The Voice: Anne-Marie admits she's 'worried' for Tom Jones
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The Sexbomb singer, 80, got his first break in the Sixties when he was asked to fill in as the singer for a Welsh band. Soon after, Tom Jones and The Squires reached number one with their single It’s Not Unusual. That success led to the group touring the US, where The Voice star first met his idol Elvis.
The ensemble spent two months across the pond, where they performed in New York, Florida, Los Angeles and then Las Vegas, where they had a month’s residency.
His former bandmate Vernon Hopkins, now 80, and living in Swansea, recalled “everything was going really well” at the time.
They sold out concerts and when they made it to Las Vegas, known as “Sin City”, were performing two shows a night.
During a break between sets, Mr Hopkins went to the casino foyer to “pass the time, putting a few coins in” the slot machines.
Suddenly he recalled looking around and noticing a red carpet had been laid by the entrance.
Mr Hopkins said: “For some reason, I just looked around, I don’t know why… and it was Elvis walking along with his entourage.
“He sort of passed by and gave me a wicked wink because he could see that I was stunned and off he went.
“So I could not believe it you know, I thought I was imagining the thing.”
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Mr Hopkins was “completely stunned” as he raced backstage to Sir Tom’s dressing room and “burst in” to tell him the news.
In a 2015 interview for Right Recording, he said: “Usually you sort of give a knock in there, because you know what he’s up to.
“But I just burst in and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this! Elvis is here! Elvis is in the building!’
“He was there doing his makeup or whatever, and [Sir Tom] said, ‘Whatever, get out of it.’”
After Sir Tom realised his bandmate wasn’t lying, he “jumped out of his seat as if a wasp had hit him in the bum” and began to “panic”.
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Ahead of their next performance, the singer warned The Squires “to do a good job” and Mr Hopkins explained that all of them “were on pins”.
They opened with Sam Cooke’s 1964 song Ain’t That Good News and eager to spot Elvis, Mr Hopkins’ eyes scoured the crowd.
He recalled: “Because of the light you couldn’t see very far…
“I’m trying to be nonchalant, playing away there, but inside we were all edgy.”
A couple of numbers into the set, Mr Hopkins noticed Elvis was sitting in front of them, smoking a cheroot at a large circular table.
He quipped: “They were on this table – like, you couldn’t see the forest through the trees, that sort of thing.
“They [must have] crept in after the lights had gone down, so no one really knew they were there.”
Half-way through the set, Sir Tom informed the crowd that Elvis was watching and gave him flattering praise.
Mr Hopkins recalled: “So he said, ‘Look, we have here a gentleman who I’ve admired’ – words to that effect – ‘for a long time.
“‘Who inspired me with music, etcetera, etcetera, and he’s here tonight’, then he said ‘Elvis Presley’ and everything was bursting in there.”
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He described the screaming and shouting “nearly took the roof off”.
Seconds later, a spotlight “teased” the audience by scanning around the room for a while before illuminating Elvis.
Mr Hopkins described how “it was mayhem” and felt like “something out of a film” when the light landed on the Hound Dog star.
He recalled: “So he stood up, it was like a dream and was incredible.
“Elvis was bowing and it just went on and on and on, for minute after minute.”
Mr Hopkins recalled the band “waiting” for at least three minutes, while the crowd cheered and clapped and Elvis bowed, before Sir Tom intervened.
He said: “Anyway, Tom looked across at me and was getting a bit edgy then because we had to get on with the show.”
Mr Hopkins scratched his neck and gestured to Sir Tom that he should “cut it” – but was surprised how the singer interrupted the crowd.
He said: “I’ll never forget this, he went, ‘Ah, ah, ah, hold on, hold on, hold on everybody, hold on, calm down!”
Through laughter, Mr Hopkins recalled Sir Tom’s put down to the US megastar.
He recalled the singer saying: “Don’t forget, I’m the star tonight!”
Sir Tom Jones stars in The Voice, which airs at 8.30pm Saturday on ITV.
Vernon Hopkins’ 2018 memoir Just Help Yourself: Tom Jones, The Senators and The Road To Stardom, was published by Seren and is available here.
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