Willie Jones

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Contemporary residents of Richmond, IN, might be surprised, maybe even horrified, to know what kind of musical hotbed the town had been back in the '20s. The nearby Earlham College is about as lively…
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Contemporary residents of Richmond, IN, might be surprised, maybe even horrified, to know what kind of musical hotbed the town had been back in the '20s. The nearby Earlham College is about as lively as Richmond gets nowadays, but back when the Gennett recording label had its base in the city a hot live music scene existed, fostering groups such as Willie Jones & His Orchestra. Thanks to the Jazz Oracle label pressing up Gennett Rarities: 1927-29, many fans of vintage jazz, including radio programmers, have been taking delight in the wee selection of sides created by the Jones group, especially the lively "Michigan Stomp."

This Willie Jones should not be confused with several other performers of this name from the same generation, not to mention the army of Joneses who came marching along in later years. The classic blues vocalist of the same name who recorded "Willie's Weary Blues" in the '20s is apparently not the bandleader and drummer from Richmond. Neither is the drummer Wilmore Jones, born in Roanoke, VA, in 1907, but he wisely avoided confusion by using the nickname Slick Jones in all his credits.

Gennett recorded three songs by the Jones ensemble in 1927. Utilizing "orchestra" in the group's name may have seemed an exaggeration, considering the fact that Jones is leading a tentet. Either way, the naming of the band demonstrated good taste, at least in comparison to rival acts such as Syd Valentine's Patent Leather Kids or Frank Bunch & His Fuzzy Wuzzies. The group Jones brought into the Gennett studios included the trombonist Vic Dickenson when he had only recently turned 21.