Happy birthday today to John Paul Jones, born on this day 3rd Jan 1946.
Jones, is best known as the bassist, and keyboard player, with Led Zeppelin. The bands fourth album released in 1971 featuring the rock classic Stairway To Heaven, has sold over 37 million copies, (Jones played the distinctive three over-dubbed recorder parts heard on Stairway To Heaven).
Like all great musicians, Jones has his own distinctive style and approach and while all members of Led Zeppelin had a reputation for off-stage excess, Jones was widely seen as the most quiet and reserved member of the group. A versatile musician, Jones also plays guitar, koto, lap steel guitars, mandolin, autoharp, violin, ukulele, sitar, cello, and continuum.
As a session player in the 1960s Jones worked with and appeared on countless hits by many artists including, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Donovan, Jeff Beck, Hermans Hermits, Lulu, Tom Jones to name but a few as well as many 100’s of Film and TV Sessions. It’s a hard life for some being a session musician, but for others, it can set them up for life. Both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were in-demand session players, so much so that by the time Page formed Zeppelin he had enough cash in the bank to pay for the studio time for recording the band’s debut album.
Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent, as John Paul Baldwin. He started playing piano at age six, learning from his father, Joe Baldwin, a pianist and arranger for big bands in the 1940s and 1950s, notably with the Ambrose Orchestra. His mother was also in the music business which allowed the family to often perform together touring around England as a vaudeville comedy act.
At the age of 14, Jones became choirmaster and organist at a local church and during that year, he also bought his first bass guitar, a Dallas Tuxedo solid body electric followed by multiple basses in which he part exchanged until he finally bought his 1962 Fender Jazz Bass which he used until 1976. The fluid playing of Chicago musician Phil Upchurch on his You Can’t Sit Down LP, which includes a memorable bass solo, is cited by Jones as being his inspiration to take up the instrument.
It was during his time as a session player that Jones adopted the stage name John Paul Jones, (the name was suggested to him by a friend, Andrew Loog Oldham, who had seen a poster for the film John Paul Jones in France).
In August 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time when they rehearsed at a studio in Lisle Street in London’s West End. According to Jones, the room “exploded” as they kicked into the song – they knew they had something. Led Zeppelin’s debut album took only 36 hours of studio time to complete at a cost of just £1,782, with most of the tracks being recorded ‘live’ in the studio with very few overdubs. The album exploded on the rock scene in January 1969 and arguably rock music has never been the same since.
John Paul Jones is widely considered to be a highly influential and important bassist, keyboardist, and arranger in the history of rock music. Many notable rock bassists have been influenced by Jones, including John Deacon of Queen, Geddy Lee of Rush, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gene Simmons of Kiss, and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana.
In recent years Jones has worked with R.E.M. (on their 1992 Automatic For The People album), Seasick Steve, Sonic Youth, The Datsuns, Jones also plays on two tracks on Foo Fighters’ album In Your Honor and is now a member of supergroup (with Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme), Them Crooked Vultures. Jones has also released four solo albums.
Play-along with the music of John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin, Them Crooked Vultures and more on bass and guitar at Musicroom.com!
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