As a writer it’s nice to know that more than your friends and relatives are reading your articles. Recently this writer was contacted by Billy Jones. Billy is a bluesman. He plays guitar, sings and writes his own songs. He even sent a copy of his new 2013 CD, “I’m A Bluesman”.
Billy Jones Bluez doesn’t play in the Chicago area. He was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Many of his shows are down in Mississippi in the casinos. He’s never recorded for Alligator or Delmark Records. However, he is a bluesman.
Billy isn’t your average blues act. Every song doesn’t sound like “Sweet Home Chicago”. He mixes traditional blues with rock and soul too. He can sing like Son Seals when doing traditional blues or that of a 1970s soul crooner on more heartfelt numbers.
On “I’m A Bluesman”; his guitar is always crisp and clear, sometimes hypnotic. He fills the songs with layers of special effects and keyboards. There are funky bass lines, drifting keyboards and dance beats. Sometimes the keyboards sound like they were lifted from a 1980s synthesizer pop group. The point is he wants to try different things to make blues appeal to today’s music listeners.
His first introduction to music was in his grandfather’s café. His room was just on the other side of the wall where the juke box was playing the blues and soul songs of the day. The customers played records of Elmore James, Big Joe Turner, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, B.B. King and Muddy Waters while they partied well into the night. That led him to wanting to be just like B.B. King and Elmore James. His uncle gave him a plastic toy guitar that he carried with him everywhere. Around 5th or 6th grade is when he got serious about playing.
Down the road from his grandfather’s place was a juke joint that featured some of the stars of the day. Among those who played there were Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland and Sonny Boy Williamson. Soon Billy was trying to pick up tips on playing guitar from members of the house band. A guitarist named Red Harpo would show him how to play songs while he sipped his wine.
By fourteen Billy was quite the accomplished guitar player. A passing musician heard him playing one day and asked him to join him for his bands gig later that night. He didn’t tell him that he had never played in a band before. He was excited to be going on the road. He’s been on the road ever since.
In his twenties, Billy had his own band and was being booked on military facilities to entertain troops. He did that for about ten years or so. Those travels took him to 42 different states.
In 2004, Billy sent Jan Mittendorp a promotional CD of his music. Impressed, Jan flew Billy to Amsterdam to record for his record company, Black and Tan Records. The result was “Tha’ Bluez”. After the release a month long European tour followed.
His 2007 release “My Hometown” received positive critical reviews and international air play. Real Blues Magazine had it ranked number 6 in their top 100 CD’s. It was also chosen by KLM, Continental, Czech Airlines, and several others to be included in their in-flight audio entertainment listings.
Billy wants blues to evolve and any guitar lovin’ fool would be wise to pick up a copy of his new CD, “I’m A Bluesman”. Just remember, it’s not your grandfather’s blues.