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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Tom's leap from Ponty to palace
By Hywel George
BBC Wales news website

Young Tom Jones
Tom Jones had his first hit with It's Not Unusual in 1965
Jones the Voice has come a long way - all the way from Ponty, to the Palace in fact.

The superstar born in a terraced house in Treforest, Pontypridd, in 1940, was knighted on Wednesday by the Queen for his services to music.

When at 16, Tom Woodward left school, married a local girl and worked in a paper mill, it seemed likely that The Voice would not be heard outside the confines of the south Wales valleys.

But it was a very unlikely turn of events which would change his resolve and put him on the road to international stardom.

At the age of around 12 or 13, Tom was house-bound for two years with tuberculosis, and it was incarceration that gave him the drive to succeed, according to biographer Robin Eggar.

He says Tom missed two things during his time in bed - "singing and girls".

In his book Tom Jones the Biography he writes: "During those two years he had hit puberty.

"And to the frustration of sexual longing was added the inability of not being able to do anything about it.

Married Melinda

"Tommy Woodward had stared out of his window for months without end," he writes.

"As he watched but could not touch he had made himself a solemn vow 'once I get up from this bed and can function properly I'll never mourn anything else again'.

And he never has.

He married Melinda, a local Catholic girl he had fallen in love with while watching her playing from his bedroom window, and they are still married today.

Tom Jones
The new Sir Tom has reinvented himself for younger audiences

And as for his career, Jones the Voice has sold millions of records, amassed a huge fortune, and retained a devoted fan base (including cartoon character Marge Simpson).

He began his career in 1963 as a vocalist in the group Tommy Scott and the Senators then changed his name to Tom Jones and was a regular in working men's clubs in south Wales.

The early days were not all glorious.

One night he was sacked from show at Bedwas Working Men's Club in Caerphilly.

He's a great story teller, telling stories of Mohamed Ali, Frank Sinatra and the like... well he was one of them really
Stuart Cable

"He'd done the first half of his act," said club steward Hayden Morgan," and the committee gave him a five-minute break.

"But Tom got engrossed in a game of cards, and he didn't come back in five minutes.

"The committee had enough, so they paid him off."

But it was not long before Tom Jones moved on to fame and fortune nationally and internationally with his second single, It's Not Unusual.

His live performances made him a Las Vegas favourite and he moved to the US in the 1970s.

During the 1980s he re-invented himself for a younger trendier audience.

In 1993, he played in front of 75,000 fans at the Glastonbury festival - a mark of credibility for any musician.

Then in 2000 he recorded the album Reload with a number of artists including Cerys Matthews, Robbie Williams, Natalie Imbruglia and Stereophonics.

Former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable said Tom was like a father figure to the rest of the artists.

"We were in awe of him really," he said. "He's a great story teller, telling stories of Mohamed Ali, Frank Sinatra and the like... well he was one of them really.

Courting days

"Obviously he grew up just a few miles from my home town and he had the same sort of sense of humour.

"He was a great guy really - and he can drink a bit too."

Although Tom Jones has lived in Los Angeles most of his career the boy from Pontypridd has never forgotten his roots.

He was so homesick when he first moved to America he had a telephone box shipped to his mansion from his home town.

It was the old-style red kiosk which stood at the end of Tom's street where he telephoned wife-to-be Linda in his courting days when he was 16.

See Tom Jones receive his knighthood

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