This is a more finished article on Andrew that ran in Buddy Magazine (cover) and Blues and Rhythm Magazine (cover) in 1998. It's been updated with some additional interviews.
Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones
Another Dallas blues secret revealed
by Don O.
It's almost like there's a conspiracy to keep Dallas/Fort Worth blues a secret. We have an exciting, vibrant blues scene here, but invariably, the musicians have to leave town to make it. This is not something new. It was true in Blind Lemon Jefferson's day, it was true for T Bone Walker, for Freddie King, for Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan, and it's true today. If they're lucky enough to make it big, like Stevie Ray, they are suddenly noticed by the local press. It almost seems they need the approval of the outside world before they merit the attention of most Dallas/Fort Worth journalists.
Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones is the perfect example. Here's a great Dallas musician who has worked with Freddie King, Johnnie Taylor, Katie Webster, Bobby Patterson, Charlie Musselwhite, and other big name blues stars. He has his own Dallas based record label, GalexC Records, which is probably better known in England than in Dallas. He's recorded for several different labels including RSO (on Freddie King's Larger than Life Lp), four albums for Alligator Records (three with Charlie Musselwhite, one with Katie Webster), plus two under his own name. Yet right here in his hometown, few people outside of the tight knit blues community have heard of Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones.
Somehow, it does not seem politically correct to be calling a grandfather "Junior Boy", but Andrew is used to the confusion. "My grandmother gave me that nickname" said Jones. "I've been 'Junior Boy' ever since I can remember. I don't know why. I am a junior. My father is Andrew Jones senior. Most people think 'Junior Boy' is my real name. Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records President) loves that name. He thinks it's real cool. Some people have a hard time calling me that, but it's cool. That's all I ever heard. Some people call me Andrew, some people call me "Junior Boy". I guess I don't know who I am!"
A Dallas native, Jones' first exposure to music came through a saxophone playing uncle, Adolphus Sneed, and his mother, who gave up her singing career at Andrew's birth. He soon picked up a guitar and by the time he was in high school had come to the attention of Freddie King. "I first met Freddie in 1966" remembered Jones. "A guy in the neighborhood told me Freddie King's Band, the Thunderbirds, were looking for a guitar player and he asked me if I'd like to go over to meet them. Of course I said yes. So we went over there and I was sitting in practicing with the band when Freddie came in. The band told him they had found their new guitarist and that my name was "Junior Boy". Freddie took one look at me and said, 'You mean LITTLE boy!' That intimidated me right from the start. Then he asked 'What is that you're holding?' I told him that was my guitar. It was a cheap little pawn shop model my mom had purchased. He said 'Give me that!' He proceeded to put on his thumb and fingerpicks and play it just like he played his guitar. Strings went flying everywhere! He broke every one of them. He handed it back to me and said "That's a Mickey Mouse guitar."
"Eventually I ended up being in the band, after Freddie got my mom's permission" said Jones. "I was only about 17 at the time. Freddie used to tease me and play jokes on me. I'll never forget the ham sandwich incident! He had stopped by the house to pick me up for a road gig and my mom was making me some ham sandwiches for the road. She asked him if he wanted one and he said no. Well we headed out down the street with big waves and goodbyes, friendly as can be. Once we got around the corner Freddie said 'Gimme that bag' and he proceeded to eat all my ham sandwiches! He used to drive me crazy with jokes like that. At the same time, though, he took real good care of me on the road. He took me backstage to meet B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Clarence Carter, and all kinds of other stars. We toured all around Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, sort of the regional circuit."
Andrew was in and out of Freddie King's band several times in the early 70's and also worked in bands with Bobby Patterson, Johnnie Taylor, and R.L. Griffin. Eventually he ended up in California. "Tony Cole and Russell Jackson from B.B. King's band had a hot group out on the west coast called Silent Partners" said Jones. "Tony had played with Bobby Bland plus I had played with Freddie King so we were sort of the new breed that had played with the legends. That gave us some legitimacy. We were with Katie Webster's agency and because of that we ended up working together. I met Katie and it was just a love affair, like brother and sister, right off the bat. She's still one of my favorite people. We worked with her for about a year. We did the Swamp Boogie Queen album with her on Alligator. After that, things weren't working out too well. I had obligations here in Dallas but I was living out in Sacramento. It just got to be too much."
It was through the Silent Partners that "Junior Boy" hooked up with Charlie Musselwhite. "We were doing this Frankie Lee album and a Sonny Rhodes album out on the west coast" remembered Jones. "I met Charlie on one of those sessions. He asked The Silent Partners to back him up on a tour with John Lee Hooker. We were interested since Katie was over touring in Europe and we had the time. We were booked as a double bill with us opening for Charlie, then backing his show. Midway through the tour, up in Saskatoon, Canada, the Silent Partners thing kind of came to a head. I had made my mind up to leave the tour, bring somebody else in, and go back to Texas. Charlie was not a part of our band but he observed what was going on. He wanted to start his own backing band and asked me to be a part of it. I told him I was going to go back to Texas, cut some demos, and try it on my own. He told me 'Why don't you stick with me? I ain't never cut a demo in my life. I'll see you get all the exposure you need.' A few months later he sent me the tickets and we went off on tour to Australia. I ended up touring with him for 8 years."
The Charlie Musselwhite Band was a true international experience for "Junior Boy". The band toured all over the world including New Zealand, Fiji, Scandinavia, South America, Poland, Japan, and all over the U.S. and Canada. "It would be shorter to list where we didn't play" laughed Jones. "When you go to Europe it gets unreal. They look at this music as a culture. They respect it. In Norway they even send kids to school to learn to play blues. They take it real serious."
In 1995, The Charlie Musselwhite Band won a W.C Handy blues award (the blues world's equivalent to a Grammy) as The Blues Band of the Year. Shortly after that, Jones and Dallas drummer Tommy Hill left Charlie's band to pursue their own careers.
While waiting for the right offer to come along, Andrew began sitting in regularly at R.L. Griffin's Blues Palace. It was there he was seen by JSP Records owner John Stedman who soon offered him a recording deal on his London based blues label. Jones cut his first solo project at Audio Dallas Studio with his old partner Tommy Hill on skins and his own son, Christole Jones, on bass. The resulting album, I Need Time, won rave reviews in the blues press and soon had Jones out on the road hitting blues clubs on the east and west coast. JSP quickly licensed the CD to Rounder subsidiary Bullseye Blues in the U.S. and Andrew signed with the bigger label in 1997.
In early 1998 Andrew went back to Audio Dallas and cut his second CD, Watch What You Say. He's now gearing up for a series of summer and fall tours and festival dates in support of the new release. In between his own work, he has found time to produce CDs on Randy McAllister and Cookie McGee for JSP. Jones was also nominated for another W.C. Handy Award in May of this year, this time as New Artist of the Year.
"My wife and my life are the main inspiration for my songs" said Jones. "I just observe what is going on in my life and in bars around me and write songs about it. Like 'These Bills', that's a true to life story everybody knows. I was just dreading going out to the mailbox to get the mail one day because I knew it was going to be full of bills. I got to thinking, there's a song. Or my wife Shirley will point something out to me. For instance, I didn't know what a hoochie mama was. I was working down at R.L.'s Blues Palace one night and this lady kept flirting with me, even though my wife was sitting right there. Finally, my wife said 'Come sit over here away from that hoochie mama.' I said that what? She explained to me what a hoochie mama was and I said, dang, there's a song! She's not just my inspiration, she's my backbone. I couldn't do any of this without her support. She's the one who keeps me going."
"We had a lot of fun making this new CD. There's a lot of different styles of blues on it. There's not just shuffles. My wife is already giving me grief because some of the songs are too true to life. I just try to take what's in me and put it out there in my music. That's what the blues is all about. I just hope people like it and support it because it's all I know how to do."