P. J. Proby

P. J. Proby (born James Marcus Smith, November 6, 1938) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. He has also portrayed Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison in musical theater productions. The stage name P. J. Proby was suggested by a friend, Sharon Sheeley,[1] who had a boyfriend of that name at high school.

P. J. Proby
P.J. Proby in 2007
Background information
Birth nameJames Marcus Smith
Born (1938-11-06) November 6, 1938
Houston, Texas, U.S.
GenresPop music, easy listening, r&b, soul, rock
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, actor
Years active1957–present
LabelsDecca, London, Liberty, EMI, Select

Proby recorded the singles "Hold Me", "Somewhere", and "Maria".[2] In 2008, he turned 70 and EMI released the Best of the EMI Years 1961–1972. He still writes and records on his own independent record label, Select Records, and performs in the UK in Sixties concerts.

Youth and early career

Proby was born in Houston, Texas, United States, and educated at San Marcos Military Academy, Culver Naval Academy, and Western Military Academy. After graduation he moved to California to become a film actor and recording artist. Given the stage name Jett Powers by Hollywood agents Gabey, Lutz, Heller, and Loeb,[3] he took acting and singing lessons and played small roles in films. Two singles, "Go, Girl, Go" and "Loud Perfume" appeared on two small independent record labels. Proby was brought by Sharon Sheeley to audition at Liberty Records in 1961 and he recorded a number of unsuccessful singles. In 1962 he began writing songs and recording demos for artists such as Elvis Presley, Bobby Vee, and Johnny Burnette, who had his final UK chart success with Proby's "Clown Shoes" (credited to his real name James Marcus Smith).[4]

Success in Britain

Proby travelled to London after being introduced to Jack Good by Sheeley and Jackie DeShannon. He appeared on The Beatles' television special in 1964. Under Good, Proby had UK top 20 hits in 1964 and 1965 including "Hold Me" (UK Number 3), "Together" (UK Number 8), "Somewhere" (UK Number 6), and "Maria" (UK Number 8); the latter two songs were both lifted from the musical West Side Story. He also recorded the Lennon–McCartney composition "That Means a Lot", a song The Beatles attempted to record before giving it away.

Proby's UK career lost momentum after controversial live concert appearances including two trouser-splitting incidents at shows in Croydon and Luton in January 1965 that scandalized the British press and public[5] and led to bans on Proby appearances by the ABC theatre chain, its TV namesake and BBC TV.[6] Minor hits in 1966 were followed by flops, and in March 1968 "It's Your Day Today" gave Proby his last UK chart entry for nearly 30 years.

Back in the U.S.

In 1967 Proby scored his only Billboard Hot 100 Top 30 hit with "Niki Hoeky". In September 1968, he recorded Three Week Hero, released in 1969. A collection of country-style ballads mixed with blues, it used The New Yardbirds, later to become Led Zeppelin, as backing band. The album was produced by Steve Rowland.


In 1971, he appeared as Cassio in a rock musical of Shakespeare's Othello, Catch My Soul.[7] He performed in cabaret and nightclubs, singing 1960s ballads and rhythm and blues.

In 1977, he appeared as a contestant on the UK television talent show Opportunity Knocks. He wore an eye-mask and was billed as "The Masked Singer".[8]

Signing with Good again in 1977, he portrayed Elvis Presley in Elvis – The Musical, winning a Best Musical of the Year award[9].

In 1978, Proby recorded Focus con Proby with the Dutch rock group Focus. He then returned to singing in clubs, before a change of direction.


In 1985, Proby recorded Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love" for Savoy Records, followed by covers of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", "Anarchy in the UK", Prince song "Sign o' the Times", "In the Air Tonight", and "Garbageman".

In 1987, his Savoy Records single "M97002 Hardcore"[10] credited Madonna as "Second Vocal (Special Guest)", although this was untrue.[11][12][13]


In the early 1990s Proby released an EP, "Stage of Fools", and an album, Thanks. They were issued by J’ace Records, distributed by BMG. Granada TV featured Proby in a documentary.

A heart attack on holiday in Florida in 1992 curtailed his activities until the following year. Then he reappeared on stage as himself in the musical Good Rockin' Tonight, followed by playing Roy Orbison in Only The Lonely. A year later Proby returned to a new production of Elvis – The Musical, and made the album Legend.[14] It had songwriting and production from Marc Almond, and Neal X from Sigue Sigue Sputnik. A single, "Yesterday Has Gone", a duet with Almond, reached 58 on the UK Singles Chart at the end of 1996.[15]

In 1997, Proby toured with The Who in the United States and Europe, performing as 'The Godfather' in the road production of Quadrophenia.[16][17] After Quadrophenia, Proby played the UK, Sweden,[18] Denmark,[19] and Germany.[20]


In 2002, Van Morrison recorded a song for his album Down the Road entitled "Whatever Happened to P. J. Proby?".

In August 2004, Proby toured in Australia. From February until May 2006, He appeared with the 'Solid Silver Sixties Show 2006' – and went through six road managers/drivers[21] – throughout much of the UK, ending at the London Palladium.[22]

In November 2008, Proby celebrated his 70th birthday. EMI released a 25-track retrospective, Best of the EMI Years 1961-1972. This featured his singles, eight rarities that debuted on the CD format, and two unreleased recordings (Les Reed and Barry Mason's "Delilah"; and Jim Ford's "I'm Ahead If I Can Quit While I'm Behind"). Reed wrote "Delilah" for Proby's 1968 album Believe It Or Not, but it was omitted and became a hit for Tom Jones. Proby wrote and recorded a Christmas single entitled "The Bells of Christmas Day" with guitarist and producer, Andy Crump.[23]


In 2010, Proby toured in 'Sixties Gold'[24] another revival series of shows.

In 2011, Proby was charged with nine charges of benefit fraud. He was cleared of all charges at Worcester Crown Court in 2012.[25] To celebrate, Proby recorded "I'm PJ." and "We The Jury" (which Proby wrote).[26]

In 2015, he performed in a duet with Van Morrison on the album, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue, singing "Whatever Happened to P. J. Proby".[27]

During a publicity interview in March 2019 with a free-lance journalist, Proby insisted he has never dated 'young girls' and had always married them instead, but none of them lasted longer than three years. He married Marianne Adams when she was 16, Judy Howard when she was 17 and Dulcie Taylor, from Blackpool, when she was 21. Proby made the comments ahead of his 20-date farewell tour around the UK. As a result, shows around the UK including Solihull, Rotherham, Carmarthen and Teesside were cancelled, upon which the whole tour was cancelled. Proby disputed the accuracy of the interview in a statement to the press and to his fans.[28]



  • I Am P. J. Proby (1964) – UK Number 16
  • P. J. Proby (1965)
  • P. J. Proby in Town (1965)
  • Enigma (1966)
  • Phenomenon (1967)
  • Believe It or Not (1968)
  • Three Week Hero (1969)
  • California License (1970)
  • I'm Yours (1972)
  • Focus con Proby (1978)
  • The Hero (1981)
  • Clown Shoes (1987)
  • Thanks (1991)
  • The Enigma in Gold – Volume 1
  • P. J. Proby Reads Lord Horror (1999, spoken word album with musical accompaniment)
  • The Waste Land (1999, spoken word album of T. S. Eliot's poem)
  • Memories (2003)
  • Sentimental Journeys (2003)
  • Wanted (2003)


Early singles discography

Jett Powers

  • "Go, Girl, Go"/"Teen Age Quarrel" (March 1958)
  • "Loud Perfume"/"My Troubles" (September 1959)

P. J. Proby

  • "Try To Forget Her"/"There Stands The One" (1961)
  • "The Other Side of Town"/"Watch Me Walk Away" (1962)
  • "So Do I"/"I Can't Take It Like You Can" (1963)

Orville Woods

  • "Wicked Woman"/"Darlin'" (1963)

Selected singles discography

  • "Hold Me" (1964) – UK Number 3, Canada Number 5, Australia Number 13, Ireland Number 11
  • "Together" (1964) – UK Number 8, Australia Number 93
  • "Somewhere" (1964) – UK Number 6, Canada Number 17
  • "I Apologise" (1965) – UK Number 11
  • "Rockin' Pneumonia (1965) – Canada Number 34
  • "Mission Bell" (1965) – Australia Number 3
  • "Let The Water Run Down" (1965) – UK Number 19, Canada Number 30
  • "That Means A Lot" (1965) – UK Number 30
  • "Maria" (1965) – UK Number 8
  • "You've Come Back" (1966) – UK Number 25
  • "To Make A Big Man Cry" (1966) – UK Number 34
  • "I Can't Make It Alone" (1966) – UK Number 37
  • "Niki Hoeky" (1967) – US Number 23, Canada Number 22
  • "Butterfly High" (1967)
  • "It's Your Day Today" (1968) – UK Number 32
  • "The Day That Lorraine Came Down" (1968)
  • "Hanging From Your Loving Tree" (1969)
  • "Today I Killed A Man" (1969)
  • "It's Goodbye" (1970)
  • "We'll Meet Again" (1972)
  • "Tainted Love" (1985)
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1985)
  • "Anarchy in the UK" (1987)[29]
  • "M97002 Hardcore" (1987)[10]
  • "Sign 'o' the Times" (1989)[30]
  • "In the Air Tonight" (1990)
  • "Garbageman" (1990)
  • "Stage of Fools" (1990) – (J'Ace Records)
  • "Yesterday Has Gone" (1996) – UK Number 58 (Credited to P. J. Proby and Marc Almond featuring the My Life Story Orchestra)
  • "Love Me Tender" (2004)
  • "Oh My Papa" (2004)
  • "The Bells of Christmas Day" (2008)
  • "We The Jury" / "I'm PJ." (2012)[26]


  1. "P.J. Proby biodata". Rockabillyhall.com. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  2. "P J Proby The Official Charts Company". Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Johnny Burnette - Clown Shoes". 45cat.com. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  5. "I Should Still Be As Famous As Tom Jones". The Daily Express. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  6. Guinness Book of Rock Stars, Dafydd Rees & Luke Crampton, 1991
  7. "Home.online info". Home.online.no. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  8. Lavigueur, Nick (August 7, 2013). "Colne Valley 60s icon PJ Proby reveals hunt for Yorkshire Ripper and truth behind Opportunity Knocks scandal". Huddersfieldexaminer. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  9. Angie, Fumble (November 28, 1977). "Best Musical of the Year". Fumbleontheweb.com. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  10. Savoy Records PJS6, 1987
  11. Critical Vision, edited by David Kerekes and David Slater, 1995, ISBN 0-9523288-0-1, p. 156
  12. (London) Evening News, September 22, 1987
  13. "Madonna to sue over 'porn' disc", Daily Mail, September 23, 1987
  14. Archived November 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  15. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Ltd. p. 440. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  16. "Tommy & Quadrophenia Live". Retrieved December 23, 2011.
  17. "Kathyszaksite". Kathyszaksite.com. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  18. Björn Lund. "Home2.swipnet". Home2.swipnet.se. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  19. Archived May 4, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. Archived January 25, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  21. Archived May 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  22. Archived August 6, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  23. "PJ Proby's official website". Pjproby.net. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  24. Archived May 4, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  25. "Singer PJ Proby cleared of benefit fraud". BBC News. UK. March 17, 2012. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  26. "P J Proby We The Jury/I'm PJ. (CD single)". UK. April 4, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  27. "CBC Music". Cbcmusic.ca. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  28. "P.J. Proby Fan Forum". Facebook.com. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  29. "Savoy Records: Anarchy in the UK". Savoy.abel.co.uk. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  30. "Savoy Records: Sign O The Times". Savoy.abel.co.uk. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
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