES: So he said, I'll demo it, and then you listen to it. But I wasn't convinced, you know, until I actually got in the studio with him, and he said, Well, try it. And we did it, and then I heard it back, and then I got it.

KING: What was it like when you saw it on the movie screen and heard it?

JONES: Oh, fantastic! I mean, to be -- you know, to have a type of song in a movie, in a Woody Allen movie...


JONES: Oh! Unbelievable, you know.

KING: Tom Jones is our guest. Hope you're enjoying this as much as I am. We'll be back with more after this.





KING: Our special guest tonight is Tom Jones. And we're commemorating "Tom Jones Reloaded," his greatest hits. It's available everywhere. Just came out October 4. Certainly a great pleasure to have him for the first time ever on this show.

You opened for the Rolling Stones?

JONES: Yes. That was in 1964. I was singing in the club in London. When I first went to London, they put me in this club in Oxford Street and the club -- the people that used to come into the club were, like, in their 20s, you know, 20-something. And they booked the rolling stones there. And they had just -- you know, they had just hit. So -- so they were there in this club, and I was supporting them because I was the...

KING: Was it tough to be an opening act?

JONES: Well it...

KING: The crowd's waiting for them, right?

JONES: Exactly, and they were all kids. But, I mean, like, really young teenagers -- you know, I mean, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. You know, around there. And I was only in my 20s anyway. But I'm -- I come on the stage, you know.

KING: Who is this?

JONES: Yes. So -- and I'm doing, like, Jerry Lee Lewis songs and Little Richard. You know, and Rock Jones, you know -- which Mick Jagger was doing, as well. But I'm like, Come on there. And these little girls in the front were, like, you know, Mommy. Like, they were calling for, you know, and, I mean, like I was...

KING: Did you get along with the Stones?

JONES: Oh yes.

KING: Yes?

JONES: So then Mick Jagger came out and did basically the same thing but, you know, his delivery was slightly different to mine, so...

KING: Then you got the ABC TV show, right? You started to really climb. "This Is Tom Jones," right?


KING: And Johnny Cash was a guest on your show.




KING: Sinatra even warned you -- what? -- about your voice?


KING: What did he tell you?

JONES: He told that I was giving too much. He said, You're projecting too much. Your voice cannot hold out like that.

KING: So what did you do?

JONES: I didn't -- I didn't do anything. I just kept doing it. I said, Frank, this is the only way that I sing. You know, I can't really do it any other way. He said, Well, I can show you how to give less, you know, but get as much effect.

KING: You had a singing lesson from Frank Sinatra?

JONES: Well, No, I never did. He said, Come to Palm Springs and I'll show you some, you know...

KING: You didn't do it?

JONES: No. I said, Frank, you know, I love the way you sing. You know, I said, Frank, you know, you -- you know, you're the master of what you do. But I have to sing the way I feel.




KING: Did your voice hold up? Is it still as strong as ever?

JONES: Yes, thank God. but I do -- from time to time, I have had polyps...

KING: Oh, you have?

JONES: ...on my vocal chords. Yes. But there's a man in Los Angeles called Ed Kanter (ph). He knows my throat doctor.

KING: He removes them?

JONES: He removes them any time that...

KING: You ever get scared that -- you know, like, a Julie Andrews thing is going to happen to you?

JONES: Yes. Well, Ed Kanter is -- you know, is brilliant.

So when I first had them done, I was scared, you know, but he said, I've never had any failures. And, you know, he said, there's no guarantee, but...

KING: What did all this success now -- throw it upon you, television, hit records, concerts, do to you?

JONES: It -- well, it just made me happy. You know? It gave me -- I always had the confidence. You know?

KING: The financial security.

JONES: Oh, definitely. You know, that's a great thing. You know, especially because I was married with a young son, you know and...

KING: But I mean, fame. What did that do?

JONES: It just -- it was a wonderful feeling.

KING: You loved it.

JONES: Oh, yes. And I knew that when I was a kid, I thought, if I could sing, you know, for a living, and not have to do a job of work that I don't like, which a lot of people -- most people...

KING: Ninety-five percent.

JONES: Exactly. To survive they have to go and do a job of work,. And then when they go home, they do something which is their hobby that they really like.

Well, singing was my hobby. And I thought if I could do this, you know, that would be it. What could -- how could I complain about anything after that? And that's what happened. And it turned out the way I thought it would, you know.

KING: So you've enjoyed all of this?

JONES: Oh, definitely.

KING: The whole ride?

JONES: Yes. There's no -- I mean, the little -- sometimes -- oh, I remember one time -- just a short story -- when I was doing my TV shows and I did a lot of them from London. And I had this big rolls Royce Phantom 6, you know, with my driver, you know. And I had been drinking the night before. I had been.

And so, I flopped in the back of the car to go to the TV station. So when we get there -- I was sleeping, you know, in the back. So he wakes me up. Come on. I though, Oh, my God. I got to go in there now. And it was a production day. I had to do a production number, you know? With these dancers. I thought, oh my God. I have to go in there now today and I have to get made up and I got to do all this.

So when I stepped out of the car, there was a hod (ph) carrier, which I used to do. They were extending the facility. And so there was a fellow carrying bricks up a ladder on his shoulder, which I used to do. You know, carrying...

KING: As a job?

JONES: As a job. As a kid. So when I stepped out of the car and I looked up and he looked down at me he said, Hey, Tom? You want to help me out with this? Because he knew that that's what I used to do. And I thought, My God, I'm complaining about -- you know, I'm thinking to myself, oh, I have to do this production number and this kid is going to be running up and down that ladder all day.

And I thought, Oh, you know, I sort of shook -- I walked in the studio. I sat down in front of the makeup girl. I said, OK, let's go. And she said, My God. You're happy this morning. What is it? I said, I just saw somebody doing the job of work that I used to do, you know, and I was complaining about coming in -- you know, not complaining but not wanting to come and do this today.

KING: Wow.

JONES: It was such an easy thing, you know...

KING: Great story.

JONES: Yes, I was staring to get caught up, you know? I was starting to think like that. But it stopped me in my tracks.

KING: You got a lot of hits right in the row, right?

JONES: Yes. Yes. In the '60s, one kept coming after another.

KING: Did you come to expect it almost?

JONES: Not really, no.



KING: Is it still a guessing business?

JONES: Definitely. You always wonder where the next one is going to come from.

KING: Did you ever do a song you thought couldn't miss and did?

JONES: Yes. There's been a few of them.

KING: What song has surprised the most in its success?

JONES: "The Green, Green Grass of Home."

KING: We'll talk about that when we come back.

We'll be right back with Tom Jones. That's in the album "Reloaded," the CD. We'll be right back.







JONES: Get help, love. Get me a hacksaw. Anything.



KING: We're back with Tom Jones. "Green, Green Grass of Home" is a song about death?

JONES: Uh-huh.

KING: A guy that dies.

JONES: Exactly.

KING: Green, green grass of home is where he's buried. You didn't expect it to do well?

JONES: No, didn't expect it to do as well as it did.

KING: It's brilliant song.

JONES: Oh, yes. I mean, "What's New Pussycat" was the freak record. But when recorded the "Green, Green Grass of Home," I liked the song very well. I heard it on a Jerry Lee Lewis album.

KING: He sang it?

JONES: Jerry Lee Lewis. He did a country album called "Country Songs for City Folks." And I picked up in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) record stop New York, you know, in '65. And I was playing it and this tune kept -- I thought you know, this is a hell of a song. I thought this would be a good song to record.




JONES: And there runs Mary, you know, hair of gold and lips of cherry. It's good to touch the green, green grass of home. That's what got me saying...

KING: Twice?

JONES: Yes. So, when I met, Curly Putman (ph), the man that wrote it I said, why the green, green grass? He said, I wanted to get the color green across and so I said it twice. And he said, another story, Curly Putman, said he was working on a Tom McCann Shoe Shop before I recorded it.

KING: I know Tom McCann.

JONES: He said, you recording the "Green, Green Grass of Home" got me out of there. You got me to become a professional.

KING: It was an enormous hit.

JONES: Yes. But I didn't think it would be near the size of -- I just thought it was a good song.

KING: How in your career have you resisted that temptation that every big star has had, drugs, liquor.

JONES: Well, drugs, I never cared for. Because growing up in Wales, all my uncles were drinkers, all my cousins, beer drinkers. So it was going -- when I was a kid and I used to watch them going to the club and the pub. I thought, oh, I want to be one of those men. I want to stand there and drink. So it was like a big proud thing, you know, to drink with your family. So when I went to London and I saw a lot of rock groups taking dope, I thought, you know, my family would not like this.

KING: Did you learn a lesson from Presley?

JONES: Yes. I learned before that, though.

KING: You did?

JONES: Yes. I saw people in, you know, in England getting messed up.

KING: Have you had liquor problems?

JONES: Not really a problem but I have -- I do like a drink. And I've got to watch the clock, you know. After I do the show at night, you know, I like to -- a nice food and nice wine but sometimes if there's other entertainers around and you can go party all through the night. And then you have to think to yourself, I better watch because I have got to do shows again tomorrow. Sometimes if I haven't had enough sleep, you know, it can affect me. But it never got -- booze never got to me where I needed one. KING: So you never have to have a drink?

JONES: Never have to had that. No, no. Always been a social thing, a relaxing thing.

KING: Didn't Joplin do your show?

JONES: Yes. Janice Joplin.




JONES: There again...

KING: A tragedy.

JONES: Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, all around the same time late '60s, early '70s a lot of people.

KING: What was it like the first time they threw underwear and hotel keys?

JONES: Well, that was in CopaCabana in 1968.

KING: In New York.

JONES: In New York. And that never happened. These were the ladies handing me these table napkins to me because it was a supper club.

KING: I knew it well.

JONES: This woman stood up and took her underwear, you know, right there in front of me. And, you know, in the Copa there was no stage you were working at the same level as...

KING: You're right. Same level as audience.

JONES: Exactly. So I'm -- and she got up and she, you know.

KING: What did you think?

JONES: Well, I just wiped my brow and handed it back.

KING: Then it started a fad? People started doing?

JONES: Yes. And then they would bring them and throw them. And then the same year '68 was the first time I played Vegas. So by the time I got to Vegas, you know, the stage would be -- somebody threw a room key on stage. You know, because people in Vegas, you know, they're all staying in hotels. So, they have the room keys in the handbags. So this woman throws a key, if your not doing anything later, you know.

KING: Now they have to throw cards.

JONES: Yes. Now they got to throw cards.


KING: Did your wife object?

JONES: No. She said it's part of the thing, yes. She said, that's it. As long as you don't take these people up on it, you know? She says I don't want you -- I think -- she's told me this. You know, the only fear she had it would break our marriage up.

KING: Sure.

JONES: That I would go off with somebody.

KING: That's never happened to you..

JONES: No. Never, never, I never got serious about anybody else.

KING: Have you been victimized in tabloids?

JONES: Yes. When they take pictures of people when I'm leaving somewhere with somebody and they used to more than they do now. But when I first started -- but I was lucky because one night we were in a place called the Candy Store. I don't know if you remember here in Los Angeles, it was a discotheque. And I had -- my wife was sitting on the side. My musical director's wife was sitting on this side and my musical director was sitting on the other side. So, they took a picture of my musical director's wife and myself, because she was a nice looking lady. And put in the paper, the new blond in Tom Jones' life. So I said to my wife, now look, you were there. You know what, I mean? You were sitting there on the other side, so you know, -- so that was a great thing. I mean, that was something that on my...

KING: She had a chance to see how this can happen.

JONES: Exactly. So that -- those things. Those things.

KING: What was Vegas like the first time?

JONES: Tremendous. You know, it was tremendous -- because I went there in 1965 to have a look at it when I first came to America.

KING: Never saw anything like that?

JONES: That's right. I thought, these stages. You know, with the bands and, you know, the lighting and the, you know, show rooms. I had never seen show rooms that looked as good as those show rooms in Vegas. So, I could -- I could...

KING: And you have been and still are a big hit there, right?


KING: Vegas is like you consider one of your town towns?

You played it all the time?

JONES: Four or five times a year, two weeks at a time. So I'm there like eight weeks or 10 weeks out of the year spread...

KING: Do you do Atlantic City?

JONES: I do Atlantic City, yes.

KING: Do you do concerts?

JONES: Yes. I do worldwide concerts, you know, I mean, a two- hour show, and you know, 20,000 seat audience.

KING: Do you still tour?

JONES: Oh, yes.

KING: Do you think of stopping?

JONES: No. I dread the day that I...

KING: Really?

JONES: That I can't sing. That when, you know, when it doesn't work. My voice when it doesn't work as well as it does, then I'll have to stop. I hope by that time I'm old and tired. You know, and think, oh, I don't want to do it anymore.

KING: When you're 98, you're a young guy.

JONES: You know, but I don't -- I saw just Frankie Lane -- you know, I was down in San Diego doing some shows. And, Frankie Lane lives there, So I went to...

KING: He's 90 now?

JONES: And he's 90 and he still wants to sing, but he has trouble with his vocal chords. So he asked me about Ed Canton (ph) a guy that did -- you know. Frankie did and he still wants to. He said I still want to do it.

KING: Frankie sounded like you a little.

JONES: Yes. Well, he was one of my influences.

KING: They thought he was black?


KING: We'll be back with the remaining moments with Tom Jones the multi-platinum singer, pop icon and the CD is "Tom Jones Reloaded: Greatest Hits." More after this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





KING: We're back. We're going to touch some other bases. How did you come to record Prince's hit "Kiss"?

JONES: Well, I was doing it live on stage, because when I wasn't getting hits, I was doing other people's material. And staying current. You know, trying to stay current. So, I liked Prince's "Kiss" and I was doing it live on stage. So I did it on a British television stage, and a group over there called the Art of Noise saw me do it on TV.

KING: The Art of Noise?

JONES: The Art of Noise, that's what they're called. Techno pop group. And that's what I liked to record with them. So I said, why not? You know, let's give it a shot. But I didn't think that it was, again, I didn't think it was going to be a hit, because Prince had already had a big hit with it.

KING: How do you explain it?

JONES: Well, when I heard it, when I heard the finished thing, what they had done with it, because they made a techno pop record of it, you know, with my voice sounding the way it does, and then there it was. But it wasn't a big plan, you know? It was just one of those things.

KING: You performed for President Clinton, right?

JONES: Yeah.

KING: What was that like?

JONES: That was great.

KING: It was the White House millennium.

JONES: That's right, the White House millennium.

KING: Was that more nervous than usual?

JONES: Well, I was the first one on there, you know, after...

KING: You were the opening act?

JONES: The opening act. It was after -- Will Smith opened with a big production number, and then he introduced the people that were going to be on there, and he said, and we'll kick it off with Tom Jones. And I had to come down these stairs. So I thought to myself, my God, that would be nice, wouldn't it? You know what I mean, the millennium, you know, in front of the president, I mean, everybody was going to be -- and I slip down these -- that was the only thing that I was worried about was sort of getting down these stairs quickly.

KING: Anything you haven't done you'd like to do?

JONES: Not really.

KING: Would you like to do Broadway?


KING: No desire to act?

JONES: To act, yes. You know, I wish I had pursued it when I was a younger man, when I first started off, that I would have gotten into movies then. But it never -- it never happened. You know, the scripts that I was being sent in those days were either of a musical nature, you know, or light-hearted.

KING: Who do you like to listen to?

JONES: All kinds of people. All the way from old blues records I listen to, you know, gospel records. I listen to old rock 'n roll, you know, '50s rock n' roll. But I listen to a lot of new, newer people, people like Nelly. You know? And Usher, you know.

KING: Are you listening to any of these -- what do they call it where they just talk the words?

JONES: Oh, yeah, rap.

KING: Rap.

JONES: Yeah, rap. Well, the thing about rap is they make those words up as they go along. That's the clever thing.

KING: Genius, right?

JONES: Exactly. Like Eminem. You know what I mean. And they have these fights, you know, word fights. They get up and they start to rap on one another.

KING: Is that music to you?

JONES: Yes, in a way. It's like poetry. It's making up poetry on the spot with a beat. It's, you know, the only musical part of it is the beat.

KING: Isaac Stern, the great violinist, late Isaac Stern, told me once that on nights when he feels the worst, he gets the best audience reaction.

JONES: Well, that can happen. You know, sometimes you never know what an audience is going to be like until you step on that stage. Sometimes it could be good. Sometimes it can be great. You know? And you're not really doing anything any different, but the audience gives you that extra...

KING: Are there nights you have to work harder?

JONES: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Especially if you're not feeling 100 percent. You know, if you're feeling a little below par, if you're a little bit sick or tired. You know, so you have got to dig deeper. But then sometimes that can make it more vibrant.

KING: In the CD, are these new recordings or the old recordings brought up to...

JONES: Yeah. The old -- "It's not Unusual" (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the original recordings, but they are being remastered.

KING: So they sound much better?

JONES: Yes. And I say it on stage. You know, they are supposed to -- they sound better. That's hard to believe, but it's true. But the newer things that are on there from CDs that I have had out worldwide that haven't been released in this country.

KING: Yeah, I noticed that. Songs here I don't know.

JONES: Yeah. So we put them on there, as well, so that the American public can hear some of the stuff that I have had success with worldwide.

KING: It's been a honor.

JONES: Thank you, Larry. Nice to see you again.

KING: Tom, we will do it again.


KING: Tom Jones. Multiplatinum, musical icon. The CD is "Reloaded, Tom Jones" greatest hits. What a man. What an hour. I'll be back in a minute to tell you more. Don't go away.



KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, with Tom Jones.

We'll be back tomorrow night with more guests. Hope you enjoyed this one. We sure did. And Aaron Brown with NEWSNIGHT is next. Good night.


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