Ada Jones

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Fluttering, theatrical vocalist of yore, the first female to record, one of the masters of the turn-of-the-century duet.
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Artist Biography by

b. Ada Jane Jones, 1 June 1873, Oldham, Lancashire, England, d. 22 May 1922, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, USA. Jones’ parents emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, with their daughter around 1879. Her first public appearance came at the age of seven and soon her likeness appeared on sheet music. She made her first recordings, including ‘Sweet Marie’ and ‘The Volunteer Organist’, in the winter of 1893/4, which suggests that Jones was the first female solo artist to record. Resuming recording in 1904 Jones not only sang ballads but also performed currently popular ‘coon’ songs as well as vaudeville sketches in which she displayed skill with dialects. In the meantime, she had continued to perform on stage. According to Tim Gracyk’s impeccable research, Jones suffered from epilepsy, which meant that live performances were always a problem for her. Her return to the studios was apparently with the help of singer Billy Murray.

Jones’ recordings include ‘My Carolina Lady’, ‘You Ain’t The Man I Thought You Was’, ‘I Just Can’t Make My Eyes Behave’, ‘The Yama, Yama Man’, ‘I’ve Got Rings On My Fingers’, ‘Row! Row! Row!’ and ‘Just Plain Folks’. She also sang with other artists, including the American Quartet, recording ‘Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon’ and ‘Come Josephine In My Flying Machine’; Murray, recording ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Flirt With Me?’, ‘I’m Sorry’, ‘Will You Be My Teddy Bear’, ‘I’d Like To See A Little More Of You’, ‘Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee’, ‘Smile Smile Smile’, ‘Bye And Bye’ and ‘Rainbow’; Len Spencer, singing ‘Heinie’ and ‘The Hand Of Fate’, and with him performing dozens of sketches as Reuben And Cynthia, Rudolph And Rosie, Louie And Lena and Jimmie And Maggie; Billy Watkins, making ‘By The Beautiful Sea’; and Cal Stewart, appearing in sketches as Uncle Josh And Aunt Nancy.

During World War I Jones made ‘We’ll Keep Things Going Till The Boys Come Home’ and ‘They Were All Out Of Step But Jim’, but these same years saw an abrupt and irreversible decline in her recording career. In 1918 she recorded with her daughter, Sheilah, who was then 12 years old. Jones continued to appear in vaudeville but made few appearances on record. Among her last were sessions in 1921: with Murray she made ‘When Francis Dances With Me’, recording the same song with Billy Jones, with whom she also sang ‘On A Little Side Street’, recording this same song as a solo.