Not to be confused with many musical performers of the same name nor the prolific actor James Earl Jones, James Jones was an American author whose most famous novels, such as From Here to Eternity, dealt quite candidly with life in the military. Obviously, his most notable career was not as a recording artist but as a writer, creating a series of often autobiographical novels that also included Some Came Running and The Thin Red Line. While Jones can hardly be accused of drowning the culture with his efforts, at one juncture waiting seven years between books, the impact of his books on American society in the '50s and '60s cannot be denied. Hollywood grabbed the books and went for a swim, culminating in the image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr grappling on a beach.
In contrast to a scene considered one of the most famous in the history of film, Jones' commercial recording career is more likely to appeal to someone hanging around a library than the sexy gentlemen and ladies depicted in his novels. But in addition to several albums of the author reading from his own works published in the late '60s by CMS, there exists a truly musical footnote in the form of "Re-Enlistment Blues," the origin of which was From Here to Eternity, the book. When it came time for the film and the inevitable soundtrack, the great country & western guitarist Merle Travis was signed up to perform the song. The songwriting team of Fred Karger and Robert Wells came up with music for Jones' sharply sarcastic lyrics. In much the same way that certain television and movie themes became part of the Flatt & Scruggs repertoire, Travis continued performing "Re-Enlistment Blues" throughout his career.