Little Johnny Jones (pianist)
|Little Johnny Jones|
November 1, 1924|
Jackson, Mississippi, United States
|Died||November 19, 1964
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Tampa Red|
Life and career
Jones was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1924. He arrived in Chicago, Illinois in 1945 in the company of Little Walter and "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and soon replaced pianist Big Maceo Merriweather in Tampa Red's band after Merriweather suffered a stroke which paralysed his right hand. He later backed Muddy Waters on harmonica, and recorded (on piano and vocals) with Waters for the Aristocrat label in 1949. From 1952 to 1956 he played and recorded with Elmore James, and in later years he worked with Howling Wolf, Billy Boy Arnold and Magic Sam, among others.
Like several other Chicago pianists of his era, his style was heavily influenced by Big Maceo Merriweather, from whom he had learned, and for whom he played piano after Merriweather's stroke. Jones's 1949 side "Big Town Playboy" is regarded as a classic of the genre, and was covered by guitarist Eddie Taylor in 1955.
Popular with audiences, Jones was a heavy drinker and had a reputation as a wild character. According to Homesick James, who worked and toured with them in the 1950s, "Elmore and Johnnie used to just have a fight every night".
On May 14, 2011 the fourth annual White Lake Blues Festival took place at the Howmet Playhouse Theater in Whitehall, Michigan. The event was organized by executive producer, Steve Salter, of the nonprofit organization Killer Blues to raise monies to honor Jones unmarked grave with a headstone. The concert was a success, and a headstone was placed in June, 2011.
- "Big Town Playboy"/"Shelby County Blues", Aristocrat 405
- "Sweet Little Woman"/"I May Be Wrong", Flair 1010
- "Hoy, Hoy"/"Doin' the Best I Can (Up the Line)", Atlantic 1045
- Live in Chicago with Billy Boy Arnold, Alligator AL-4717 (1979, recorded 1963)
- Harris, S (1981): Blues Who's Who. New York, Da Capo Press, p. 294
- "The Aristocrat Label". hubcap.clemson.edu. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Gordon, R (2002): Can't Be Satisfied: the life and times of Muddy Waters. London, Jonathan Cape, p. 316
- "Johnny Jones: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- Rowe, p. 47
- Rowe, p. 201
- Obrecht J (ed.) (2000): Rollin' and Tumblin': the Postwar Blues Guitarists. San Francisco, Miller Freeman, p. 126
- Rowe, p. 160
- thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed December 2009
- Leadbitter M, Slaven N (1987): Blues Records 1943-1970: a Selective Discography. London, Record Information Services, p. 739.
- Rowe, M (1981): Chicago Blues: the City and the Music. New York, Da Capo Press.