worked with the greats and even mentored Jimi Hendrix.
By Blurt Staff
Blues guitarist Johnny Jones passed away on Wednesday (Oct.
14) at the age of 73. According to media reports no cause of death was
immediately known; he was found dead in his Nashville apartment by exterminators. An
autopsy is pending.
BLURT contributor Rev. Keith A. Gordon pays tribute to
Johnson at his Blues.about.com blog. It is reprinted, in part, below.
By Rev. Keith A.
Born in 1936, Jones had living in Memphis
as a teen before moving with his mother to Chicago during the early-1950s. A self-taught
guitarist, Jones was in a small blues group that played with both harp legend Junior
Wells and guitarist Freddie King. Unaccustomed to the cold Chicago
winters, however, Jones moved back to the south, landing in Nashville.
In the “Music
City” during the
early-1960s, Jones found a thriving blues and R&B scene, mostly centered on
the city’s Jefferson Street
and anchored by the famous New Era Club. Jones formed the Imperial 7, playing
often at the New Era, where a young soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky
named Jimi Hendrix would come and sit in on guitar. Jones mentored Hendrix for
a couple of years before the guitarist left for New York City, fame and fortune. One of Nashville blues
community’s favorite stories is that Hendrix challenged his teacher to a
six-string duel at Club Baron during the early-1960s, with Jones coming out the
winner based on the audience’s applause.
Jones would stay busy throughout the 1960s. He played guitar behind Clarence
“Gatemouth” Brown on the Nashville-produced R&B music TV show The!!!!Beat and was a member of the house band for the Night Train TV show. For a
short while, Jones fronted the King Casuals, a band formed by Hendrix in the
early-60s as the King Kasuals. Jones also toured with soul-blues giant Bobby
“Blue” Bland. But by the 1970s, the guitarist had tired of the
musician’s daily struggle for dollars-and-cents, and Jones retired from performing.
During the late-1990s, though, Jones got back into the music business,
backing R&B singers like Charles Walker and Roscoe Shelton in local Nashville nightclubs. In
1999, Jones released his first solo album, I Was Raised On The Blues, a
long overdue showcase for his underrated guitar skills. A couple of years
later, he recorded Blues Is In The House for the Northern Blues label,
earning Jones widespread critical acclaim. Later that year, In The House,
a live album of Jones backing the dynamic soul singer Charles Walker (now with
the Dynamites) was released.
Jones and his colleagues were recognized for their musical contributions by Night
Train to Nashville: Music City
Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970, an exhibit that ran at the Country Music
Hall of Fame and Museum from March 2004 through December 2005. Jones (with the
Imperial 7) also had a song placed on the Night Train To Nashville double-CD that was produced by Daniel Cooper and Michael Gray to accompany the
The talented guitarist continued to perform, appearing at the ninth annual
Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival in June 2009.