I have known PJ Proby – the great pretender to the crown of pop – on and off for more than a decade.
I have spent time with him, interviewed him, set up shows for him on the BBC and almost ended up as his driver from gig to gig…
However, although I enjoyed his company, I felt there was something a bit sinister in his attitude towards young people. He came across as a dirty old man in some ways and ultimately I steered clear of him.
Jim has had so many opportunities to make a comeback and refind the audience he says ‘went away’ … but even at 80 years old his finger still hovers above his self-destruct button.
Less than three years ago he had a major opportunity when he was invited to the Cypress Avenue gig with grand old Van Morrison. They were both brilliant but Jim didn’t endear himself to the audience when he did ‘Rabbit Ears’ behind Van the Man’s head.
He was up there with Elvis for a short time and could have been one of the greats, but – sorry Jim – you’re just a very silly man.
This in fact is probably the worst thing you done in decades … garnering publicity THIS WEEK for your latest tour by confessing your interest in girls as young as 12 even though you are quoted as saying you know it is illegal.
This is what PJ Proby had to say about young girls some years ago…
“I got into trouble again right away for trying to do the right thing. I’d bought me a big house and founded The Nymphet Club of Hollywood, It was a kind of after-school club for girls aged 11 to 15. I wanted to instil in them all my standards, military training. You gotta remember that in the South, we married our cousins at 11 and Elvis used to walk his new wife Priscilla to school. But I never touched any of those girls, I was just trying to give them an education.
Judy Howard, my second wife, was my own age, I wasn’t a pervert.”
Here’s an interview I did with Jim a few years ago but never published for various reasons … now sadly it has some relevance.
The 1960s really were a blur to me. One day my house in Hollywood exploded.People say I did it myself but I was in a bar when somebody came in to tell me. I called Bobby Darin and said: ‘Will you see if my house is still there? ‘ He said: ‘No, it sure isn’t, Jim. Lots of fire engines, but no house.”
The day I died was the day my life began again. I dropped dead in a Florida pharmacy and it was the drink that did it make no bones about it. I’d been taught to drink by Frank Sinatra in the 50s. Frank told me: “You sip. You have a glass in your hand all day – but you never get drunk.”
But by the 60s I was drinking on the scale of Richard Burton – I’d drink two fifths of jack Daniels before lunch…
…Now what year was it that I died? I guess it must have been 1992. I know I was in Fort Lauderdale with my girlfriend, Elizabeth… I’d been drunk the night before and we’d argued and, well things got a little out of hand.
Anyway Elizabeth came and got me out of jail and I went home to bed. When I woke up the next morning she said: ‘You’ve been foaming at the mouth and throwing up.’
Well, I remember I just needed a beer but there wasn’t any so I decided to go to the pharmacy to get me some of these little blue pills, Ativan, they were called, to calm me down. The pharmacist told me I should go straight to hospital. Then I dropped deader than a doornail. The paramedics were trying to get my heart started. It stopped twice.
And that’s when I did it, I never drank again.
I’d had an unhappy childhood, I couldn’t even trust my mother. She just couldn’t stay faithful to my father and then, one day, when I was ten, I watched as he loaded his 300 Savage rifle with three bullets. It took a male relative to disarmed him. But it was too late, I’d seen it and there’s no doubt it affected me and the way I acted.
In court I was asked which parent I wanted to live with. I said, ‘My mother.’ Daddy went berserk. My mother had custody, but I was sent to military academy till I was 18 and I remember Daddy leaving me at San Marcos Academy, near Houston. He watched while they showed me how to make a hospital tuck in the bed then he told me to stop crying and be a man. I watched again as he walked away.”
I don’t come from a musical background, I come from a banking and ranching background but my mother wanted to be a tap dancer and her brothers wanted to be singers or barkers at the circus. My grandmother would let them do it, she said entertainers were all whores and pimps…
My other grandmother came from the same line as John Wesley Hardin. Bob Dylan got the name wrong when he wrote his song John Wesley Harding. He doesn’t know what he was talking about. John was a gun slinger, the most ferocious in Texas … I don’t know if that lineage had any effect on me but I’ve never run with the establishment or done what the Government calls for you to do.
It all stems back to my childhood I guess and it took me a long time to come to terms with myself. Then, after I stopped drinking I started to understand, alcohol just hid away the pain. Even though I was one of the biggest stars in the world I drank because it gave me courage to do things I wouldn’t normally do, like approaching girls.
I still keep a wet bar in the house because I don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink but almost two decades ago I caught on to the fact that I’d been running from a ghost that wasn’t gonna do me no harm.
My love affair with Jack Daniels went on for decades but it wasn’t the Jack Daniels that damaged my career… it was powerful people who did that, they didn’t want me around. I was too good.
People say I’m the comeback king but I never went away, it was the audience who went on vacation, I’ve always been here. It was the system you see that banned me for 40 years and they didn’t allow me back on the popular stage until the year 2,000.
They supposedly banned me because of the pant splitting thing, nobody would touch me … I was banned from all Odeon’s and Ranks, anything that had to do with the Rank Organisation, anything to do with the Grades and the Delfonts that’s what screwed my life up, it was those people. In reality it wasn’t anything to do with the pants-splitting incident it – it started when Gordon mills wanted me off the Cilla Black tour of the UK so he could replace me with Tom Jones.
But he couldn’t just do that, I was too damned popular. Then Mary Whitehouse joined in and said she would get me banned on a morals charge. That opened the door for Tom and I became for Adults Only. The problem was I just didn’t have a good crooked manager like Gordon Mills or Elvis’s Colonel Tom Parker … let’s face it, if you don’t have a good crooked or homosexual manager you won’t make it in this business.
I was bigger that Tom Jones, he’d only just put his first record out – I was the next big thing to Elvis and the people in power needed to get rid of me to give Tom his big break. Engelbert wasn’t even in the running and he used to imitate all my hit songs and he could do me perfectly except for those high notes. Well, I told him I had to strangle my nuts to get there myself. But do you know, even now I can still hit them and I’ve started putting them back in my shows.
I’d never put the trouser splitting back in though and do you know when it happened, which was always and accident you never saw anything. My trousers split across the knees, never to the crotch. These days Iggy Pop gets his tackle out on television and nobody pays any attention. They’d never experienced anything like me in England. Adam Faith and Cliff Richard? They were momma’s boys. I was Britain’s Errol Flynn, the rough mother of pop. I was Jimmy Dean all busted up. I was Marlon Brando. They wanted rid of me.
It was like nothing ever worked out for me, I always tried to do the right thing and it went wrong all the time. In 1966 I left England to go back to Los Angeles. I’d had enough.
I got into trouble again right away for trying to do the right thing. I’d bought me a big house and founded The Nymphet Club of Hollywood, It was a kind of after-school club for girls aged 11 to 15. I wanted to instil in them all my standards, military training. You gotta remember that in the South, we married our cousins at 11 and Elvis used to walk his new wife Priscilla to school. But I never touched any of those girls, I was just trying to give them an education.
Judy Howard, my second wife, was my own age, I wasn’t a pervert. She came to one of my parties in LA and at my parties you checked your clothes at the door. We all just wore loin cloths. Judy’s family owned the Seabiscuit. She arrived wearing no underwear and I knew then that she was class. Once we got married, though we argued like cat and dog.
The phone rang once and Judy answered. I said: ‘It’s one of your lovers, right?’ She said: ‘How did you guess?’ I picked up this glass table and smashed it. Judy died in the 1970s in La Hiena, Hawaii and left two notes but neither of them were for me.
My third marriage to dulcie was pretty bad too. One time I got charged with shooting her but they acquitted me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t done mean things – I got fined for attacking my secretary with an axe, she’d over-spent on the groceries”.
You see women find it really difficult to live up to my expectations. . . I was living by the standards that we in the South respected. The lady’s place is the house and the man brings home the bacon, that’s the way it is but girls won’t accept that nowadays.
That’s the way my life’s been. I‘ve got my biography waiting to be sold for £60,000 but I can’t get any takers. It’s just more of the same, I can’t make money out of the publishing market, either music or words. In all my time I never got paid for anything, not a penny for an album or a single, I have lawyers working on it at the moment and they are suing for millions. I only ever made money out of personal appearances and the like and there was a famine of them for 40 years, they’d never experienced anything like me in England.
Adam Faith and Cliff Richard, they were mummy’s boys. I was the rough mother of pop.
Lord longford did offer me £25,000 back in the nineties for my book but it wasn’t enough… then Random House turned me down saying it was too long at 500 pages, I told them 300 pages wouldn’t even get me from the toilet to the living room, they also told me that nobody was interested in my stories about Clint Eastwood or Kirk Douglas, or even George Best.
I used to wake George up every five minutes as his head hit the bar, how can that not be interesting? I told them ‘very sorry’ I wasn’t born with Robin Williams. I could have it published tomorrow without an advance but I don’t trust publishers enough to pay me and they don’t seem to realise they are paying me for my name, PJ Proby and he’s been round for more than 50 years.
I guess what it all boils down to is, I just want to continue working and maybe get back in the hit parade. But they still won’t let me, they’re afraid of me, they’re afraid of my longevity, I’m too old and too knowledgeable. I have my own record company now and I record all the time but I can’t get a distributor to put it out in Woolworth’s or anything, I can’t find a distributor any place. I’m wanting to record Autumn Leaves with just me and a classical guitar like Eva Cassidy did with Over the Rainbow.
Here in Evesham, I’ve got the pick of people to back me, Joe brown’s brothers have retired here, all ofELO, everybody is retired around me here, even Paul McCartney’s daughter lives here, so does Robert Plant. He’s good but he’s not a singer, he’s a screamer. Robert was with Led Zeppelin when they were my backing band, they were known as the New Yardbirds back then.
Evesham is a retirement spot for old rock stars and I’ve grabbed me five acres of it and now I farm plums and apples.
I got a taste for farming when I was living up in Charlotte Bronte’s barn – that’s when a couple of mancunians put out a single of me and Madonna. I was helping on the farms, bringing in the hay and I heard Madonna threatened to sue them. I never had one thing to do with that, but people thought I did.
I’m nearly 80 now but I’m still pretty active and keep performing and each Christmas I go back to the states to help my sister with the horses. Age is just a number and I’ve always been athletic, even when I was drinking and I’ve finally started to learn to ride an English horse and saddle up an English saddle and I’m going to learn to play polo now, but they’re finding it difficult to get me to wear a hard hat, you need the speed and wit of a 25 year old and I have!
These days I spend my time lying in the sun under the palm trees in my garden. The sun still comes out sometimes in Old Blighty, but it’s freezing if the sun doesn’t come out.
It’s just me here now, just me and Tilly my little dachshund.
I don’t want everybody to know where I live, but I do open my garden up to the public in the summer, I keep myself to myself and they don’t know it has anything to do with me. Sadly though the apple trees are dying because the rabbits ate the bark off them and this place has become like a wilderness.
I feed the rabbits and the birds – I leave the windows open
I just watch old movies on TV, old black and white Bogart movies … or American football, if I’m not touring and I go to bed at about 8pm and watch things until the next morning. I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac even when I was a drunk. I could stay awake for days.
People think I’m reclusive and call sometimes but they say the phone is off the hook. But it isn’t, it’s usually the field mice that’ve eaten through the telephone cable.
I had to go to Tesco today and buy a new wire. They eat through the wires all the time … I cam down yesterday morning and they’d eaten through the washing machine … that was the third time in a month they’d eaten through the hoses. It’s been happening since I moved here nearly ten years ago but I don’t mind, I won’t hurt a fly now, an animal has as much right to life as we have.
In fact when I go, I want to be fed to any kind of animal I’ve eaten in my life, cows, sheep, chickens, fish, let me give back a little bit of what I took off them.