Tom Jones Talks His ‘Close’ Friendship with the Late Elvis Presley, Addresses Priscilla Presley Dating Rumors
the music legend shares fond memories of the King of Rock 'n' Roll
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, Welsh music legend Tom Jones shares fond memories of the times he spent in Sin City with late friend Elvis Presley, including the night when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll sang to him in the shower.
“I was staying in Caesar’s Palace, and he was at the Hilton, and somebody had sent him a song he thought would be good for me so he came over,” Jones recalls. “When I came off the stage, he was there in my hotel room. He said, ‘Tom, I got this song, man.’ And I said, ‘Well, Elvis, I got to get in the shower’ — I had been sweating!”
Shortly after Jones, now 80, hopped into the shower, he says he could hear Presley “singing” to him.
“I thought, ‘My God, I’m going nuts. I can hear Elvis singing,'” Jones says with a laugh. “So, I open my eyes, and he’s leaning over the door singing this song to me. I said, ‘Jesus Christ!’ And he said, ‘The song, man, the song.’ I still don’t know what the song was because it was a big shower, and there was a lot of echo in there. But we became that close.”
When Jones told Presley’s then-wife Priscilla the story of what had happened, he says she was shocked.
“She said, ‘I can’t believe that Elvis would be in the bathroom with you at the same time — he never was with me!'” he says. “I said, ‘Well, he was with me, Priscilla. He was. I was naked, and he was half-naked’ — because he had gone to the toilet and had to get his leather pants up. They were North Beach leather, which were hard to get up.”
In fact they were so hard to get up that Presley had to call his bodyguard, Red, to come into the bathroom and help him.
“Red looked up at me and he said, ‘If you told somebody this, they wouldn’t believe you,'” Jones remembers. “I said, ‘Well, I’m going to tell them.’ Elvis Presley was a one-off, believe me. He was fantastic.”
Jones says his pal was “larger than life” from the very moment they met in 1965, while both on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles.
“He started walking toward me singing my song ‘With These Hands,'” he says. “I thought, ‘My God, if the boys back home could see me now.'”
Before hitting it big in early 1965 with his smash single “It’s Not Unusual,” Jones had made a name for himself singing covers of Presley’s songs in pubs across Wales.
“People back home would say, ‘Wow, Tom, you sing as good as Elvis Presley,'” he says. “I used to say, ‘Well, I’ll tell him that when I see him.’ I had this vision of meeting him. So I was thrilled he loved the way I sang. That was a big deal for me.”
After their first meeting, Jones says he and Presley bonded further over their shared love of gospel music.
“He was born in the southern states and was influenced by Black gospel singers there,” he says. “He couldn’t understand how I had so much gospel in me, because that’s what he related to. You see, Elvis Presley was really a gospel singer. And he heard that in me, and in Vegas, we would be up at night singing gospel songs. I would mostly listen, because he knew more gospel songs than I did. We definitely had a closeness.”
Jones remained close with Presley — even vacationing with him in Hawaii in 1969 — until his death in 1977 at age 42. To this day, he still keeps in touch with Priscilla, who got divorced from Presley in 1972.
Though dating rumors have swirled in the years since Jones’ wife of 59 years, Linda, died of lung cancer in 2016, Jones makes clear that he and Priscilla, 75, are just friends.
“We’re not dating, but we do go out to dinner,” Jones says. “A friend of mine, Jeff Franklin, is a TV producer, and he’s got a big house up in L.A. We’ll go up there and have sing-a-longs and things like that. She’s up there a lot, and so, we talk, and she’s a very dear friend of mine, Priscilla. I mean, I met her in the ’60s, and she’s been a friend of mine ever since. But there is nothing romantic, no.”
After losing Linda, Jones says he “couldn’t” get married again because “there’s no history with anybody else.”
On his new album Surrounded by Time, out Friday, Jones pays homage to Linda — whom he married in 1957 when they were both 16 and Linda was eight months pregnant with their son Mark — with his cover of Bernice Johnson’s “I Won’t Crumble with You If You Fall.”
“When we found out she was sick, I canceled the tour I was on and went to visit her in the hospital in L.A.,” says Jones, who lived with Linda in L.A. since 1974 before moving back to the U.K. following her death. “I told her I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sing anymore. But she told me, ‘You’ve got to. There’s no way out for me, I know where I’m going. But don’t die with me.'”
“That song right there is saying, ‘I’ll do anything for you … But I won’t crumble with you if you fall.’ And she told me not crumble, to carry on. So, that song is very important to me,” he adds.
Surrounded by Time marks Jones’ 41st album of his nearly six-decade career — and he certainly hopes it’s not his last.
“I remember being asked in some of my early interviews, ‘How long do you think you’ll be able to keep up the momentum?’ And I’d say, “I’ll sing until I’m 97!'” Jones recalls with a chuckle. “Why I said 97? I don’t know. But the closer I’m getting to it, I’m thinking it will be 97. Hopefully, it’ll be 100!”