We then went to America to play at The Copacabana in New York in front of a star studded audience that included people like Dionne Warwick, Ann Margaret and many others. While in New York I met up again with Ben E King and went to his house for a meal. He was great. The next stop was The Deauville Hotel in Miami, we played there to sell out crowds for 2 weeks. When we got to Las Vegas, our next stop, it was billed as Tom Jones fever. One night Elvis Presley came to the show with his new wife Priscilla. He was also accompanied by his buddies ‘the Memphis Mafia’. He sat in the front row, probably only 10 feet away from me. As we played through the show, I could see that he was turned on by the music which we played with great passion. Elvis was on the edge of his seat throughout the show until we reached the climax of the show with a number called (Land of a Thousand Dances, a Wilson Picket number). The whole thing starts with a groovy drum and guitar riff. As I looked out to the audience, Elvis was out of his seat and the whole thing went along like a train. We were high on adrenaline and gave it our all. When it came to my guitar solo, Tom would dance towards me and me towards him, playing my heart out. I then did something that I had never done before. I turned towards Elvis and turned my guitar towards him. He responded my jumping up and clapping, he was well into it. Afterwards, The Three Squires, Vernon Mills, Chris Slade, and myself went into Tom’s Dressing room to meet Elvis. Earlier Chris Ellis the roady, got us some special photo’s of Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding. Elvis asked me where we had we got them from and I told him that the roady had got them for us. Elvis then congratulated me on my performance and signed the photograph. A couple of his ‘Memphis Mafia’ friends asked me what I was doing after the tour as Elvis was interested in me and would be starting a live show in the near future. At that point in time Tom was a bigger draw, so I decided to stay put. What a fool! Even if I had played rhythm guitar for Elvis it would have been a great privilege. This has since been a great regret in my life.
While Vernon and I were walking through the gambling tables at The Flamingo where we were playing, I saw the World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston playing cards. We stood next to him and when he finished playing I said to him, “hello Sonny, great to meet you” and shook his hand. He immediately recognised my accent and asked “are you from England?”. I laughed and said “yes”. “What are you doing here?” Sonny asked. I told him I was playing guitar in the main room with Tom Jones, and he then shook mine and Vernon’s hand once more and said “great, good luck”. This was a great experience for me being a boxing fan and a moment I will always remember.
One night I was in the Flamingo lounge when Duke Ellington was playing. I waited for him to have a break so that I could approach him for a quick chat. I said do you ever play The Mouche, and he said “how do you know that number, I recorded that in 1923!”. I explained to him that I had an old recording of it and liked it a lot. He shocked me then by saying that he would play it for me. Listening to him play this was one of the things I will never forget. (Cootie Williams his famous trumpet player stayed in the same motel as we were).
Several nights a week between shows we would walk up the road to another hotel to watch Little Richard perform. His whole act was Rock and Roll at its very best. At that time he would be wearing very light makeup and shout out “I am a white Mohican”. We got to know some of the members of his band who told us that they had been to see Tom’s show as often as we had been to see Little Richards. I thought this a great compliment.
Johnny Harris and I were offered a trip flying to the Grand Canyon by Vince the casino manager. He owned his own light aircraft and on our way there we had the thrill of flying down into the canyon. This has since been banned. We then landed by the grand canyon had a look around then flew back over the Hoover Dam. What a great day, thanks Vince.
I had been in America now for several weeks and was looking forward to getting home to see my young wife Jenny and my new daughter Mari-Louise. By now I had saved enough money for a deposit on a house. After being back in the UK for a couple of month’s I decided I had had enough of doing the same gig night after night so I decided it was time to move on because of my family commitments,
While on a nationwide tour with Tom, one of the session musicians Stan Reynolds approached me to say that he had heard that Big Jim Sullivan had told him he had been offered a job with Tom to do all the Tom Jones TV specials and would be a featured soloist on classical guitar as well. Jim was a great player and reputedly the top session man in UK. This did not bother me as I had already decided to leave. When I told Vernon and Chris about this they thought it was just going to involve me, but very soon after they were informed that they were to be replaced by session men who were good sight readers, enabling them to back Tom on the new TV series.
(I think this was a terrible way to treat two of his mate’s, Vernon was with him from the very start and Chris a while later. After all, these were fantastic musician’s who should have been used to his live shows. They gave their young lives for not a lot of pay, only then to be let down by Tom and Gordon. For me it did not matter but my heart went out to the two guys).
When Vernon and Chris questioned Gordon Mills about the rumour, Gordon had to come clean and admit that it was true. But he said that he would be recording the band (The Squires) so that we could make it on our own! The 2 two boys had no other choice but to accept it. For me it was a good time to do something new. Gordon had obtained a copy of Games People Play from America and told us that he thought it was a hit song. He asked me if I could get the B side together for the release. Only a few hours later I wrote a guitar instrumental called Funky Basewater, but as we were a unit we shared the publishing credits and did the arrangement between the three of us. We all turned up at the studio and did the backing for Games People Play in no time. Gordon said he thought it needed a string section and I thought the idea was good. I put the lead vocal on in one take and said to Gordon it needed a few drop-ins to improve the overall performance, but he insisted that it was good. Listening to it now, many years later, I still think it could have been improved in one or two places. We did the B side in a couple of takes, again with no drop ins. I played lead guitar with Vernon on Bass and Chris on drums.
The last gig I did for Tom Jones was at Cardiff Castle. We played for the investiture of Prince Charles the Prince of Wales. This meant that I finished playing for Tom on a high note; I had been backing him for three years. We did a few gigs with The Squires and a Radio show and two or three gigs with the Ted Heath Orchestra as his Rhythm section. This really was a great privilege, but when the record The Games People Play didn’t make it as a hit record, I decided it was time to move on.