Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b James Marcus Smith, 6 Nov. '38, Houston TX) USA rock singer with hits in UK. Made a living late '50s-early '60s cutting demos for Elvis Presley, playing bit parts in Western movies, touring as Jet Powers. Discovered by UK TV prod. Jack Good, he wowed viewers of '64 Beatles TV special with flamboyant image incl. pony tail, frilled shirts and tight trousers. Frantic revival of pre-war ballad "Hold Me' prod. by Good made no. 3 UK; "Together', "Somewhere' and "Maria' (last two from West Side Story) also top 10, lesser hits through '68; LP Somewhere '65. "Niki Hoeky' '67 did not chart in UK but was his only top 40 in USA; by that time his blue velvet trousers had split on stage in Croydon Sept. '65 and the British public embarked on one of its periodic fits of morality (though we saw nothing but a hairy knee): he was banned from TV and concert halls, and his habit of demanding payment before performing did not endear him to theatre managers. At one point he challenged Tom Jones to a singing contest. He went bankrupt '68; Good threw him a lifeline, casting him as Iago in Catch My Soul (rock version of Othello) in London '71; he re-emerged from cabaret to play Presley in Elvis On Stage '78; album Focus con Proby '78 was made with Dutch band Focus (see Jan Akkerman); one-off singles incl. a cover of Joy Divisions's doom-laden new wave anthem "Love Will Tear Us Apart' '85. He collapsed '92; his heart stopped three times on the operating table but he recovered and went teetotal; he played a younger version of himself for eight months in Roy Orbison nostalgia show Only The Lonely in the West End. Legend '97 on EMI Premier was a comeback album incl. collaborations with Marc Almond, and he was cast as the Godfather in a European tour of Quadropenia.