Harold Jones (drummer)

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Harold Jones
Harold Jones, drummer.png
Performing at the White House in 1962
Background information
Born (1940-02-27) February 27, 1940 (age 79)
Richmond, Indiana, U.S.
GenresJazz, traditional pop, swing
Years active1950s – present
Associated actsTony Bennett, Count Basie, Paul Winter, Sarah Vaughan

Harold Jones (born February 27, 1940) is an American traditional pop and jazz drummer[1][2] who is best known as the drummer for Tony Bennett and for his five years with the Count Basie Orchestra.[3]

In a career spanning six decades, Jones has toured and recorded with Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, and Ray Charles. He has also played with major symphony orchestras, including those in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vienna.


Jones' parents encouraged his childhood musical development.[3] Already a skilled drummer by high school, his mother drove him to Indianapolis, Indiana, to perform with Wes Montgomery, who left the stage with his band while Jones played a twenty-minute drum solo.[4]

He attended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago on a scholarship, then took work where he could find it, including theaters and night clubs. In 1967, while house drummer at the Chicago Playboy Club, he was invited to New York for what was intended to be a two-week engagement with Count Basie's orchestra but which lasted five years. Jones played on fifteen albums with Basie. He also appears in a scene featuring the Basie band in the movie Blazing Saddles.[5]

Jones says he was an avid student of other drummers, but he was especially influenced by one of Basie's drummers. "I am proud to say that I took everything that I could from Sonny Payne," he told an interviewer.[6]

After leaving the Basie band, Jones was much in demand. He toured with Ella Fitzgerald, then for ten years with Sarah Vaughan. He also toured and recorded with Natalie Cole, including on her album Unforgettable... with Love. In 1962, he was a member of the Paul Winter Sextet, the first jazz group to play at the White House since the 1920s.[7][8][9] The group had finished a tour of Latin America on behalf of United States Cultural Exchange Programs.[10] Jones has played at the White House five times.[3] Still a touring drummer, Jones also teaches drumming at college workshops.

Personal life[edit]

Jones has lived for many years with his second wife Denise in Woodacre, California.[5] The pair married June 9, 1983, and they have a son. Jones married his first wife, Paulette, in 1961. During their ten-year marriage they had a son and a daughter.[11]

Jones's brother, Melvyn "Deacon" Jones, was a blues and soul organist.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2013 Jones was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. In 1972 he won Best New Artist in the Down Beat magazine critics' poll. Saxophonist and band leader Paul Winter called Jones "the personification off jazz."[13] Music critic Bruce H. Klauber has written that, "Jones is the quintessential big-band drummer with a crisp, clean sound notable for the high-pitched snare drum crack."[1] Critic Jess Hamlin called Jones, "One of the best drummers in the business."[5] Basie is said to have told drummer Louie Bellson that "Harold Jones was my favorite drummer."[11]


  1. ^ a b "Harold Jones". Drummerworld. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  2. ^ "Distinguished Alumnus Harold Jones, Class of 1958". rhsalum.org. Richmond High School Alumni Association. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Girouard, Robert (2 November 2015). "Count Basie/Tony Bennett Drummer Harold Jones". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Gil; Agro, Joe (2011). Harold Jones: The Singer's Drummer. AuthorHouse. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-4634-4630-7. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Hamlin, Jesse (7 September 2004). "Basie disciple pays tribute to 'swingingest of the swingers' only way he knows how: let his sticks fly to that original jazz beat". SFGate. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  6. ^ Griffith, Mark. "Harold Jones". www.pas.org. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  7. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (25 October 2012). "Paul Winter Sextet Music from Early '60s to Be Released". JazzTimes. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  8. ^ Edward Allan Faine. "The First Jazz Band at the White House" (PDF). Vjm.biz. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Hickman's Band at the White House". New York Morning Telegraph. May 26, 1920. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Return to Camelot: The Music of the Kennedy Years". WOSU Public Media. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Jacobs, Gil; Agro, Joe (2011). Harold Jones: The Singer's Drummer. AuthorHouse. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-1-4634-4630-7. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  12. ^ Emery, Mike (8 July 2017). "Blues legend from Richmond dies in California". Pal-Item. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  13. ^ Jacobs, Gil; Agro, Joe (4 November 2011). Harold Jones: The Singer's Drummer. AuthorHouse. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-4634-4629-1. Retrieved 8 July 2017.

External links[edit]