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Johnny Jones & The Beat Boys

Faithful viewers of ‘The!!!!Beat,’ Nashville deejay Bill ‘Hoss’ Allen’s groundbreaking syndicated 1966 R&B TV program, got an earful of Johnny Jones’ incisive guitar each week as leader of the show’s house band, The Beat Boys. Jones was Nashville’s top electric blues axeman for decades. 

Born August 17, 1936 in Eads, Tennessee, Jones lived with his father in Memphis after his parents separated before venturing to Chicago in 1955 to stay with his mother. "That’s when I really started got serious about the guitar," said the late Jones. "I had just been riding around banging on it. But I got to Chicago, man, and I got to hanging around those clubs, and I go, ‘Wow! This is what I want to do right here!’" He began playing professionally the next year.

Johnny was chosen by prolific Nashville producer Ted Jarrett to play behind singer Gene Allison with saxist Jimmy Beck’s combo. Jarrett gave Jones his first studio jobs, notably on Beck’s 1959 hit Pipe Dreams and Larry Birdsong’s Every Night Of The Week, both on the Champion label. Before long, Jones was gigging six nights a week at the city’s New Era Club with the Imperials. "I stabilized the blues guitar in Nashville," he said. Jones’ two-part 1963 instrumental Really with the Imperial 7 came out on ‘Hoss’ Allen’s Hermitage label.

Jones was a key early influence on the musical development of Jimi Hendrix, based in Nashville in the early ‘60s. "I taught Jimi," said Jones. "He had everything else that he needed, but he needed a direction. I gave him a direction." When Hendrix split town, Jones took over Jimi’s King Casuals, anchored by bassist Billy Cox; that was basically the band he brought to ‘The!!!!Beat.’ The luxurious after-hours instrumental Finger Lickin’ , with Allen babbling in the background, came out on the Hollywood logo in 1967, Jones’ crew still listed as the Beat Boys.

Emcee Gorgeous George set Johnny and the King Casuals up with promoter Henry Wynne in Atlanta, leading to a contract with William Bell’s Peachtree label. Bell placed three late ‘60s Jones 45s with Brunswick: a funky Soul Poppin’, the Hendrix tribute Purple Haze, and an Albert King-influenced Chip Off The Old Block. Peachtree released two more on him, Mighty Low and Do Unto Others, during the early ‘70s, but an extended hiatus preceded Jones hiring on with Bobby Bland’s orchestra in 1976 for three years. "One of the best moves I ever made," he said.

When Johnny came off the road in ‘79, disco was wiping out Nashville’s blues scene, so he ran a soul food restaurant. "I got in that thing and stayed 14 years!" he said. Producer Fred James tracked him down and in 1997 brought several Nashville blues greats including Jones to Utrecht for Blues Estafette, leading to a deal with Black Magic and Jones’ debut CD. More discs followed, notably 2000's ‘In The House,’ a fine live set on Detlev Hoegen’s Crosscut label co-starring veteran Nashville singer Charles Walker (the two sometimes toured as a unit). Jones died October 14, 2009 in Nashville at 73, his body discovered by exterminators inside his apartment.

Bill Dahl
Chicago, Illinois


Electric Blues 1939-2005. - The Definitive Collection!


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