Although Louis Marshall Jones was only around 30 years old when he cut his first acetate for Syd Nathan's fledgling Dayton, Ohio-based King Records in 1943, he was already known as Grandpa Jones, earning the nickname because he supposedly sounded like an old man when he spoke on the radio, and over his half-century career, Jones grew into the physical aspect of the name, as well. Steppin' Out Kind from Ace Records gathers the best of the surviving acetates Jones cut during his initial nine-year run with the King label, and these sides will be revelatory for those who are only familiar with the latter-day Jones through his appearances on the Hee Haw television show in the early 1970s.
Most of what is here falls into a kind of stripped-down and swinging country boogie style, helped along tremendously by the presence of Jones' good friend Merle Travis (who plays jaw-dropping electric guitar on some half dozen cuts), the steel guitar lines of Billy Strickland, and the fiddle, mandolin and bass playing of the versatile Ramona Riggins, who would eventually become Jones' wife. By the end of the 1940's Jones was featuring his own flailing banjo style more frequently, and he began to sound increasingly like the second coming of Uncle Dave Macon on songs like the breakneck "What'll I Do With the Baby-O" and Jones' signature tune, "Old Rattler." Check out cuts like "It's Raining Here This Morning" or "Grandpa's Boogie," though, to hear Jones' earlier, slicker sound, or his wacky, raucous take on "Mule Train," to get a sense of how much the Hee Haw banjo character was exactly that, a character, albeit one Jones nurtured and played for well over fifty years.
"It's Raining Here This Morning"