December 04, 2005

Sunset For Joe Jones

Mr Jones

"California Sun" (Henry Glover)
Joe Jones, Roulette, 1961

Hope he's out there havin' fun. . . .

In OffBeat’s latest Weekly Beat newsletter (so glad they're back), I read of the recent passing of Joe Jones, New Orleans pianist, bandleader, singer, promoter and talent scout whose peak years were from the late 1950’s through the mid-1960’s. So, I thought I’d share a side of his I like that was eclipsed by a garage rock cover a few years later.

Joe Jones had two hit records in his career, “California Sun” being the less successful, reaching #89 in 1961. A year earlier, he had scored much bigger (#3) with the song he is best remembered for, “You Talk Too Much”, written by fellow hometowner Reggie Hall. That record first appeared on Ric; but, when it climbed the charts, Roulette took over sales and distribution, as Jones had recorded an unreleased version for them previously, allowing them to claim rights to the song. As things go in Record Land, Roulette’s sudden renewed interest in Jones when he had a sure hit allowed him to record a decent LP and several more singles for the label, the only one of which to have any impact being “California Sun”. In 1964, the song was recorded by a band of Indiana teenagers, The Rivieras. Their stripped down, guitar-organ combo, surf/rock approach kicked it up a notch and took it to #1, before losing that spot to some new group from England called the Beatles, as the Invasion got underway.

While documentation is sketchy, it appears that most of Jones’ Roulette sides were done in New Orleans, including “California Sun”; but I don’t know who is playing on it. The diversely talented Henry Glover, who was working for Roulette during this period, wrote the simple but effective paean to the Left Cost lifestyle. When I was young, I heard the Riviera’s version on the radio, unaware of Jones’ take. So, I was gratified and satisfied when I finally discovered the tune’s HOTG roots and heard those tasty, honkin’ horns and driving beat with just a touch of syncopation. Though not much of a singer, Jones gives it a good natured go; but a more dynamic vocalist could have made this R&B version the one everybody remembers. Not having the single, I pulled the song from a now out of print UK CD compilation of his Roulette recordings, You Talk Too Much – The Best of Joe Jones.

After losing his Roulette deal, Jones brought Earl King, Chris Kenner and Johnny Adams, along with his band, which included drummer Smokey Johnson, to Detroit in 1963 to audition for Berry Gordy’s new label. They cut many sides; but, in the end, Gordy passed on all of them, although he kept Johnson up there for a while to school the Motown drummers on the New Orleans style (a small investment that paid big dividends!). Then Jones took the Dixie Cups and Alvin Robinson to New York and got them a recording deal with Red Bird. A number of New Orleans musicians went up for those sessions, too, including a young arranger named Wardell Quezergue. This turned out well, as the Dixie Cups had a string of hits in 1964, including the #1 “Chapel Of Love” and Robinson had a minor one with “Something You Got”. Jones also did promotional work for the label, and managed and booked the acts. It was his last and biggest success in the music business. He was 79 when he died in Los Angeles.


Blogger Larry Grogan said...

HOLY CRAP!! I had no idea that the Rivieras wasn't the original version. How cool is this?
Thanks Dan!

PS KNow anything about the 'Joe Jones' label? I have an Alvin Robinson 45 on 'Joe Jones.

3:06 PM, December 05, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Man, I thought more people knew about Jones' version, or I would have brought it up before.

But, hey, I didn't realize that he had a label. Thanks for that. I looked it up in the R&B Indies and now see the Robinson single listed in Rockin Records, too. Looks like Joe did that in New York when he was living up there in the mid-1960's, doing publishing, promoting and managing the Cups and Shine. Looks like Shine's record was the only issue on 'Joe Jones', unless you find more. Lemme know.

2:10 AM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Todd Lucas said...

Have to concur with Larry here. I had no idea this wasn't a Rivieras original until I read about Jones' version the other day after his death. I'm a big fan of The Rivieras version but must say that Jones gives them a real run for their money. Nice and thanks for posting.

10:23 AM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

I haven't seen anything else on 'Joe Jones'. Here's a link to a scan of the Shine 45.

I'll have to blog it in the next few weeks. It's a killer!

12:29 PM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Holy shit, Larry! Talk about a senior moment, or two. When I saw that label on your link I suddenly realized I have CD burns of both those tunes sent to me with some other sides by a kind reader in a trade-out. I just didn't pay attention to the tiny print, I guess, that said 'Joe Jones' by it. I wish I had the time and patience to do a database on all this stuff. "You Brought My Heart Right Down To My Knees" is a great cut; and I look forward to you blogging it. The flip is a "Something You Got" derivative. Thanks for rebooting my brain.

1:19 PM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

So sorry to hear this... a KEY piece of the story, man.

(the sad thing is I didn't realize he was still alive... i mean he hadn't been heard from in some time... )

Anyway, yeah, as far as I know the Joe Jones label's only release was the Shine thing... it rocks.

8:01 PM, December 07, 2005  

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