I would have thought Elvis and Tom Jones were performing artist rivals, but I keep coming across things that say they were buddies. The most recent came from Uncut magazine, and it is so funny. I’ll share it with you, but first, let’s look at Elvis’ history with Tom Jones.
When Tom Jones was teenager, his idol was Elvis Presley. In early 1965, Jones rocketed to popularity with the huge hit “It’s Not Unusual.” Later that year, they met at the Paramount stage, where Elvis was filming Paradise Hawaiian Style. After that, they became good friends, spending more and more time together in Las Vegas. Their friendship endured until Elvis' death in 1977.
Elvis had some good natured fun at Jones’ expense during the 1970 filming of his performances at the Las Vegas Hilton for the movie That’s The Way It Is. Elvis pretended to read four telegrams of congratulations including this one: “Here’s hoping that you have a very successful opening and that you break both legs.” [Signed.] Tom Jones.
Later in 1970, Elvis was headlining in Portland and mentioned Jones during a monologue: “I played this town when Tom Jones was first learning how to do this…” Elvis was just five years older than Jones, so when Elvis first played Portland in 1957, Jones would have been sixteen, a teenager working on his singing.
Here is a quote where Tom Jones talks about Elvis and him sitting around and singing in Elvis’ suite at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Elvis performed for so many years. Jones said, “I think he was the only person I’ve spoken to that felt the same way about music as myself, as far as versatility is concerned. Because he loved ballads as well as rock ‘n’ roll, he loved Gospel, he loved pop. And we would sit in the suite and talk about music… and we would sing, mostly jam…”
In August 1974, Elvis gave a big introduction to Tom Jones, who was catching one of his shows: “There’s somebody in the audience I’d like you meet. To me… he’s my favorite singer. He’s one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen, and the greatest voice, Tom Jones. There he is. He’s too much. Tom, you open at Caesars palace tomorrow night, right? Folks, if you get the chance, go over and see him. He’s really something. He always comes to see my show here and I go to see his. It’s a mutual respect.”
A few photos exist that show Elvis taking in Tom Jones’ performances in Las Vegas. Here is a shot showing Elvis sitting in the audience watching Tom Jones on stage at Caesars Palace. It looks like his seat was right up front.
Here is Elvis on September 4, 1973, as Tom Jones introduces him in the audience. Note Linda Thompson to Elvis’ right.
Sometimes Elvis would make a surprise appearance on stage during one of Tom Jones’ performances. Elvis seems to be showing Jones some moves in this shot.
It’s hard to tell exactly what they are doing here, but Elvis sure is having a good time.
And now, the funny story Tom Jones told about Elvis. Although they were great friends for years, Jones and Elvis never worked out together when Elvis was slim and in good shape. In his last years, Elvis put on a lot of weight, and he joined Jones on the exercise machines. However, it wasn’t what you would expect. Here is what Jones remembers: “I was great friends with him… As time went on, he started putting on weight. Instead of regarding it as the problem it was, he started having fun with it. I saw him doing it a few times, sitting on his exercise bike eating pizza. We were in his suite at the Hilton in Vegas. He used to sit in it and put his feet on it but not touch the handlebars and say, ‘are you still working out, Tom? Me too, look,’ as he sat with his belly poking out and popped another devilled egg into his mouth.”
If a photo of this existed, the caption would read: “Elvis’ Pizza and Devilled Egg Workout.”
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