Duke Jones

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In some cases, the trick to a good pseudonym comes down to a sense of the ordinary: Duke Jones sounds like it might be a typical guy writing blues songs, so it comes as no surprise that the name shows…
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In some cases, the trick to a good pseudonym comes down to a sense of the ordinary: Duke Jones sounds like it might be a typical guy writing blues songs, so it comes as no surprise that the name shows up on recording credits for this kind of material, specifically classic blues from the Roaring Twenties. Talented singer Josie Miles cut and released several songs attributed to Jones, activity that certainly helps create the impression that a single individual named Duke Jones actually existed.

While actual instrumentalists did come along with this name somewhat later, in point of fact the name was used in the '20s by various established songwriters who passed it around like a trading card. Early Paramount classic blues publishing ventures attributed to the alias include the hysterical "Mad Mama's Blues," actually written by Spencer Williams, already a prolific tunesmith under his real name. Miles recorded the latter song as well as the sour expressions captured in "Bitter Feeling Blues," but in this case, Duke Jones was a cover for Arthur Ray, not Williams. Singer Helen Gross also cut a version of "Bitter Feeling Blues." Co-writing with pianist Mike Jackson, the Ray version of Duke Jones helped drive the deadly "Black Hearse Blues" into the garage of a Ma Rainey recording session. The latter track has been reissued on CBS and Columbia anthologies; otherwise, Document is the label to go to find the referenced songs.