Monday, April 25, 2011
Guitarist/singer Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones had an enviable start as a musician. Growing up in Dallas, he was exposed to music through his mother, Gladys, a one-time singer and a family friend, Adolphus Sneed, a saxophonist.
By 16, he was playing for Freddie King, who introduced him to many of the well-known musicians of the day: B .B. King, Bobby Bland and Clarence Carter, among others.
Now 62, Jones has over the years built up a resume that includes turns with prominent musicians such as rhythm and blues singer Johnnie Taylor, harmonica player and bandleader Charlie Musselwhite, lap steel guitarist Sonny Rhodes and the late boogie-woogie pianist Katie Webster. He has made his mark on the tradition of Texas blues reflected in the music of King, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan and David “Guitar Shorty” Kearney. Over the years, he has maintained an eclectic personal blues style by keeping an open ear to other genres such as rhythm and blues, rock and jazz.
Playing with a legend like King as a teen-ager helped clear the way for the collaborations and wide musical exposure that has made Jones the musician he is today. In 1973, Jones again joined King’s band, which toured with rock groups such as Rare Earth, the Marshall Tucker Band, Grand Funk Railroad and Tower of Power.
In the 1980’s Jones backed up Taylor and in 1987 ventured to the West Coast, where he formed the group “Silent Partners” with bassist Russell Jackson and drummer Tony Coleman, both of B.B. King fame. In 1988, the three joined Webster to record her Swamp Boogie Queen album with Alligator Records.
His collaboration with Musselwhite came after the two worked together on a Sonny Rhodes album in 1989.
Jones reportedly had been planning to return to Texas and cut demos, but Musselwhite convinced him he would receive more exposure joining his band. From the early to mid-1990’s, Jones recorded three albums with Musselwhite: Ace of Harps, Signature, and In My Time. In 1995, the band won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Band.
Returning to Dallas in 1996, Jones recorded I Need Time, his first album for the British-based jazz and blues label J.S.P. Records. J.S.P. licensed the record to Bullseye Blues, a subsidiary of the U.S. company Rounder Records, known for its work with George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
In 1998 Jones was nominated for a Handy award as Best New Blues Artist after recording the album Watch What You Say for Rounder.
Jones released his third album, Mr. Domestic, in 2001 under his own label, Galexc Records. He recorded his fourth album and first live CD Jr. Boy Live in 2005.
He signed with Electro-Fi Records to release his fifth album, Gettin’ Real, in 2009.
Beldon’s Blues Point caught up with Jones during a concert he performed at Washington, D.C.’s Madam’s Organ in April. The video we recorded of him for the interview is not the best visually. But Andrew’s band kicks ass. And you ain’t gonna hear that show anywhere else…
BBP: What are your tour plans?
Jones: Actually we’re just now starting to get to touring pretty strong after three months of not touring and it looks like spring on into the summer will be quite busy.
BBP: Where are you heading? Which cities?
Jones: The next tour we’ll be hitting the West Coast, San Francisco and parts of California, Seattle up in Canada, Calgary, Alberta and then we have festivals all over…we’re going to Ottawa and do that festival and one in Dubois, Pennsylvania, it’s a nice festival and those people are like, family. It’s going to be really good.
BBP: I talked to a lot of musicians and there seems to be a feeling that live music is sort of dying out, that people don’t want to support it and that kind of thing. Do you feel that’s true?
Jones: Well, it sort of like seems like the whole scheme of things is to kill the arts, but I think when you bring the quality and bring what people want to hear, you know it’s gotta survive. It’s just a part of American fiber and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
BBP: Can you tell me how your music has changed since you were about 16 and first joined an R and B band?
Jones: It’s more the influence of a lot of stuff that I’ve learned through the years and from my predecessors Albert King and Albert Collins and especially Freddie King. And implemented it with some of the more modern style and also my feeling, you know, so I’m putting a lot of me into some of this music that my predecessors came about.
BBP: What did you take most from Freddie King? You did two separate stints with him.
Jones: What I got from him is try to have power. You can’t match..it’s hard to match his power. And some of his playing, his style which I didn’t try to copy or anything, it’s just from hearing, whatever you’re hearing coming up is a part of who you are also. So it’s just the essence of his style, you’ll hear a little of him in me as well as some other people like Cornell Dupree—I grew up listening to him—and a few other local great players.
BBP: Freddie King, you were very young when you played with him. You were sixteen when you started, around 16 I guess? What was the relationship like back then with you and him? Did he take you under his wing more or less?
Jones: Well he kind of without me evening noticing because all of the people that I met, the Who’s Who of the Blues, I met through Freddie and for some reason he had me around to meet them. People like Willie Dixon, I met Muddy Waters through Freddie, he introduced me. And B.B. King. The first time I met B.B. was through Freddie King. And a lot of the Who’s Who of the Blues I met through Freddie and not just because I was hanging around. It was because he introduced me. So I guess you could say he took me under his wing, somewhat.
BBP: I know you were in a band with a couple of B.B. sidemen?
Jones: Russell Jackson (bass) and Tony Coleman. Yeah we had the Silent Partners together and that was before Mel Brown joined them and they did the album but we recorded with Katy for Alligator, the Swamp Boogie Queen album. And we had a real fruitful stint on the West Coast because we were like recording with everybody you know: Sonny Rhodes, Little Frankie Lee, and whoever else wanted to use the three of us in the sessions, so. We had a lot of success in California, as well as across the country.
BBP: What’s your take on Sonny Rhodes? He kind of has an interesting approach to music…
Jones: He’s unique and I guess that’s what makes a star, is when you don’t sound like anyone else. I mean there can only be one Sonny, there can only be one Freddie King. A lot of people try to copy, but Albert Collins told me something a long time ago. I told him I stole a lick of his, he said, “That’s alright, boy, when you do it, it ain’t going to sound like me, it’s going to be YOU, putting YOU into it. So I’m a believer of that. If you’re really feeling what you’re playing, it’s going to be your heart in it.
BBP: I know you did a stint with Charlie Musselwhite as well. What was that like?.
Jones: Well it was..Charlie and I, we were…it was like, I don’t want to say the beginning, starting over, but he gave me a lot of exposure and a lot of leeway as far as writing with him and stuff like that and I toured more extensively than I did with anyone. I mean all around the world, we toured. He was very interesting, especially exposing me to the harmonica like he did, and he’s a great talent. It’s proven. I mean he’s still here today doing it strong and even stronger than when I joined him.
BBP: When you say he exposed you to the harmonica, did you actually pick it up and play it yourself?
Jones: No, it was just the knowledge of what the instrument was like. It’s actually an instrument and it gave me more respect for that as an instrument, and the technique. I could talk to a lot of harp players about how to cross-blow. I’ve never done it, but that’s just stuff I learned from hearing him and he explained it to me.
BBP: Where did you get the name “Junior Boy.”
Jones: I got that from my grandmother. When I was born, of course I was a junior and as soon as I was born she called me “Junior Boy.” And it stuck, that’s all I knew for a while until I got older. So that’s how that came about.
BBP: You’re from Texas. How would you characterize the Texas form of blues, and do you feel a kinship with the other guys who do it, like Smokin’ Joe Kubek, Guitar Shorty.
Jones: I would say that we all, you know, we all come from my influences and whatever’s there. Whatever that Texas thing is, we got it there first you know, before we got it any more else. Yeah, I know both of them. I know Joe, Bnois real well, Anson. I know Shorty real well even though he lives way in south Texas like. That’s like being in another country. Texas is so big. But I know quite a few slingers. Even the younger ones like Shawn Pittman and Tutu Jones. Lucky Peterson, he and I hung about about two weeks ago. We played a local gig together. Whatever that thing is it’s what you’re surrounded by and quite naturally it will be your influence.
BBP: Can you remember any times with another musician, collaboration that you did that just sticks in your mind as something that may have been a turning point or watershed moment in your career. Or something that you just enjoyed the hell out of?
Jones: It several things. At some point with Freddie I was in awe because after “Going Down” we started playing with rock bands and in the stadiums and the arenas and then with Johnnie Taylor, you know I played with him for about four or five years, that R and B soul thing and played with a huge orchestra. It was rewarding you know…and you know Musselwhite, with him at some point I could feel that power, I like to feel the power in the music. And then Katie Webster, that was another thing, she was a great talent, and my goodness, we just sat back and watched her. We just stopped playing and watched her at sound check cause she was off in her own world, her own plateau. And then Musselwhite, you know I got something from all of them. And then myself, watching my own music grow, creating it in the studio and actually I got a gift of hearing it in my head before we record it. And so much turned out the way that I like it and I think it’s really rewarding to be able to create something and see it come to fruition.
BBP: The rock edge in your music I know that you mentioned playing rock, but there definitely is from what I can hear—I might be wrong, correct me if I am—it sounds like there’s a rock edge to what you do when you play your solos.
Jones: it depends on the crowd and how hard I want to push it but it’s still the blues licks, I mean that’s what I’m playing. And I use a little musical knowledge sometimes, sometimes I get into the mode because I took it upon myself to learn that. But I’m not a jazz player. But yeah, if it will move the people and if it will move me I’m not against stretching out. I just want to make sure it will get the point across and actually I’m playing for me. If it makes me feel good, I’m alright.
BBP: You’ve done a whole lot. What do you want to do that you haven’t done yet in terms of music?
Jones: Make some money (laughs).