Paul Jones Interview

August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Paul Jones’ Hour of Rhythm & Blues on BBC Radio 2. The presenter Paul Jones has also had a long career as a singer and harmonica player with The Manfreds and The Blues Band and in a duo with Dave Kelly. He has played Sky Masterson in the musical Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre and Uncle Jack in a children’s television drama. Recently, Paul dropped in to Blues In Britain to talk to Fran Leslie.

What started your career as a radio presenter?

Twenty-five years at Radio 2, twenty-six if you count the three pilot programmes that I did in 1985. That was a holiday relief for Dave Gelly who was doing a jazz programme. Because I was subbing for Dave, who makes Bob Harris sound stentorian, (whispering) I put on this very gentle, whispery voice and that’s how I did my first three programmes. (laughter) It was only after working at Jazz FM with Peter Young that I developed (projecting) this stentorian (style).

Who was the producer on the Dave Gelly show?

Dave Shannon; Dave Shannon invented the programme (Paul Jones’ Hour of Rhythm & Blues). He produced it for a long, long time. Then he went off; he got offered, very keen on sport is Dave, and he got offered a strange television programme where did sport but they had music in between, which seemed like the perfect world to him. After a while he decided he didn’t really like it; he wasn’t terribly happy doing it so he came back to radio and he took up the programme again. I have had, I don’t now how many, certainly at least seven producers now.

When we were celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary, we decided a brief round up of some of the young generation would be a great idea. As you know, we had Oli Brown, 24 Pesos – hot stuff – Marcus Bonfanti, and Kyla Brox and Danny Blomley, nice round up of some of the hot talent going on.

Then Paul (Long the current producer) said, ‘What shall we have from the past?’ I said, ‘I haven’t the faintest idea! The past is the past!’ So we started dredging the archives.

It wasn’t always fifty or fifty-two shows a year; sometimes they took me off for a quarter. I hated that, in the end I made what I thought was a very good case for it being on all the time. My chief point was, people would come up to me and say, ‘I used to love your programme, why did they take it off?’ The answer was, ‘They didn’t, they just rested it for thirteen weeks, which just gave you enough time to forget, where it had been, at what time on what day and so on and so forth. So now you don’t think I’m on and I am.’ So I was saying to them, ‘This is really not fair, if you can possibly give me every week at the same time, that would be wonderful!’ and they relented. I think that was Jim Moir. We’ve had quite a few Radio 2 controllers in my time.

We eventually, thanks to Paul Long with great help from the archive department of Radio 2, came up with a B B King interview and a John Mayall one, both of those from 1986, the first year the programme was on, and various other bits and pieces, including essentially, inevitably, compulsorily Joe Bonamassa and various other people.

A little while ago, I had a text from Richard Studholme, saying he had been watching one of the Happy Birthday Bob (Dylan) programmes, on TV and one of the people who came on and did a song was Rab Noakes. He said, ‘Rab, as far as I was concerned, completely stole the show. He was wonderful! I hadn’t seen him since he was producing your show when I did it with my band and Carey Bell.’ I thought, ‘Carey Bell would have been nice to drag up from the past!’ I texted back, ‘Great about Rab. When was that Carey Bell show? Richard, rather helpfully, texted back, ‘It was to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Muddy Waters.’ As I was out on the road at the time, I had no idea when this was. (Laughing) It should be engraved in one’s memory, of course.

We benefit immensely from your shows and your knowledge and you rounding up all these great people for us to hear. What do you get out of it?

Somebody said about reading the Bible, ‘I don’t study it in order to benefit you; I study it in order to benefit myself and you may get the benefit.’ I study the blues because I need to. When I am talking to somebody, I recall some weird and wonderful creek they went up one summer, thirty years ago in their career. I might say, ‘Didn’t you once record with…?’ and they might say, ‘If only you hadn’t remembered that.’ (laughter).

I remember seeing Smokey Robinson and he asked the audience for requests; they called out songs that he couldn’t remember ever recording. He turned to the band and asked, ‘Can we do that?’ and they just started playing it. Irma Thomas has a lyrics book for just that purpose.

Marian Montgomery has a very posh folder; I think it was a plastic folder but it was covered in flock wallpaper. It looked very grand with a gold clasp.

It’s lovely when that happens. I’m touring with The Manfreds and I stumbled into my room at a hotel, a week or so ago, and (on TV) they were paying a tribute to Burt Bacharach. It was a rather nice Electric Prom concert, with the BBC Concert Orchestra and lots of fab musicians. There were three singers that he had with him, they were really, really good, and three guests. Jamie Cullum sang Make It Easy On Yourself. Beth Rowley did 24 Hours From Tulsa, possibly my least favourite Bacharach song, and then Adele came on and I thought she was terrific; she was best!

I was thinking about that and thinking, ‘When did we last sing Little Red Book? There was a film called What’s New Pussy Cat? And everybody remembers that Tom Jones sang the title song. Slightly fewer people remember that Dionne Warwick sang a song called I Cry Alone and almost nobody recalls that The Manfreds, on the sound track of that movie did a song of Burt’s and Hal David’s called My Little Red Book. I got to the sound check next day and I said, “What would anyone think about doing My Little Red Book tonight?’ There was a range of enthusiasms from ‘Not particularly.’ to ‘Oh yeah, why not?’ Anyway, we had a look at it at the sound check and that night we did it, the first time we’d sung it for a year. A friend of mine was in the audience, said, ‘Is it really a year since you’ve done it?’ I said, ‘It could be two years for all I remember.’ He said, ‘How do you remember the words.’ I said, ‘One thing is that Hal David is the greatest lyricist I can, off hand, think of in the last fifty years so once you start, that’s it. Another thing is, if it’s in here (my head) and the band is playing it properly, you remember.’

If they did a completely different intro you might not.

Actually, I saw Eric Clapton the other night; fabulous! There were a couple of things I didn’t recognise until he started singing, which was all the better really. There was a new arrangement of Crossroads, of all thinks. It vaguely resembled it but they didn’t quite play (sings the guitar intro) ‘dnn dnn dnnn, d dnn dnn dnn dnn’ but they had the two girl singers, one played the tambourine and the other the maracas and it gave it such a push. Steve Winwood was on the gig as well. Of course it took me back to when I recorded Crossroads with Steve, Eric and Jack Bruce and Ben Palmer and the drummer (Pete York) from Spencer Davis Group, 1966 for Elektra Records. It was Eric Clapton & The Powerhouse recordings. We did I Want to Know, Stepping Out, which I stepped out for and Crossroads. On that version, Steve sang it and Eric just played guitar. At the Albert Hall the other night, Eric sang it and played guitar and all Steve did was play the organ, wonderfully.

They both sounded very good. Steve was most amazing, because, as a kid he used to get those very high notes and he still does. They did, (sings the intro riff to Gimme Some Lovin’ and a snatch of lyrics, falsetto) ‘So glad we made it’; wonderful! I was knocked out with him in 1964 and I am still knocked out with him.

So, you are still a fan of the music Paul!

Not only that, but years ago, I would never have left on a television programme on Burt Bacharach, but now I really want to. I am more of a fan and more eclectic in my musical enthusiasms than I ever have been in my whole live.

When I was going through my pop stuff and, for that matter, my early theatrical career as well, I didn’t go to gigs much at all because I was working every night. So I missed an awful lot of gigs. People would go, ‘Oh you should have been at so and so’ and mention some legendary event. I saw a few. I did see Albert King, inevitably Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, who I thought were wonderful. There were those who had decided that Junior was too much into James Brown and Buddy was too much into Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, I think, so they generally decided that they were a waste of time as far as blues was concerned, not as far as I was concerned. I did see some people but most of the time my blues input was collecting.

I did come serious collecting in those years, thanks to (Paul) ‘Sailor’ Vernon, actually. I bought so much stuff from that guy, including 78s. Occasionally there would be, The Best of somebody or other and there would be two tracks missing and I had to chase after Paul Vernon and find that they were available, as long as I paid enough. He did postal auctions, so as long as you bid enough you would be sure of getting something.

Top Topham told me about doing this with an American postal auction, when he was a teenager. He said that most of the time he and his friends didn’t know what it was they were bidding for.

I knew what I was bidding for. The significant thing about a postal auction is you don’t know whom you are bidding against, so you don’t know if some mad millionaire has just offered twenty times what you offered for something and you haven’t a hope. What you’d do is take some advice from Paul, as you would from Christies or Sotheby’s or Bonham’s to find out what something was likely to fetch, as you do in the salerooms, and then you’d decide how much you wanted to bid and you might get it or you might not.

Were you involved in advising Leo Green about whom they should have for BluesFest London?

BluesFest London; it’s a jazz and blues festival. That’s really where Leo Green is coming from, although he plays convincing rock and roll on Jeff Beck’s latest outing. He’s paid his dues.

I did tell them they had to have Jon Cleary. I do think Jon is still massively under rated. Whenever I have had him on the programme, doing sessions and stuff, the mail is always wildly enthusiastic.

The thing about Jon is, he is more into New Orleans music than he is into blues. Sometimes, the two things go together, sometimes they don’t. It may be that people are not sure what particular bag he belongs in.

James Hunter was another person I recommended to them. I said you’ve got to have James Hunter.

I see you are listed as Paul Jones & Friends for the BluesFest (28th June). You also play regularly with The Blues Band, The Manfreds and as Jones & Kelly, with Dave Kelly. Does Paul Jones & Friends enable you to play different material?

I was able to fit that gig in because usually I don’t work Tuesdays.

Sometimes Paul Jones & Friends does some of The Blues Band stuff, some of The Manfreds stuff and some of the duo stuff and yes some other stuff I don’t get to do so much. In some respects, that sort of versatility can be a liability, in as much as people don’t quite know what you are. I think most people know I am a blues man.

When I do Ronnie Scott’s with Digby Fairweather, I do some blues, I do some standards and I even do the odd song from Guys and Dolls. Guy’s and Dolls was such a major time for me. Apart from it being a wonderful evening in the theatre, it’s a legend but it’s true, people really did queue through the night to get in, because they wanted to get the handful of tickets that were only on sale on the day and people came again and again.

I did. We queued up for tickets and went three or four times I think.

The other thing about that show was it is where I met my wife. We met in 1882, married in 84 and we are now in our twenty-seventh year of marriage.

Thinking of anniversaries, next year is the 50th anniversary of the Ealing Club.

Yes, it is also the anniversary of The Manfreds, slightly later because I think the Ealing Club started in March of 1962. The fateful call from Brian Jones, (inviting me) to be the singer of the group he was forming, came sometime in the spring or summer and for reasons of my own I said no. The next time somebody rang me up and said there was an R & B group forming and would I be interested in forming it, I said yes and that was The Manfreds. So, sometime late in 1962, that group formed.

My memory is hazy about the early sixties but, it does seem to me, you could hear a blues band nearly every night. In the early nineties, you could go to the 100 Club, more than once a week and hear blues. Steve Beggs put blues on every Sunday night. Apart from regularly getting Paul Lamb, Big Town Playboys and really good bands playing regularly in London, you also had Long John Hunter, Louisiana Red, and so on. There were so many bands.

Paul Jones’ Hour of Rhythm and Blues is on BBC Radio 2 on Monday evenings, at 7 p.m., on FM, DAB and on the internet at www.bbc.co.uk/radio2 and on Listen Again for a week after the show.

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Comments (5)

 

  1. Steve Beggs says:

    Whatever DID happen to Steve Beggs? Anyone interested?

  2. Paul Lamb says:

    became a reclusive antiques dealer in Dorset ??

  3. Graham Rodger says:

    The Carey Bell session with Richard Studholme on guitar was broadcast on 28th April 1988. I still have it on cassette. I’d love to get hold of some other shows from that year, particularly the one where Dave Kelly and Paul performed a version of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” live on air… and Dave broke a string, so they had to start over again. The perils of live radio…!

  4. Les Withers says:

    Paul Jones is Mr Harmonica

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