2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life

P J Proby and Tom Jones – two great voices


PJProby-27036527 March 1965 at the Nelson Imperial. We’d been on stage for the best part of an hour; had played our set twice, and couldn’t get off because it was a revolving stage.

The girls in the crowd were screaming – not for us, the Avalons, but for the star of the evening who was in his dressing room keeping everyone waiting: Mr P J Proby.

When he finally appeared, after starting his song off-stage, it was well worth the wait because he had a fantastic voice. He also had a pony tail and a green velvet suit. Earlier in the year repeated pant ripping due to excessive hip movement – what would now be called a wardrobe malfunction – in Croydon got him banned from all ABC cinemas, ABC TV and the BBC.

His big hit from 1964 which reached No. 3 was “Hold Me”. Not only a powerful song but it featured two guitar greats. Jimmy Page (later of  The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin) played rhythm guitar and Big Jim Sullivan played lead guitar. Big Jim, to differentiate him from Little  Jimmy, had played lead guitar in Marty Wilde’s Wildcats and the KrewKats and backed Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran on their ill-fated 1960 UK tour.

And he was a prolific session man who’d played on 800 top forty hits including 54 number ones. He later joined Tom Jones’s band (1969-1974) and  in Las Vegas he became friends with Elvis Presley.

When P J was banned from the ABC cinema tour his place was taken by Tom Jones and the Squires, formerly known as Tommy Scott and the Senators. They’d left Joe Meek after being unsuccessful at getting a recording contract but Gordon Mills took them on and renamed him because of the popularity of the Tom Jones film at the time.

Tom Jones first record on Decca was “Chills and Fever” which did nothing but his second release, originally intended for Sandie Shaw and which he sang as a demo for her, was “It’s not unusual” and it reached No 1 in the UK and was his first top ten hit in America.

Going back to that day in 1965 I remember girls fainting after becoming hysterical and helping the bouncers to drag them over the stage and to the fire exits. I also remember talking to the lead guitarist who was fed up of touring with P J and who actually offered me his job – at £65 a week! Now I was probably earning about a tenth of that at the time but I thought if this pro can’t put up with Mr Proby, could I? And I also felt loyal to my own group.

Dave Parkinson our vocalist at the time also remembers it well. He says “That night at the Imp was memorable, wasn’t it? Not only did we have to battle on with Bob Kane yelling at us to “do one more” from the side of the stage whilst old PJ had his tonsils lubricated, but then we had to watch as he put on a brilliant show, wowing everybody in sight. The man had style and a powerful voice to boot, that’s for sure”

sc0000541bAt his peak P J Proby was considered a potential great but lost his substantial wealth and came back to Britain to perform in musical theatre and 60s revival concerts where Dave and I last saw him in 2006 on a Solid Sixties tour with Gerry and the Pacemakers, Wayne Fontana (one of our big heroes in his day) and Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich, who gave the best performance in my view.

In 2008 his record company released a new CD to commemorate his 70th birthday. It contained a previously unreleased version of “Delilah”. This had been written for him by Barry Mason and Les Reed for his 1968 album but was left off it for some reason. It then became a massive hit for Tom Jones in 1968 and its songwriters won the Ivor Novello award for best song with it.

 It could have been so different for PJ Proby, who is still touring at 76 years of age, while Sir Tom Jones got a knighthood.


Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

11 thoughts on “P J Proby and Tom Jones – two great voices

  1. P.J.Proby…..of all the singers that have been around the last 50 years I have never seen one that is as talented as he is! For his fans he’s a true Legend but for most of the general public he’s the guy who split his trousers onstage in 1965 & got banned. I’m sure one day he will get the praise & attention he so truly deserves. In the meantime he’s still performing & making CD’s. I went to see him perform in Nottingham on the 11th April,2014. I could not believe what I witnessed. magnificent P.J. onstage, non stop for 2 hours 10 minutes performing 31 songs…WOW!!

  2. Forgot to mention Tom Jones…he’s had a lot more world-wide success than P.J. over the years & he ain’t a bad vocalist but P.J. challenged him once in the 60’s to an onstage singing contest,Tom sensibly declined! LOL! If the same thing was to happen in 2014 there could be only one winner…P.J. is soooo versatile & his voice is better than ever. Most 70 plussers are losing it,NOT P.J. though!

    • Thanks again for you contribution. Yes it would be interesting to see Sir Tom perform on the same bill as PJ. I wasn’t impressed by him at that royal event he sang at.

  3. I am a fan of Sir Tom & also a huge admirer of Elvis & quite a few other male solo singers. Many 50’s & 60’s male pop vocalists are hugely famous & many have become legends. Sadly quite a few are not with us any more. P.J.Proby is vocally one of the most versatile singers ever. He began as Jett Powers in 1958 & now in 2014 he’s still around & still going strong. It just bugs me that this guy is not ranked right up there with singers like Elvis,Cash,Orbison,Pitney, Jones,etc. His loyal fans obviously rate him as number one,me included, but it’s about time he got the world-wide ranking & attention he has really earned & does deserve.
    So to close….. I’m not “knocking” any other male singers I’m just trying to get P.J. the placing at the top or near there that he, after a 56 year career (& still growing), & all his hard work surely deserves.
    If anyone wants to see the talent I’m talking about then please go see him on the “60’s Gold” U.K. 2014 tour which opens in Salisbury on 30th September.

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  7. 2017…..a very poor year for P.J.Proby. He’s only had two bookings!! He must be so frustrated,I know us fans are. How come such a brilliant performer is hardly getting any gigs these days! Don’t tell me he’s once again getting picked on like he was in the mid 1960’s.

  8. That’s a shame when there are so many artists from the sixties still doing silver/golden tours

    • P.J. these days could not fill a giant show stadium as a solo singer but small theatres & clubs I’m sure would get full or almost full. Of course there are many different U.K. big 60’s music tours with 4 or 5 great artistes sharing the billing. P.J. has been on “60’s Gold” many, many times but this year he was not asked. I don’t know why not…he’s usually steals the show! I bet P.J. is so frustrated at not being selected to sing & that also means he’s hardly getting any earnings because of this! So unfair!

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