In 1963, he changed his name to Tom Jones and moved to London. While many labels found his act too overtly sexual and his sound too raucous, Decca Records signed him in 1964.
After recording one other single, he struck gold with “It’s Not Unusual”. Initially the BBC refused to play the song because of Jones’ sexy, swinging image, but pirate radio did, and it eventually reached #1 in the UK. In 1965, it made it into the top ten in the US, and he crossed the pond to play The Ed Sullivan Show.
After surviving and “Beatlemania”, Ed Sullivan felt he could handle Jones’ sexual and swinging style on his show. In fact, Jones wasn’t even the most controversial performer on The Ed Sullivan Show of May 2, 1965. That designation went to another Decca act, The Rolling Stones.
Following the girls’ screams for The Stones, Jones took the stage to sing “It’s Not Unusual.” Dressed in open-collared shirt and tightly tailored pants, he came out swinging his hips and snapping his fingers. He performed the upbeat song with The Ed Sullivan Orchestra behind him.
Tom Jones returned to The Ed Sullivan Show about a month later on June 13, 1965. After another hip shaking performance of “It’s Not Unusual”, he belted out a bluesy “Whatcha Gonna Do” with a stage full of go-go dancers. During the song, Jones did the Watusi and the Bugaloo along with the dancers. Afterwards, Ed Sullivan did his best to transition from the overtly sexually charged performance to congratulating a very young eyeglass wearing audience member who recently won the National Spelling Bee.
Tom Jones made two more appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. On October 3rd, he serenaded the audience with a passionate version of “With These Hands.” And on December 5th, he sang the theme to the latest James Bond film, “Thunderball.” Jones was back to croon the song “More” on March 6th, 1966.
It would be two years before Jones returned to The Ed Sullivan Show. On April 21, 1968 Ed introduced the Welshman with the line, “While every American kid starts playing baseball when he is about 6, every Welsh youngster starts singing when he is about 6.” Jones opened with his signature “It’s Not Unusual” before singing the old Irish ballad “Danny Boy.” Before the song, Jones joked “I’m Welsh myself, but I’m not prejudice.” He concluded the appearance with his current UK chart-topping hit “Delilah.”
Tom Jones returned one last time on September 20, 1970 for the special Ed Sullivan “Entertainer of the Year Awards” at Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. That evening, Jones sang a vivacious rendition of “Cabaret.” Following the performance Ed Sullivan handed him the award for “Most Popular Male Singer of the Year.” Not bad for a boy from Wales!
Check out our Tom Jones playlist to view full performances on The Ed Sullivan Show!