NO MORE POP GAMBLES Today Tom Jones; Today Tom Jones would need to win the X Factor.
THE son of the pop svengali who discovered Tom Jones has claimed that the only way the Voice of the Valleys would've made it big today is by winning a TV talent show.
Acclaimed pop producer Gordon Mills Jr said that there currently wasn't anyone "rich or brave enough" in modern music to take the same sort of a gamble his Tonypandy dad had after watching Jones perform for the first time at the Top Hat Club in Cwmtillery in 1964.
"These days it's become so bad that unless you've got your debut album recorded and ready, an agent waiting in the wings and marketing campaign pre-prepared then there isn't a label out there that would be in the slightest bit interested in signing you," said the 39- year-old.
Gordon Mills Snr had slogged for months to get Jones' voice heard by a largely indifferent wider audience prior to the chart-topping release of It's Not Unusual (which he co-wrote) the following year.
"No one's prepared to take a chance on anyone new and unknown unless there's the mass publicity push behind them, the kind that comes from being on a television show like X Factor or The Voice.
"Occasionally you get people like Michael Buble come along who prove the exception to that rule, but it's very rare - I think even The Beatles would find it hard starting out these days."
But, despite the inherent malaise within the record industry, Mills Jr said there was never any doubt he'd follow in his old man's showbiz footsteps - after all, by the age of eight he'd jammed on stage with Tom Jones in Vegas and swum with Engelbert Humperdinck while surrounded by gorillas and tigers.
"Growing up, life was just a huge adventure," said Mills, who spent his formative years at his family's Surrey mansion, dubbed Little Rhondda, where a host of exotic wild animals prowled around their Olympic-sized pool in what was then the world's largest private zoo.
The house had been bought on the spoils of Jones' huge Stateside success in the late '60s, and Mills Jr fondly recalls hanging out with the Ponty-born singing sex symbol - or, as he used to call him, Uncle Tom.
"He'd frequently turn up at the house we had in California during the '70s too, " smiled Mills Jr.
"Tom was massive in Vegas by that point and, because I'd wanted to be drummer ever since I was really little, he let me play along at sound-checks he and his band did at the venues there.
"I was only eight and it was the first time I'd jammed with anyone, while Tom just stood there grinning and tapping his foot."
So the musical seeds had been sown in him from a very early age? "Oh, before I'd even had a chance to realise it," added the multi-instrumentalist and composer who's also produced, engineered and mixed LPs for bands like The Bluetones and Razorlight.
"I'd be at the studio dad and Tom owned in Hollywood watching them record and Tom would walk up to the mic and - bang, bang! - the whole thing would be done and dusted in two takes.
"Tom didn't mess about and, having talked to some people he's worked with recently, he's got the same no-nonsense approach today."
And Mills Jr, who now lives in Devon, seems to be upholding the family tradition of penning hits, having enjoyed co-writing credits on hit albums by both Newton Faulkner and Ed Sheeran.
He even had a brief stint in the pop spotlight himself during his teenage years as a member of the Pete Waterman-signed indie-rock outfit Strange Nature.
"My success is nothing like the calibre my dad enjoyed, but I think he'd have been proud of me had he lived to see it," said Mills Jr, his father having succumbed tragically to stomach cancer in 1986, aged 51.
"Not that I'd have had any strings pulled for me, mind. " And Mills Snr's legacy? "Oh, it's a constant presence.
How can it not be?" he said.
"Every time It's Not Unusual comes on the radio, it's like dad's just walked in the room."
Gordon Mills Junior
Tom Jones and his former manager Gordon Mills