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P.J. Proby
Birth name James Marcus Smith
Born November 6, 1938 (1938-11-06) (age 71)
Houston, Texas, United States
Genres Pop music, easy listening, R&B, soul, rock
Occupations Singer, songwriter, actor
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1957–present
Labels Decca Records, Liberty Records, EMI, Select Records,
Website Official website

P. J. Proby (born James Marcus Smith, November 6, 1938, Houston, Texas, United States) is a singer, songwriter, and actor who has portrayed Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison in musical theater productions as well as enjoying a successful recording career in his own right.

The stage name P. J. Proby was suggested to him by his friend Sharon Sheeley[1] who had had a boyfriend of the same name at high school. In 2008, Proby celebrated his 70th birthday and EMI released the Best Of The EMI Years 1961-1972.


Youth and early career

Proby was educated at San Marcos Military Academy, Culver Naval Academy and Western Military Academy. After graduation he moved to California to become a motion picture actor and recording artist. Given the stage name Jett Powers by top Hollywood agents Gabey, Lutz, Heller and Loeb,[2] he took acting and singing lessons, and appeared in movies with small roles. Two singles "Go, Girl, Go", and "Loud Perfume", were released on an independent label. Proby was brought by Sharon Sheeley to audition at Liberty Records in 1961 and he recorded a number of unsuccessful singles for the label. In 1962 he began writing songs and recording demos for artists such as Elvis Presley and Bobby Vee.

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 the production of Good, Proby scored a string of exuberantly-styled UK top 20 hits in 1964 and 1965 including "Hold Me", "Together" (featuring session guitarists Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page), "Somewhere" and "Maria" (the latter two taken from the musical West Side Story). Further, of particular note to Beatles fans, Proby recorded the Lennon/McCartney composition "That Means a Lot," a song The Beatles had attempted several times before deciding to give it away.

Despite these hits, Proby's UK career gradually lost momentum after a number of controversial live appearances - including a notorious trouser-splitting incident at a February 1965 show in Luton - led to performance bans by the ABC theatre chain, its TV namesake and BBC TV.[3]. A run of minor hits in 1966 was followed by a number of 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, Proby recorded the album Three Week Hero, which was released in 1969. A collection of country-style ballads mixed with blues, it utilised The New Yardbirds as Proby's backing band, who would later become Led Zeppelin.

The London stage

In 1971 he appeared on stage as Cassio in a rock musical version of Shakespeare's Othello, called Catch My Soul.[4] After Catch My Soul,[5] he continued to perform mostly in cabaret and nightclubs, singing 1960s ballads and rhythm and blues material. Signing with Good again in 1977, he portrayed Elvis Presley in a theatrical production of Elvis - The Musical, winning a Best Musical of the Year award.[6] In 1978, Proby recorded with the Dutch rock group Focus releasing Focus con Proby. He then returned to singing in clubs, before embarking on a change of direction.

In 1993 Proby appeared in the Jack Good biographical musical Good Rockin' Tonite[7][8] - as himself. Two years later in 1995, Proby appeared in the Roy Orbison tribute show, Only The Lonely. By 1996 Proby was acting again in Elvis - The Musical.


In 1985, Proby recorded a version of Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love", followed by further covers of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK". In 1989, the Southport, Lancashire based author/songwriter Ron Ellis recorded Proby singing one of Ellis's compositions, "Hot California Nights".

1990s to the present

In the early 1990s Proby was offered a recording contract by John G. Sutton from the Preston based, J'Ace Records. This led to the release of a single "Stage of Fools", and an album entitled, Thanks. It was distributed internationally by BMG.

Granada TV featured Proby in a documentary and BBC TV featured Proby, on their current affairs programme This Week.[citation needed] Proby suffered a heart attack whilst on holiday in Florida in 1992 which curtailed his activities until the following year. Then he reappeared on stage in the biographical musical Good Rockin Tonight, followed by playing himself in Only The Lonely. A year later Proby returned to a new production of Elvis - The Musical, and released the album Legend.[9] The album featured songwriting and production contributions from Marc Almond, and Neal X from Sigue Sigue Sputnik. A resulting single, "Yesterday Has Gone", a duet with Almond, reached number 58 on the UK Singles Chart at the end of 1996.[10]

In 1997, Proby toured with The Who in the United States and in Europe, performing as 'The Godfather'[11] in the road production of Quadrophenia.[12] After Quadrophenia, Proby continued singing by doing performances in UK, Sweden,[13] Denmark[14] and Germany.[15] In addition, he had been touring in 'Sixties Gold',[16] another revival series of shows, for some years. In August 2004, he also toured in Australia. From February until May 2006, Proby was touring with the 'Solid Silver Sixties Show 2006' - and went through five tour managers[17] - throughout much of the UK, which ended at the London Palladium.[18]

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

In November 2008, Proby celebrated his 70th birthday. To commemorate the year, EMI released a 25-track retrospective, Best Of The EMI Years 1961-1972. This featured A-side and B-side of his singles, eight rarities that debuted on the CD format, and two previously unreleased recordings (which were Les Reed and Barry Mason's "Delilah"; and Jim Ford's "I'm Ahead If I Can Quit While I'm Behind"). Reed wrote the song "Delilah" for Proby's 1968 studio album Believe It Or Not, but it was omitted from the finished release. Also around this time, Proby wrote and recorded a Christmas single entitled "The Bells Of Christmas Day" along with local guitarist and producer, Andy Crump.[19]




  • 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 Savoy Sessions (1995) (compilation)
  • Legend (1996)
  • Memories (2003)
  • Sentimental Journeys (2003)
  • Wanted (2003)
  • 20th Century Hits (2005)
  • Best Of The EMI Years 1961-1972 (2008)


Selected Singles

  • "Hold Me" (1964) - UK Number 3
  • "Together" (1964) - UK Number 8
  • "Somewhere" (1964) - UK Number 6
  • "I Apologise" (1965) - UK Number 11
  • "Mission Bell" (1965) - Australia Number 3
  • "Let The Water Run Down" (1965) - UK Number 19
  • "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
  • "It's Your Day Today" (1968) - UK Number 32
  • "The Day That Lorraine Came Down" (1968)
  • "Hanging From Your Loving Tree" (1969)
  • "It's Goodbye" (1970)
  • "We'll Meet Again" (1972)
  • "Tainted Love" (1985)
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1985)
  • "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)



  1. ^ biography
  2. ^
  3. ^ Guiness Book of Rock Stars, Dafydd Rees & Luke Crampton, 1991
  4. ^ info
  5. ^ Catch My Soul
  6. ^ Best Musical of the Year
  7. ^ I.J. Good
  8. ^ "Good Rockin' Tonite" 1993 programme
  9. ^ review
  10. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 440. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  11. ^ Home2.swipnet info
  12. ^ Kathyszaksite
  13. ^ Home2.swipnet
  14. ^ Web.telia information
  15. ^ Web.telai info
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Web.telia
  19. ^ "PJ Proby's official website". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 

External links


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