Tom Jones and Elvis

August 15, 2011 § 7 Comments

Years ago, the media fueled a fierce rivalry between Tom Jones and Elvis, but anyone who knows much about one or the other knows they were part of a “Mutual Admiration Society.”  Only in more recent years has Jones become more public about their friendship.  A great place to read up about their relationship and see fun photos and videos is through a popular Elvis fan site (www.elvis.com.au; search “Tom Jones”).   

Tom Jones' tongue-in-cheek impersonation of Elvis - Las Vegas 1975

My mother, oldest sister, and myself found ourselves driving in one of the worst rainstorms southern California had seen in 1972, all for the sole purpose of seeing Elvis in concert at the Long Beach Arena.  As we left for the concert, it felt like we might float away because the rain was so deep you could no longer see the curbs on the sidewalks.  No rain, wind, thunder, or lightening was going to stop us from seeing the “King,” and as we arrived in Long Beach, the clouds began to open up and we could see a twinkle of stars way into the heavens.   

It was a thrill to actually be part of an Elvis concert.  ELVIS, for heaven’s sake!  The crowd was excited and energized to be there, even if a little wet and bedraggled from the stormy weather.  It was amazing to see someone so influential to multiple generations.  Elvis was gifted with looks, talent, and a beautiful voice, but it was only five years later that his life came to a sudden and early end.  We were so grateful we were able to see and hear Elvis live in concert, as there will always be only one King, and I can only imagine the legions of people who feel that Elvis’ music “saved” them.  

Elvis Presley entering Tom Jones' stage at Caesar's Palace

However, “Don’t go to Vegas to see Tom Jones when Elvis is in town,” was my sweeping generalization back in 1973, when I was hoping to score some backstage time with Mr. Jones.  I had gone to Caesar’s Palace with my other sister for a weekend of fun, sun, and my necessary TJ-connection.  Everything worked out beautifully for the room, pool-time, and being up front and center at Tom’s shows, which were – it’s not unusual – packed to the gills and fantastic.  I was hoping to see him backstage, but for the first and only time ever, my plans did not work out.      

What?  Was I too vague?  Did I beat around the bush too much?  I didn’t go directly to my buddy, Mr. G.  Was that my big boo-boo?  I thought I’d skip the midnight show and go to my hotel room and primp and prime, get myself all dolled up, and wait for the call to hear the words, “Come on down,” a la Bob Barker.  I lay on top of the hotel bed in my beautiful dress with my false eye-lashes a-flutter, and while my sister retired in her jammies and got lost in her paperback romance novel, I thought about the dinner show from which I had just returned.   

The man whose voice kept me going during the bad times, and now, as I was maturing, some good times, had been singing his heart out just a few feet in front of me.  The mere sound of his voice lifted my heart and carried my emotions to whatever sentiment was intended by the lyrics and the vocalist.  Was that part of the attraction?  His voice always allowed me to feel the gamut of emotions that welled-up inside of me.  Feelings, feelings, feelings…  And each song I’ve heard, whether on a TV show, a radio, a record album (believe it or not, that’s how we older folks used to listen to our music in the old days), a Vegas show, or concert, carries a memory attached to it.  A time and a place where I heard that song and it fulfilled some type of emotional feeling or need.  

Elvis occasionally "popped in" on Tom Jones during a concert - Las Vegas 1973

Maybe that need was simply to hear a fun song, like “She’s a Lady” and dream of being that lady.   Maybe it was about putting into words the depths of feelings of someone who doesn’t feel worthy, and understanding those feelings as heard in “I, Who Have Nothing.”  Or the poignant feelings derived from the story told in the song, “Green, Green Grass of Home.”  Elvis Presley understood those feelings that you get when listening to a singer who moves you, and “told Tom a touching story:  When your record ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ was issued here, the boys and I were on the road driving in our mobile home.  Man, that record meant so much to us boys from Memphis we just sat there and cried. 

“Then we called the radio station and asked them to play it again – they did, four times!  We just sat there and sobbed our hearts out.”  (New Musical Express, Elvis Presley and Tom Jones: Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, April 6, 1968).   

Feelings, feelings, feelings – the singers save us through their expression of feelings in the artistry of the music, the lyrics, and the sound of their voices.  At a live, intimate setting such as Vegas, I would get to enjoy the combination of all three, heightened by the close proximity to the performer.  I would also get to participate in some on-stage banter and that was, in my youthful immaturity, all of the acknowledgement I needed to feel a connection, whether it was real or not.     

There I was, just lying there on Caesar’s bed, waiting for the phone to ring so I could dance the light fantastic down to Tom Jonesville.  “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising/ Higher higher/It’s burning through to my soul.” (“Burning Love” written by Dennis Linde, sung by Elvis)  Lord have mercy, I was getting feverish, as the clock tick-tocked on and on and on, one hour turning into another hour.  I wondered why my call wasn’t beckoning me backstage, beckoning me to Tom, beckoning me to what I later learned was my object of transition, my object of transformation.   

What I didn’t know, during those longsuffering moments of waiting for the call that never came, was that there was an Elvis sighting.  It was way far, far down under the many little hotel rooms below mine, and all the way through the gaming casino, and into the Circus Maximus showroom where Tom Jones was performing.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen… Elvis Presley was with… the singer who saved me.      

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§ 7 Responses to Tom Jones and Elvis

  • To all of the Elvis fans who have been speculating and wondering exactly when these photographs were taken: They were taken in September 1973 when the “King” showed up at Tom Jones’ late show (in the old days, these guys did two shows a night) at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. I believe the first man you see at the side of the stage is Dave Perry, Tom Jones’ bodyguard at the time. I cannot clearly identify the man standing behind him. I was upstairs in the hotel room, waiting for the call to see TJ backstage; but it turned out to be the call that never came… because Elvis Presley was in the house! I later heard that they joked around and made the audience laugh. I vaguely remember being told that the two superstar singers said something about their big, shiny gold belts. However, I distinctly remember being told that everyone close to the stage was wildly crazy about and nearly blinded by the huge size of Elvis’ diamond ring. Although these are the best photographs, I have one more photograph of Elvis that will be coming up in the future. Elvis fans, stay tuned, because the singers save us in many different ways…

  • June says:

    Yes, Elvis Presley and Tom Jones truly are two of the greatest, most distinctive voices of the twentieth century and the fact they were buddies just adds to the legend. Unfortunately I’m too young to have seen Elvis play live, however when I saw Tom Jones a while ago he blew me away – it was almost a spiritual experience (and I mean this in the best possible way). Tom Jones really was in a different league to other artists I saw during that period.

    I have the ‘20 Great Tracks, One Double Album’ Elvis and Tom Jones 2 x CD set. See the links below for more details:

    http://aaahughes.ecrater.com/p/13431037/elvis-presley-volume-one10-great

    http://aaahughes.ecrater.com/p/13498743/tom-jones-8-great-songs-7-bonus

    These are very enjoyable for what they are, however as the 2 links would suggest, each artist has a disc dedicated to themselves. Does anyone know if there are any releases where they sing duets together?

    • No, June, there are no recordings of Tom and Elvis singing together. I believe that was something they did for fun, in private. I wonder if Jones’ manager, Gordon Mills, would have been willing to have Tom record with Elvis? I’m quite sure Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager would not have allowed it. By all accounts I’ve heard, whenever they were on stage together at Jones’ shows they just demonstrated their friendship, mutual admiration, and made the audience laugh. One audience member told me that if there were a contest regarding the biggest gold belt buckles and diamond rings, Elvis won hands-down!

      • June says:

        Thanks ‘SingerSavedMe’, this is really useful to know. After I posted my last message (above) I had a look to see if I could find any albums with an Elvis/Tom Jones duet on – I must have scoured at least 20 duets albums on Amazon, Discogs etc before I eventually gave up. I never knew just how many duets albums Tom Jones had released(!) – Elvis seemed to have few by comparison. The aforementioned AAA Hughes eCrater website (that I posted links for above) even had an album with 15 Tom Jones duets called “Tom Jones and Friends – The Ultimate Christmas Party Album!”!!! Anyway, I can give up my search now, although it would be great if someone were to unearth a hitherto unknown recording of an impromptu backstage jam/duet between these two titans of 20th Century music – here’s wishing!
        Kind regards,
        June
        PS. I love the gold belt buckle/diamond ring analogy – Elvis wasn’t known as The King for nothing!!!

  • Jimmi Ellis says:

    Hello, I came across your blog several weeks ago and what an interesting time you’ve had of growth and experience.

    I’m a tribute artist in Vegas who does both Elvis and Tom each of them being the BEST male vocalist of all time.

    I’m wondering if you know more details of the Tom & Elvis event at the show you did not attend? Perhaps someone you know told you a bit more or maybe someone is still around you might be in contact with? I realize you’ve moved far beyond, after your self growth, so likely you don’t keep in contact with anyone from those days.

    Just wondering if perhaps on this night in Sept 1973 when Elvis was with Tom if Elvis gave Tom his TCB necklace on stage?

    In a pic on your site the TCB shows very well and Toms shirt is unbuttoned several buttons. In 2 other pics of Tom in same outfit, his hair is same length, he’s wearing the TCB but his shirt is buttoned nearly to top. It would seem IF Elvis gave him the necklace this night he either did it backstage before Tom went on OR Elvis came out early on in the show?

    Actually stumbled across the Tom TCB pics on your site researching wardrobe for my Tom Jones tribute and shared your with an Elvis historian who owns an Elvis exhibit in Vegas.

    Not trying to be intrusive just really appreciate your blog and the pics you’ve shared as well. If anything comes to mind please let us know.

    Regards,

    Jimmi

    • Hi Jimmi,

      I wish I could provide you with new information regarding Tom Jones and Elvis, but when I started my blog, I tried to find my old TJ fan-friend who gave me the photos and told me about Elvis stopping by Tom’s shows, but I was unable to find her. She was close to my mother’s age, and would be in her late 80s, if still with us. I don’t believe Elvis presented Tom with anything on stage — I am quite sure she would have shared that info. The two times that Elvis came on stage during the course of several days appeared to be spontaneous. I was told the two singers showed a lot of admiration for each other, and also joked around a bit. She shared about their belt buckles and Elvis’ huge diamond ring, and didn’t say anything about a TCB necklace. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      Sincerely,

      Judi http://www.singersavedme.com

      ________________________________

  • Jimmi Ellis says:

    My apology… I described the pics incorrectly.

    The best pic of Tom with TCB has his shirt BUTTONED meaning this would have been early in the show… the other pics show Toms shirt unbuttoned a bit more.

    Thanks!

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