Tom Jones has always acknowledged the important role that Jerry Lee Lewis played in his musical upbringing. As an emerging singer, he loved the raw energy of the Killer’s rock ‘n’ roll records, but he came to appreciate his later country style as well. On 3 December 1966, a song he’d admired in its version by Jerry Lee gave Tom his second UK chart-topper, when his Decca single ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’ climbed to No. 1.
The song was written by Claude ‘Curly’ Putman, a man with a later Beatles connection, because it was his farm in Tennessee that Paul McCartney and Wings were singing about when they had a hit with ‘Junior’s Farm’ in 1974, after they stayed there. But a decade earlier, ‘Green Green Grass’ was on its way to becoming the composition of his life, recorded by countless stars, later including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Elvis Presley and many others.
The initial recording of the song was by Johnny Darrell, but the first hit version was by country giant Porter Wagoner, who took it to No. 4 on the US country chart in the summer of 1965. Another country star, Bobby Bare, also did it in 1965, around the same time that the Killer got his hands on it. Jerry Lee’s version was on his Country Songs For City Folks album that year, and that was the one that Tom heard on a visit to New York, and determined to record the song himself.
When Jones’ version of ‘Green Green Grass’ was released, the stakes were high, because his previous single, ‘This and That,’ had only struggled to No. 44 in the UK, and he hadn’t made the top ten since his debut hit, ‘It’s Not Unusual,’ went to No. 1. The new release changed all that, climbing swiftly and hitting the top on the first chart of December 1966. It became a UK million-seller and the Christmas No. 1 that year, with a seven-week reign lasting until mid-January. In the US, the single reached No. 11 and it also went to No. 1 in Australia. The grass was suddenly a lot greener for Tom Jones.
‘The Green Green Grass Of Home’ is on The Legendary Tom Jones compilation, which can be bought here.
Follow the 60s playlist, featuring the Tom Jones hit and scores more landmark singles from an unforgettable decade.