The night the revolution went mainstream: When Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young became Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young & Tom Jones

Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young & Tom Jones perform on This Is Tom Jones
(Image credit: ABC)

From Dolly Parton to Snoop Dogg, Johnny Cash to the Jonas Brothers, history is littered with musicians who've been given their own TV shows. Some were good. Some were awful. But only one starred barrel-voiced Welsh lothario Tom Jones fronting Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

This Is Tom Jones was a success, running for three seasons between 1969 and 1971 and attracting a variety of stellar names including Janis Joplin, The Moody Blues, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Who, Joe Cocker and Donovan to the BBC studios in Elstree, England, before production shifted to Los Angeles. Jones was a natural in front of the camera, and received a Golden Globe nomination in 1970 for Best TV Musical/Comedy Actor.

Four episodes into the second series, broadcast on October 16, 1969, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young showed up, appearing alongside actor/singer Anthony Newley, model/singer Peggy Lipton, and comedian/impressionist John Byner. Presumably Neil Young needed some cajoling to take part – one of the reasons he'd left Buffalo Springfield two years later was his reluctance to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – but the band's performance is anything but reluctant. 

David Crosby stares at Tom Jones with a mix of embarrassment and adoration, while Stephen Stills ends the song shrieking with unfettered abandon. Even Neil Young looks committed to the performance. And Tom Jones, while initially appearing slightly unsure about what's transpiring, swiftly finds his feet and gives it Full Tiger, as his legions of female followers might say. 

The booking seems strange in hindsight. Hell, it probably seemed strange at the time, with CSN&Y at the height of their popularity, appearing on a mainstream variety show just two months after their triumphant showing at Woodstock. 

Even the choice of song was odd for a family TV show. Long Time Gone – which opened the subsequent Woodstock movie – was written as a revolutionary anthem, penned on the night politician Bobby Kennedy was slain. 

"I believed in him because he said he wanted to make some positive changes in America," wrote Crosby, in the sleevenotes for the 1991 box set Crosby, Stills & Nash. "He hadn't been bought and sold like Johnson and Nixon – cats who made their deals years ago with the special interests in this country in order to gain power. I thought Bobby, like his brother, was a leader who had not made those deals. I was already angry about Jack Kennedy getting killed and it boiled over into this song when they got his brother, too."

Neil Young's manager later agreed that the booking was a strange one. "It was very highly rated, sold a lotta records, but in retrospect it was embarrassing, just a bad call,” he told writer Jimmy McDonough, in his 2003 Neil Young biography, Shakey. “Neil went, 'The Tom Jones Show! What possessed you?’ Neil never forgave me for that. He ripped me about it for a very, very long time. Years.”

Stills, meanwhile, was happier with the outcome. "I really dig Tom Jones," he said. "He’s got incredible chops.”

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.