Superstar Tom Jones has been in the public eye for more than five decades. He has an extensive discography, countless accolades, and a knighthood under his belt. But he also has a lot of skeletons in the closet, including a homeless son and a laundry list of women he slept with, as well as some other regrets he spoke about. It just goes to show that pop stars like Tom Jones are only human and have faults too.
For many, seeing the love between him and his late wife Linda only made Jones more human. The Welsh singer, who recently just turned 80, has been more and more candid about the wildlife he once lived. Nowadays, he’s stuck in his home – which reminds him of the period of time when he was quarantined with tuberculosis (but we’ll get to that later).
Let’s look at the life of the one and only Tom Jones. And it’s quite unusual…
So Much for a “Tell-All”
Tom Jones sure has a remarkable life story to tell. The thing is, he didn’t write about it in his “tell-all” autobiography, Over the Top and Back. Over the course of the book’s 500 pages, with all the moody cover shots and showbiz photographs, readers get a look into his time on The Voice, in Vegas, and everything in between.
Readers even get to see how Jones was the perfect husband to his late wife Linda during their 58-year marriage (he hated to leave her alone when he first went to seek fame in London in the ‘50s). But he didn’t mention the scandalous side of his life. But that’s the thing about autobiographies; they’re subjective.
The Ladies Man of the ‘60s and ‘70s
Jones was at the height of his fame in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and what happens to many men when they’re super-duper famous? They become ladies’ men. And that’s exactly what Jones was. He notoriously slept with hundreds of women. In fact, Jones once stated that he slept with up to 250 groupies every year at the height of his fame.
It’s no secret that he had a countless string of romances that his wife Linda wasn’t so happy about. She reportedly assaulted him at one point because of it. Some of the flings in Jones’ past were a bit controversial, too. For instance, he was tied to Mary Wilson, of The Supremes, for a period – at a time when interracial relationships were (unfortunately) frowned upon in the US.
From One to the Next
Several years later, Jones was caught in Barbados kissing Miss World Marjorie Wallace. Once their affair went public, she lost her title and reportedly overdosed. There is a mention of one extra-marital relationship, but he denied having had an affair with the lovely Raquel Welch. His words: “That stuff was always flying around.”
In his defense, it doesn’t seem like there is anything real about the rumor involving him and Welch. We do know, however, that he was a guest on the television special Raquel! in 1970.
A Pair of High School Sweethearts
Despite all the infidelities, Jones stayed married to Linda, his high school sweetheart, from 1957 until her death in 2016. They were both 16 when they married, and it’s because Linda was pregnant with their one and only son, Mark Woodward. Mark was born one month after their wedding.
As a young father, Jones had to support his new family, so he took a job working in a glove factory. Later on, he worked in construction. Jones and Linda may have had a decades-long marriage, but not all of his extra-marital affairs were harmless. One resulted in a child. And that’s something else he didn’t mention in his book.
The Son He Denied for Two Decades
Another thing he forgets to mention in his book is his “illegitimate” son from another relationship. In 1987, while on tour in the US, Jones had a brief yet intimate relationship with model Katherine Berkery. Of course, she discovered she was pregnant. After a legal battle and DNA testing in 1989, the court ruled that Jones was the boy’s father.
Jones chose to publicly deny the court’s findings until he finally admitted they were true in 2008. However, he has no interest in meeting his son. Jonathan Berkery who is now about 30 years old and sleeps in a homeless shelter in New Jersey while the Welsh singer, with a reported net worth of $250 million, sleeps in his mansion.
His Son Is Homeless, By the Way
Jon Berkery has never met his ultra-famous father. For 20 years, Jones denied the child was his. Why? Apparently, he was “tricked” by the boy’s mother. “I was tricked, really,” Jones claimed. “I just fell for it.” Berkery has tried to reach out to his biological father and half-brother Mark without success.
Berkery was born in 1988 after 47-year-old Jones and 24-year-old Katherine Berkery had their fateful fling. Jones paid Katherine £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement. Jones was also ordered to pay £1,700 a month for raising Jon until the age of 18. At the time of this whole ordeal, Jones’ wife Linda moved back to Wales (but she eventually returned to the US).
The Son of a Coal Miner
Born Thomas John Woodward on June 7, 1940, Jones started singing at an early age. The son of a coal miner in a valley town in South Wales, the boy was something special. He would regularly sing at family gatherings, weddings, and even at his mother’s Women’s Guild meetings.
He grew up in a very tidy house without books. He was able to escape his fate as a coal miner because he had tuberculosis as a child. It was something Jones later reflected upon and said marked him as special. People talked about him, and he liked it. But what he liked more than anything was music. It would become his world.
Two Teenagers Getting Married
By the late 1950s, Jones became entranced by the new rock ‘n’ roll sounds he was hearing on the radio. In his teenage years, he was starting to skip school, drink with his buddies, and chase girls. It was around this time that he began dating Melinda “Linda” Trenchard, a local Catholic girl. Not long after, his tuberculosis forced him to be bed-ridden for almost a year.
At 16, he left school and married Linda shortly thereafter. The 16-year-olds wed in a registry office that smelled of “polish and floor cleaner.” Dyslexic, Jones couldn’t remember how to write the letter J when he signed the register and had to get his brother-in-law to show him.
“22, Single and a Miner”
“I wear my best suit, and Linda is in a navy-blue dress. She is eight months pregnant, and no photographs are taken,” Jones recalled vividly. A month later, Mark was born. At the time, Jones was working the night shift in a paper mill. While it paid the bills, it was getting in the way of his singing. Something had to give, and so Jones decided to quit the mill.
Not long after, when Tom Jones was introduced to the world, the singer was presented as “22, single, and a miner.” But the truth was he was a 24-year-old married man with a seven-year-old son and had never been in a coal mine in his life. Eventually, Linda gave a solitary press interview, explaining that although the adoration of his fans made her uncomfortable, she loved him dearly.
Finding His Voice with The Senators
In 1963, Jones became the frontman of a local beat group called Tommy Scott and the Senators. Their former singer Tommy Redman was more into singing ballads. After Redman failed to show up one night, the band leader, Vernon Hopkins, lured Jones away from his drinking spot with a crate of beer and was able to convince the budding singer to perform with them at the local YMCA.
It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but the young Jones got the bug. After dabbling in playing guitar and drums, Jones found his real musical strength: his voice. Before a gig with the group, he would down 10 to 12 pints before hitting the stage. But the band didn’t care – they knew they would get an awesome show.
Two Managers and a Demo Tape
Jones was turning heads, and the crowd loved the music. But The Senators were unknown in London, which was the hub of the music industry. Two local songwriters offered to help Jones. Raymond Godfrey and John Glastonbury, who had contacts in London, were sent out to find a group and make a demo of their songs.
In 1964, by chance, Godfrey and Glastonbury saw The Senators playing, and they were immediately blown away. The two guys ended up becoming the band’s managers and helped them record a demo tape. That year, they played few tracks for maverick Telstar producer Joe Meek. They wanted to release a single, Lonely Joe/ I Was a Fool, but Meek refused to release the tapes.
Getting Heard by the Right Guy
The frustrated band returned to South Wales and kept on playing gigs at dance halls and working men’s clubs. One night, at the Top Hat pub, Tom was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager who was originally from South Wales. “The first few bars were all I needed to hear; they convinced me that here was a voice that could make him the greatest singer in the world,” Mills later said.
Mills struck a deal with Godfrey and Glastonbury: They gave up managerial responsibility in exchange for five percent of Jones’ future earnings. Of course, they would later end up in a bitter legal battle. But in that moment, Mills became Jones’ manager, and he took the young singer to London.
Off to London with a New Name
Mills was the one who told Jones to call himself Tom Jones because there already was a Tommy Scott singing in London. The Senators then became the Playboys, and later the Squires. It was the beginning of the second chapter in Tom Jones’ career.
Jones was different from the rest – his vocals were considered too raucous, and he moved his body like Elvis. These weren’t expected of a Valleys boy in the early ‘60s. Jones recorded his first single, Chills and Fever, in late 1964. The track didn’t chart, but his next one did. It’s Not Unusual was an instant hit. It reached number one in the UK and the top 10 in the US. A star was born.
Becoming Pals with Elvis
A string of hits followed, with Once Upon A Time, With These Hands and What’s New Pussycat. In 1965, Jones sang the theme song to the James Bond film Thunderball. He also met Elvis Presley that year and created a friendship that lasted until Presley’s death in 1977. The two met at Paramount Studios. “It was 1965, my first year, and they told me ‘Elvis is here, and he would like to say hello,’” Jones recalled.
Shocked that The King even knew who he was, Jones was excited to meet him. When he would play pubs in Wales, he sang an Elvis Presley song, and, as Jones described it, “people would say ‘you are great,’ and I would say ‘I will meet him someday.’”
Meeting the King
So, when he saw Elvis at Paramount, walking towards him and singing With These Hands, he thought to himself, “My God, this is surreal if the boys back home could see me now!” The two clearly hit it off, seeing as they remained friends. Jones once recalled in an interview with the Independent: “It was one night, can’t remember the year, but I’d just finished a show in America.”
Elvis was in his dressing room. Aware that people always took pictures of him, he made sure to always look his best. “Sure enough, somebody soon came up and asked to take a picture, and so there we were, arm-in-arm.” Elvis looked stellar, and Jones had a double chin. He joked about how it was one of his biggest regrets.
From Green Grass to Bright Lights
In 1966, Jones released his most successful single: Green, Green Grass of Home. It became his second chart-topper. Jones first heard the song on a Jerry Lee Lewis album, but it was interpreted by many as a homage to Jones’ native Wales. The next year, he performed in Las Vegas for the first time at The Flamingo.
The future would see Jones return to Vegas time and time again. His time there elevated him to superstar status in America, a position he still enjoys today. In 1968, his beloved single Delilah came out. The tale of murder and infidelity paled in comparison to the tune’s melody and Jones’ delivery. The song was a massive hit.
A Panty-Throwing Phenomenon
From the Flamingo, Jones moved on to Caesar’s Palace – a time and place where his shows saw a new tradition: women throwing their underwear at the superstar. It was a time of sexual tension and good ol’ entertainment. But how did the whole panties-throwing thing begin in the first place?
According to Jones, it actually started in the Copacabana, the infamous New York club, in 1968. He was performing one night, standing at the same level as the audience. He explained how things were going great — the tables and chairs were getting closer, and he didn’t have a lot of room left to perform….
How It Became a Thing
He was sweating a lot, and so people would hand him table napkins, “you know, wipe it off, hand it back.” And then, suddenly, this lady stood up, and as Jones explained, “you had to be careful because there were a lot of gangsters in this club” with their wives and girlfriends. So, he had to tread lightly. When this woman stood up, she literally lifted her dress up, took off her underwear, and handed them to Jones.
“I used to sing in clubs in South Wales, and if somebody throws something at you, you try to turn it to your advantage.” And so, he wiped his brow with her underwear and handed them back to her, saying, “Watch you don’t catch cold like that.”
The Joke Was on Him… Kind Of
And the rest, as they say, is history. With time, the whole panty-throwing thing became a joke. People were bringing them in bags, exclaiming, “There’s Tom Jones, throw underwear at him!” There was even a photo of a stage manager with a broom, sweeping them all up after a show. “It backfired on me,” Jones revealed, “because it turned out more of a joke.”
It may have become a joke, but Jones’ shows were anything but. He was on his way to becoming a success on the small screen, too. The Tom Jones Show debuted in 1969, paying the singer a hefty $9 million per series. Before it ended in 1971, Jones had appeared with Johnny Cash, The Bee Gees, Janis Joplin, and The Moody Blues, to name a few.
Bumps in the Road
And just as things were going well, Jones hit a couple of bumps in the road. Jones’ former managers, Godfrey and Glastonbury, took him to court in an attempt to recoup the money they said he owed them. After that, The Senators disbanded for good because Jones had all his TV and Las Vegas appearances lined up, and they weren’t needed.
Jones, Gordon Mills, and Englebert Humperdinck set up a record label called MAM. Resentful of Britain’s high taxes, Jones spent much of the ‘70s in America. What happened was that after the election of a Labor government in 1974, Jones became what is called a “tax exile,” which was his way of avoiding a 98 percent income tax.
Into Exile You Say?
So, in 1974, he made it official and moved to America. His furniture was shipped over from Britain, and his Green Card granted him American citizenship. But it also meant that many in the UK thought their dear Tom Jones was turning his back on the “green, green grass of home.” In his defense, Jones stated: “I love Britain, and I love living there. It’s home. But I’ve been forced into exile and I don’t like it one little bit.”
Jones bought the mansion that had previously belonged to Dean Martin. The Bel Air home cost the singer either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on which report you read. In 1998, he sold it to Nicolas Cage for a reported $6.5 million.
A New Decade, a New Life
During the ‘70s, because Jones spent most of his time in the US, his popularity leveled off somewhat. To many, he was seen as a man out of his time. Regardless, the hits kept coming; Daughter of Darkness, She’s A Lady, Till, and The New Mexican Puppeteer were all successful singles. Then, in 1977, some significant events shaped Jones’ life.
His good friend and mentor, Elvis Presley, died. That year, Jones released Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow. It wasn’t such a remarkable release, but it would mark the last time he saw the singles chart for 10 years. All the while, his manager, Mills (who once owned the largest collection of orangutans in the world), guided him throughout his career.
A New and Improved Tom Jones
That is until he died in 1987. After that, Tom’s son Mark became his manager. Mark revamped his father’s image, ditching all the medallions and the big hair in favor of a more modern look. He also helped his dad come up with a new sound, and, in April 1987, the almost-has-been re-entered the singles chart again.
A Boy from Nowhere was a ballad to remember, and most importantly, it put Jones back on the map and into the public eye – all thanks to his son. His son managed to introduce him to a whole new generation of fans. After a brief collaboration with the one and only Van Morrison, Jones became the host of a new TV show called The Right Time.
The ‘90s Were Good to Him
In 1993, Jones signed with a new label. This time, he went with Interscope (home to Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Eminem) and released a new album: The Lead and How To Swing It. He collaborated with Teddy Riley, Flood, and Youth, among others. In 1995, he was headlining in Glastonbury to a blissful crowd.
The ‘90s saw Jones performing songs from the film The Full Monty with Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards, as well as The Ballad of Tom Jones by Space and Cerys Matthews. His 1999 album Reload included duets with some of the year’s brightest stars. He was back in the limelight – a place he always felt most comfortable.
Awards, Tours Around the World, and Modern Music
In 2000, Jones earned several honors for his work, including a Brit Award for Best Male. The following year, he went far and wide, touring the Middle East, Western Europe, the UK, and Eastern Europe. One of the highlights of that tour was his performance with Pavarotti at his festival in Modena, Italy.
In London, Jones was given with the prestigious Silver Clef Award for Lifetime Achievement by the charity Nordoff Robbins, which works tirelessly with autistic children using music therapy. Then, in an attempt to modernize Jones’ music, 2002 saw the release of Mr. Jones, a collaboration with former Fugees member Wyclef Jean that was recorded in New York.
Becoming Sir Tom Jones
In 2005, a one-off concert was done to celebrate the singer’s 65th birthday. 25,000 people came to what happened to be his first performance in Pontypridd, South Wales, since 1964. It made for a memorable event. Speaking of memorable, that year, Jones received his knighthood as part of the Queen’s New Year’s Honors. He was now known as Sir Tom Jones.
“For me, to accept a Knighthood is a great and humbling honor, and I know my family – and hope my friends and fans – will share in my gratitude and excitement,” Jones declared on his website. He also stated, “This is the best thing I have had. It’s a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling.”
The Time Frank Sinatra Talked to His Parents
Jones spoke of a story when he took his family to see Frank Sinatra at Caesar’s Palace. It was the night before his first gig – he was supposed to follow Sinatra as the second act. After the gig, Blue Eyes asked Jones’ father how he created his son. Jones said: “Mitchell and Butlers. My father used to drink this beer in the Wardrobe Club. He’s been drinking that and came home [to my mother] and…”
In 1967, Sinatra told Jones that his voice would go if he didn’t change the way he was singing. Jones laughed and said: “But what other way is there? I’ll be around until the green, green grass is turned into a car park.”
A Regret Involving Little Richard
When he spoke to the Independent in 2012, before he joined BBC’s The Voice, he revealed his biggest regrets, and they have nothing to do with his affairs or his homeless, estranged son. One night, in 1965, he was in a club in Los Angeles watching Little Richard perform. “My visa had run out a few days previously, and my manager had advised me not to do anything that might constitute work.”
Halfway through the show, as Jones explained, Richard invited him up on stage. “He was on fire that night,” Jones said. While he wanted nothing but “to help him rip all hell out of that tune,” what he ended up doing was standing there, shaking his head. His thoughts in that moment were, “I was convinced the moment I opened my mouth, Immigration would appear. I tell you, I still think about that sometimes. That’s a regret.”
Missing His Late Wife
It took a long time before Jones could publicly speak about his wife after she died. But when he finally did, he said that being with her during her passing was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” On stage at the Hay Festival in Wales, Jones revealed how he felt about her death.
Holding back his tears, he told the audience, “We were married for 59 years, and we knew each other since we were kids.” He described how she had always been very important to him throughout his life. “Now, I realize she might be the most important thing in my life.” He explained that he understands that now more than ever.
Not the Man She Married
To give the audience a glimpse into what kind of woman Linda was and the kind of marriage they had, he shared a little memory. He told them about when they spent time together in his snooker room in their home in Weybridge when they were in their 30s.
“She was in there with friends and I might have been getting a bit ‘too large.’” He had a glass of champagne, a cigar, and asked, “What do you think of my house and my snooker room?” And Linda immediately exclaimed, “Hey! Hey, what are you doing?!” Jones said he was “just sharing,” to which she replied, “You don’t really think you’re Tom Jones, do you? I married Tommy Woodward, that’s who I married!’” (That was his birth name).
Just a Boy Who Wanted to Sing
During that same talk on the stage, Jones divulged more personal anecdotes and answered some questions. He was asked why he decided to write his story in 2015. His answer was that he wanted to live a bit first. “I was lucky enough to be born in South Wales, and I wanted to tell people how important that part of my life was.”
He put in words how important singing had always been to him. He can’t remember not singing. There were lots of singers in his family. When he was young, he would pull on his mother’s skirt and ask her, “when are they going to ask me to sing?”
His So-Called Training
Jones also considers Wales to be a perfect place to become a singer. His reason was that working in men’s clubs, he had to get up there and get attention. They didn’t have microphones, so he had to make it happen somehow. “It was a great training ground.” Another part of his training was learning how to deal with hecklers.
He recalled a time when he was playing a new club, and he saw a beer bottle coming right through the air, going in slow motion. He would sometimes try to catch it and say, “thanks very much.” It was a way of making the best of a bad situation.”
The Isolation These Days Goes Way Back
Jones opened up about how the lockdown due to the pandemic reminds him of when he was forced to isolate himself in his home back when he was a teenager diagnosed with tuberculosis. He recalled during a BBC Radio celebrating his 80th birthday that he had been isolated for two years.
“For the first year, I couldn’t get out of bed. The toilet was in the garden!” He remembered not being able to play with the other children in the streets. He would talk to them through the window but not get close to them. “It was a similar situation like what the kids are going through now. So, I sympathize with young people that can’t go and play.”
Making It to The Voice
In 2012, Jones became a coach on the BBC’s very own talent show The Voice UK. Jones was sitting there with will.i.am Jessie J, and Danny O’Donoghue. He returned in 2013 through 2015. Then, it was announced that his contract with the show wasn’t going to be renewed. He was going to be replaced by Boy George.
Jones criticized BBC executives for their “sub-standard behavior,” seeing that they never even consulted with him and only informed him 24 hours before the official announcement. “I felt a bit bad at the beginning… It bothered me because I was enjoying it.” Well, Mr. Jones, all good things do come to an end.