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John Paul Jones

I'd say that although I never got to meet John Paul, we knew each other via e-mail and we were friends.

John Paul once wrote to me: "Musically I've got to be the luckiest guy in the world. My life has been my my childhood musical fantasies played out. Music has been my life. I could write a book.

As a kid I hummed and sang constantly. Then I started playing comb-and-tissue-paper, the 'potato', slide whistles, or anything else that I could get a sound out of.

Eventually I got my first guitar. I became obsessed with learning songs, playing my guitar, and listening to WSM, WCKY, and every other Country Music station I could find on the radio. I also dreamed about those far-away places where the radio stations were located and the places they sang about in songs like Nashville, Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.

I started played barn dances and radio shows when I was 12 years old. In my early teens we moved to Atlanta. I worked with David Rogers, Pete Drake, and Bill Anderson. Made friends with as many of the local 'talents' as I could and, believe me, there was a bunch talent there. I left Atlanta to see all the places I had heard and dreamed about. In all of them I played music for a living. Luckily most of the time I played with top-notch pickers, many who later on, like Pete Drake and Bill Anderson, became well-known. Even those that I didn't pick with I became friends with, if possible. I've live in Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, St Louis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Anchorage, Portland, Pampa (Tx), Nashville, Hibbing (Mn), Sauk Rapids (Mn), Rochester (Mn), Coldwater (Mi), Kasson (Mn), Salinas (Ca), Bakersfield, Bullhead City (Az), Wenatchee (Wa), Fort Worth, and now, Phoenix, (Az).

That's what I had always wanted to do - play music and see the country. So, I did it. I went from rhythm guitar to doghouse bass back to rhythm then to lead guitar."

That was from my first real contact with John Paul, I loved that email, and thought to myself that this guy is a character, it was the first of many emails we exchanged.

John Paul, or 'Big John' was originally from Atlanta where he worked with Bill Anderson and for Pete Drake in the local honky tonks.

Bill had a band called Bill and Smokey and the Avondale Playboys, within which John played doghouse bass. They did a Saturday morning radio show on radio station WEAS in Decatur, Ga. The radio station engineers were Texas Bill Strength and Roy Drusky, Strength later became a major mover and shaker in the industry, while Drusky did quite well as a recording artist.

John then split the South, and spent January 1962 up to 1966 playing music in Southern California. From Los Angeles, to San Diego, to Alaska, to San Diego, To Salinas, to Bakersfield, to Los Angeles, Then back to San Diego.

He played with Bill Woods at the Blackboard Club in 1964, with John Paul on bass, Bill Woods (lead), Red Simpson (piano), Don Markham (horns/piano), Bobby Gillardo (drums), and Fuzzy Owen (steel). Down the street at Tex's Barrelhouse was another band consisting of George French (piano), Frank Hardcastle then later Norm Hamlet (steel ), Lewis Talley (rhythm) and Merle Haggard (lead). At the time Merle Haggard was the sub for Bill Woods at the Blackboard.

In San Diego he played bass for Henry Maddox at the Westerner in National City, with Dave Menefee on steel. Later he worked at the 101 Club in Oceanside, with Johnny Wolfe on steel. It was owned by Rose Maddox and her husband at the time. Then he went with Paul Harper's band to Alaska as Paul Harper and the Westerners, he also worked with Arkie Guerin at the Crossroads in Spring Valley, CA.

In 1968 Paul hooked up with Pete Drake and Window Music Publishing in Nashville. Through them Jean Shepard recorded Paul's songs; "Tied Around Your Finger", as a single on Capitol Records and "You Know Where You Can Go," on her "Seven Lonely Days" album for Capitol.

Around 1973 John Paul left Tennessee and returned to Los Angeles for about a year, during which he played lead guitar with Blackie Taylor in Sammy Master's band at the Holiday II in El Monte.

Around 1975, he began to work as a one-man-show and continued to work in that format on and off for the rest of his career.

He once told me that he always loved steel guitar, but always found himself playing anything but that in a band. His first attempts at playing steel were as a temp player back in Bakersfield in the 1960s.

It wasn't until 1985, when he bought a converted Emmons push-pull, that he really took up the instrument.

He did mention that his being voted "Lead Guitar Player of the Year" in 1987 at the Terry Awards in Fort Worth, Texas was one of his proudest accomplishments.

Then, from about 1990 to 1993 he moved to Riverside, California and picked with Al Bruno at the Foothill Club in Longbeach, California. He later moved around Texas (again), working as a single or with bands, then in October of '99 he moved to Phoenix, Arizona. At that point he took on a day gig to survive, while still making music when he could.

In 2000 he moved to Port Aransas, Texas, later relocating to Fort Worth.

On Feb. 6th 2002, he found out that he had Multiple Myeloma Cancer, and spent two weeks in and out of the ICU at Hughley Hospital in Ft.Worth, before pasing away on March 25, 2002 at approx. 3 PM.


Posted September, 2002

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