You never know who you’re going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter’s not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By – or, better, that TGB needed his column – which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
I’d like to say hello to all the folks out there named Jones. It occurred to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me that there are quite a number of songs with Jones in their title or that reference the name. We were listening to Bob at the time and this inspired us to see if there were enough songs for a column. There certainly were.
Starting with the song that prompted this column, BOB DYLAN with Ballad of a Thin Man.
This was recorded at the time when Bob was blazing across the landscape, burning everything in his wake and taking no prisoners. It was the time when, wherever he went, he was inundated by inane questions from interviewers.
He was also subject to fans who professed to understand the hidden meaning of his songs and wanted to explain it all to him. This song was written for both these groups. There’s also a rumor that it was also for a certain Time magazine reporter.
JOHNNY BURNETTE began his musical career as a member of a group called either or both The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio and or the Johnny Burnette Trio. The group consisted of Johnny, his brother Dorsey and their friend Paul Burlison.
The trio recorded some of the very best of early rock & roll and rockabilly music in a similar vein to that which Elvis created over at Sun Records.
They knew Elvis and he’d come around and jam with them. Johnny said that he could sing “but only knew two or three chords on the guitar”. I guess that didn’t hold him back.
Later, both Johnny and Dorsey had solo careers but both had tragically short lives, Johnny dying in a boating accident and Dorsey of a heart attack.
This song is from Johnny’s solo career when his music was more that of a teen idol than a pioneering rock & roller, it’s Big Big World.
TOM PAXTON was a leading light in the folk movement around Greenwich Village in New York in the early Sixties.
Although Bob is usually given the credit for first writing and singing his own songs, Tom beat him by several years. Many of his songs have been played and recorded by a host of others, almost as many as have done Bob’s. Indeed, there are several of his songs that are often considered to be “trad” or “anon” they are so ubiquitous.
This isn’t one of them, however; it’s Clarissa Jones from his underrated “Morning Again” album.
THE MILLS BROTHERS were around for a hell of a long time.
They started in the Twenties and celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 1976. At this stage, John had died. They kept on going as a trio until Harry’s death in 1982. The next two kept going until Herbert died in 1989.
Donald kept on trucking with his son until he (Donald) died in 1999. The son has kept the name afloat with some help from an ex-Platter. This is a song I recall from when I was a whippersnapper, The Jones Boy.
In 1970, the Grateful Dead recorded a fine album called “Workingman’s Dead”. They followed it with the even better “American Beauty” but it’s the former album we’re interested in today.
On that album there was a song called Casey Jones. This tale played fast and loose with the facts about the real Casey, but it’s a good song for all that.
I’ve already featured the Dead’s version in a column on trains so it’s WARREN ZEVON and DAVID LINDLEY instead. They were part of an album called “Deadicated” that featured different artists interpreting the Dead’s songs. Warren and David’s version is nearly as good as the original.
Continuing the theme, there have been many songs about Casey Jones. TOM RUSH claims that his version is as close to the facts about him as is possible these days.
It was a tossup between Tom’s version and that of Furry Lewis. What swung the vote is that Furry doesn’t actually mention Jones anywhere in his version, he’s always very familiar, calling him Casey (actually Kassie, as that’s the way he spells the title). So, Tom it is.
JOHN D. LOUDERMILK is known mostly as a songwriter, but in the Fifties he had some hits singing his own songs.
John was born in Durham, North Carolina, and is a cousin to Ira and Charlie Loudermilk who performed professionally as the Louvin Brothers. He learned to play guitar as a young boy and started writing songs about the same time.
Many country and other musicians have recorded his music. It seems that John wrote the song about a girl he met on a ballroom dancing course. He used her real name and said that he never did find out what she thought of it. Here it is, Angela Jones.
In the late Fifties and early Sixties THE COASTERS were really the only competition The Drifters had in their field. Whereas The Drifters played fine, and sometimes sublime, music, The Coasters didn’t take themselves at all seriously.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote most of their hits, as they did for many artists at the time. The songs they made popular have been covered by many artists, notably Elvis, the Grateful Dead, Ray Stevens, The Beatles, The Monkees and many others. Here is the first and original, Along Came Jones, pretty much a send-up of television at the time.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD started her musical life as part of The Springfields, a group she started with her brother Dion and Tim Feild. Those were not their real names as she was Mary O’Brien and Dion used the moniker Tom Springfield in the group. Later Dusty went on to some solo success in the wake of The Beatles.
In 1968, she signed with Atlantic Records, possibly because Aretha Franklin was with that label, and went to Memphis to record an album. That album is “Dusty in Memphis” and is a classic. From it, a song written by Tony Joe White called Willie & Laura Mae Jones is taken.