While Elvis Presley started his career making rockabilly songs, he was making music fairly similar to Tom Jones’ by the mid-1960s. Elvis and Jones first met on the set of one of Elvis’ movies. During their first encounter, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll sang one of the Welsh crooner’s classic songs to him. Jones revealed how he reacted to this.
What Tom Jones thought when he first met Elvis Presley
Around the time Hawaii became a state in 1959, there was an uptick in interest in Hawaiian culture in the American mainland. Around that time, Elvis made a trio of movies set in Hawaii: Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style. According to The Sunday Post, Jones first met Elvis when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was filming part of Paradise, Hawaiian Style on a Paramount Pictures backlot in 1965.
During an episode of The Graham Norton Show, Jones explained what happened when he visited the set of Paradise, Hawaiian Style. “They closed the doors [behind me] and I’m standing there in the back with the Memphis Mafia, the people that work for him, and Elvis is there in a mock helicopter with a girl,” Jones recalled. “They did the scene and I’m there thinking ‘Oh my, it’s Elvis Presley.'”
The classic song the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll sang to the Welsh crooner
Elvis greeted Jones. “When they said cut, Elvis looked across and went [Tom Jones gestures a hello] and I was looking around at the fellas with me,” Jones said. “They said: ‘Elvis is waving at you, wave back!’
“So he gets out of this helicopter and starts walking towards me,” Jones added. “I had a record out at the time, my third single called ‘With These Hands’ and Elvis is suddenly walking towards me and he’s singing ‘With these hands, I will cling to you…'” Those are some of the lyrics of “With These Hands.” Jones was stunned. “And I thought ‘My God! If the boys back home could see me now,'” he recalled.
How the world reacted to Tom Jones’ ‘With These Hands’
Elvis wasn’t the only one who seemed to embrace “With These Hands.” The track reached No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for eight weeks. The song’s parent album, What’s New Pussycat?, was a minor hit, peaking at No. 114 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for five weeks.
The Official Charts Company reports the track was an even bigger hit in the United Kingdom. Jones’ version of “With These Hands” reached No. 13 in the U.K. and stayed on the chart for 11 weeks. On the other hand, What’s New Pussycat did not chart in the U.K. “With These Hands” was a bona fide hit and it has a special place in the history of Elvis and Jones’ friendship.