Friends, family and DTLA are deeply saddened by the loss of another kindred spirit, world renowned musician Deacon Jones. Not only was Deacon Jones an accomplished, incredible musician and an artist, Deacon was also a pioneer and a clever and masterful entertainer, who inspired numerous artists to higher heights with his incredible enthusiasm, as well as being one of the kindest people you could ever meet.
Long time friend and collaborator Henry Harris aka Southside Slim said of Jones, “I never heard him say one bad thing about anyone.”
The master of the Hammond B3 organ, Jones studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and at the University of Chicago and was an accomplished Blues organist, songwriter, arrranger, composer and recording artist, leading blues bands under the names, “Deacon Jones Blues Band” and “Bucket of Blues Band”. Jones also spent over 18 years as bandleader for blues legend John Lee Hooker, having performed in a similar capacity for Freddie King and Curtis Mayfield.
His original composition, We’ll Meet Again, was the feature single on John the Hookers, 1996 Grammy award-winning platinum CD, Chillout.
Deacon Jones played to pack houses in underground blues joints in Downtown, long before the hospitality rush and far after it. It could even be said he helped create it, hired by those venues, such as the Higgins Gallery, Downtown Comedy Club and Seventh Grand, that understood the power of booking and supporting the original legends of the blues realm.
Jones toured and recorded with numerous jazz, blues and rock luminaries, including Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Joe Crocker, Joe Louis Walker, Carlos Santana, Buddy Miles, Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Hank Ballard, Noel Redding, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Dixon, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, just to name a few.
Jones had been featured in countless Blues clubs and concerts worldwide, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Montros jazz Festival, and San Francisco Blues Festival. And he’s also the writer and producer of several CDs.
In 1992 Jones was named Keyboard Player of the year by both the Bay Area Blues Society and the South Bay Blues Awards. His joint cd with the late Bill Clark on tenor sax, entitled Late Again, was named Blues instrumental album of the year by Real Blues Magazine.
Henry said he could go on but “there’s just too much information on this maestro”.
Harris first met Deacon about 25 years ago in South-Central Los Angeles￼ at the world-famous Babes & Ricky’s Inn, on 53rd and Central. It was the last true blues juke joint on Central Avenue, owned and operated by the late Miss Laura May Gross, who everyone referred to as Mama. Her Monday night blues jam and fried chicken were a stable in the community, and brought people from all over the city, all over the world.
Babes & Ricky’s Inn has since then been torn down and replaced by a junior high school, which is only fitting because the club, to so many of us, was like a music school. It was kind of like our fame LA, where everyone knew everyone and we all came to learn the blues. Babes & Ricky’s was the only place in South-Central that you could come and experience every nationality, race creed or color because we all had one thing in common, the love of music.
Deacon was part of the house band, The Mighty Balls of Fire, and his magical music ability, always with a welcoming smile, put everyone at ease.
“The moment I walked through the door, I was one of them,” says Harris. “I was very fortunate, enough to come during this time to witness some of these true blues giants. One of my fondest memories was the night I had the opportunity to perform with the guitarist singer and songwriter, the late great Larry Davis, who wrote the song Flooding Down in Texas, made famous by Stevie Ray Vaughan. That same night I even played behind Lowell Folsom with Deacon accompanying us that evening on his incredible Hammond B3 organ.
“He had such a spiritual tone. Whenever I played with him it was like I was in heaven! It was hard not to play well with that kind of vibe. I would practice five hours a day every day and then walk to the club from my dad’s shop on 60th and Avalon to learn more from the Masters. ” Harris continued.
“I would always get there early before everyone. One of-of those evenings, I was sitting on the stage fooling around with my guitar, and he heard me, and he said: “Damn Hank, that sounds pretty good.” After that, he asked me to start doing gigs with him.
Deacon Jones, according to Harris wasn’t necessarily a singer, so Jones would have Harris up front singing, which gave him the opportunity to show people his skills. This was to become a similar story for many musicians as Deacon had helped countless of musicians in that respect and they allowed him their gratitude.
And the listeners too, we all owe Deacon for taking us places that we would have otherwise not been able to go. Deacon was our link to the past and the future of the blues. An innovator, a leader, and by watching, one would learn to be just that.
“He would always say, if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready.”
Thank you, Deacon, you are one of the￼ greatest, entertainers and we know you are playing that magical sound in heaven. You’ve earned your wings Mr. Jones. You may no longer be with us here on earth, but you have left so much behind for us to appreciate. You will be sorely missed, by all of us, rest in peace friend, see you on the other side.
-Henry Harris Southsideslim.
P.s… Remember don’t forget to tell someone that you love them today because you never truly miss someone until they become a memory.