MYUNG JUNG KIM / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
Somewhere between cool and camp, right where kitsch and class almost intersect, there is Welsh singer Tom Jones.
In a 41-year career that has featured thousands of pairs of women's underwear hurled at him on stage, Jones has always been hard to pin down. In the mid-'60s he was a straightforward pop act in a music business in the process of being overtaken by wild-eyed anti-establishment rockers.
To be blunt, he seemed pretty uncool standing next to fellow English acts like The Who, the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones.
That didn't stop Jones from appealing to the pop mainstream, though, and he churned out a series of hits that included "With These Hands," "Once Upon a Time," and "Little Lonely One." In 1966 he was given a Grammy for Best New Artist.
His signature song came from that era: the lounge-lizard power pop of "It's Not Unusual," which reached the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and the Top 10 in the U.S.
Once his career flagged a bit, he made what would be the first of a series of calculated moves that allowed him to flourish. By the late '60s he was recording slick country-oriented songs like "Green, Green Grass of Home," and performing in a tuxedo. A television variety show called "This is Tom Jones" was on American TV from 1969 to 1970, cementing his status as a pop icon.
In 1970, he also scored hits with "I (Who Have Nothing)" and "She's a Lady."
By the late '80s, when Jones time seemed to have vanished from anywhere beyond Las Vegas, he suddenly popped up again, plowing his way through a version of Prince's "Kiss" with the electronic dance band Art of Noise. The song made the Top 40 and Jones hit on a formula of doing his own version of other people's songs.
That transformation turned him into a campy sex symbol who has popped up in movies, commercials, and television specials over the past decade. He appeared in the film Mars Attacks, was featured on The Simpsons, and was in a series of Victoria's Secret commercials.
The 64-year-old tours regularly, and his high-powered shows are always attended by several thousand of his devoted fans. He last appeared in Toledo in 1999.
Singer Tom Jones will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets range from $42.50 to $56.50 from the box office, 419-381-8851, and from Ticketmaster.