For the Mansion section of today's Wall Street Journal (go here), I interview singer Sir Tom Jones on the two years he was confined to bed in the early '50s while growing up in Wales. Sir Tom had tuberculosis and spent those many months at home drawing and dreaming. If you've often wondered how Sir Tom knows so much about soul and R&B, much of that knowledge was picked up listening day and night to the rented radio in his bedroom.
Other things you should know about Sir Tom: He was the first solo male British invasion sensation in the States (the videos speak for themselves). Elvis Presley told Sir Tom he picked up quite a few tips from Sir Tom's successful Las Vegas act in the '60s. And that final, eternally held note on the Thunderball theme? He said he was told by arranger-conductor John Barry to hold it as long as possible. So he did—and by the end, Sir Tom was so out of breath that he was holding himself up by extending both arms and placing his hands against the recording-booth walls.
Sir Tom has a new album out: Spirit in the Room (Rounder). You'll find it here.
Here are a few of my favorite Tom Jones clips: