P.J. Proby (born James Marcus Smith, November 6, 1938) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. In addition to his recording career, he has also portrayed Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison in musical theater productions. 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.

Proby recorded the singles "Hold Me", "Somewhere" and "Maria".[2] In 2008, Proby celebrated his 70th birthday and EMI released the Best of the EMI Years 1961–1972. Proby continues to write and record music on his own independent record label, Select Records, and performs across the UK on various Sixties themed concerts. Proby's latest music release is The Enigma in Gold - Volume 1.[3]


 [hide*1 Youth and early career

Youth and early career[edit]Edit

Proby was born in Houston, Texas, United States, and was educated at San Marcos Military AcademyCulver 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,[4] 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[edit]Edit

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 Croydon, Surrey—led to performance bans by the ABC theatre chain, its TV namesake and BBC TV.[5] 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.[edit]Edit

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, later to become Led Zeppelin, as Proby's backing band. The album was produced by Steve Rowland.


The London stage and winning award[edit]Edit

In 1971 he appeared on stage as Cassio in a rock musical version of Shakespeare's Othello, called Catch My Soul.[6] After Catch My Soul,[7] 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[8][unreliable source?].

Recording with Focus and return to night clubs[edit]Edit

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

In 1987 his Savoy Records single "M9700 Hardcore"[9] credited Madonna as "Second Vocal (Special Guest)" though this was patently untrue.[10][11][12] In 1989, the Southport, Lancashire based author/songwriter Ron Ellis recorded Proby singing one of Ellis's compositions, "Hot California Nights"


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, Thanks. It was distributed internationally by BMG.

Granada TV featured Proby in a documentary around this time. Subsequently, 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 as himself in the biographical 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 released the album Legend.[13] 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.[14]

In 1997, Proby toured with The Who in the United States and in Europe, performing as 'The Godfather' in the road production of Quadrophenia.[15][16] After Quadrophenia, Proby continued singing by doing performances in UK, Sweden,[17] Denmark[18] and Germany.[19]

The London stage[edit]Edit

In 1993 Proby appeared in the Jack Good biographical musical Good Rockin' Tonite[20][21] – 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 2002, Van Morrison recorded a song for his album Down the Road entitled "Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?".

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 six road managers/drivers[22] – throughout much of the UK, ending at the London Palladium.[23]

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 and instead became a hit single for Tom Jones. 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.[24]


In 2010 PJ Proby toured in 'Sixties Gold'[25] another revival series of shows.

In 2011, Proby was charged with nine charges of benefit fraud, including two counts of failing to declare savings and investments, and four of failing to inform the authorities of a change in circumstance. He pleaded not guilty to all of them.[26] He was cleared of all charges at Worcester Crown Court in 2012.[27] To celebrate the outcome of the trial Proby released a single featuring new songs "I'm PJ." and "We The Jury" (the latter song Proby penned).[28]

P.J. Proby is touring on the UK wide "Sixties Gold Tour" with Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Animals and Steve Ellis (who is replacing Chip Hawkes), between September and December 2012. [29]



  • 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)
  • P.J. Proby Reads Lord Horror (1999, spoken word album with musical accompaniment)
  • Memories (2003)
  • Sentimental Journeys (2003)
  • Wanted (2003)
  • 20th century Hits (2005)
  • Best of the EMI Years 1961-1972 (2008)
  • Sixties Gold 2010 (2010, available from
  • The Real California License (2011, available from
  • Greatest Hits from the Sixties (2011, available from
  • The Enigma In Gold - Volume 1 (2013, available from &

Early singles discography[edit]Edit

Jett Powers[edit]Edit

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

P.J. Proby[edit]Edit

  • "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[edit]Edit

  • "Wicked Woman"/"Darlin'" (1963)

Selected singles discography[edit]Edit

  • "Hold Me" (1964) – UK Number 3, Canada Number 5
  • "Together" (1964) – UK Number 8
  • "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)[30]
  • "M97002 Hardcore" (1987)[9]
  • "Sign 'o' the Times" (1989)[31]
  • "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)[28]
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