Robert Paul Jones: 1947-2013
A light has gone out in the world of music that will leave a gaping hole in my life. My friend Bob Jones had gone on to join our friends Michael Stewart and John Chambers. I am told that after overcoming the enormous challenges of pancreatic cancer, his body succumbed to an infection that was too much for his weakened immune system.
Though I will miss being able to call and speak with him, I am grateful for the amazing things that we shared over the years since I met him at the University of San Francisco, enjoyed success as members of We Five, pursued separate careers, and then reconnected a few years ago at his home in Maui. While working on a memoir about the We Five experience, Bob and I had some remarkable conversations inspired me and which added color and dimension to the story I would not have achieved without his input.
In March of this year, I was able to bring Beverly with me to see him for a visit in Fairfax California. Though he was recovering from major surgery, we found a man totally filled with excitement about the next steps in his life and holding a guitar. We talked, laughed, reminisced, played and sang with an ease that was remarkable considering the decades that had passed since the three of us had been together. In spite of the concerns about his health that led to our visit, Beverly commented that it felt so natural we could easily have been in a hotel room rehearsing. It is something that will never happen now, but I am thankful for that visit that was captured in this photo. I will cherish it always.
Bob was an incredibly talented musician and an innovative thinker that in many ways helped to shape the sound and direction of music beginning with his 12-string guitar lines that energized our 1965 recording of You Were On My Mind, and continued with the range of talented people with whom he made music. I was privileged to know him as both a musician and a friend. Following is a very nice epitaph that was posted on Facebook by Mike McCartney, a coworker at the radio station where Bob pursued one of his many musical loves as a DJ. Read and enjoy.
It is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news that my friend Bob Jones passed away after losing his long and valiant battle against pancreatic cancer. He used to be the disc jockey on the air before my show started and we'd swap stories between one another during the end of his show and the beginning of mine. It was a ritual that I looked forward to. I always called him "Doogie" as a reference to "Doogie Howser, M.D." which he chuckled over. Making Bob laugh was always my goal with him because others loved to refer to him as curmudgeonly. Perhaps it was because of his long career as a musician that made him seem like that to my fellow radio colleagues but he was always extremely fun to be around and incredibly brilliant. I called him Doogie because he graduated from St. Louis High School early and suddenly found himself a young whippersnapper in college at San Francisco. Bob was an akamai kid from Hawaii and could "out science" any science teacher. His love for music started with the piano as a child and then added the guitar and drums to his skills. Here in Hawaii, while in high school, he co-founded The Viscounts along with Jimmy Funai, Sunny Cachola, Stewart Matsumoto and Ross Hiyashida. But it was that young kid surrounded by older kids in college that formed a band that eventually scored a Top 40 hit with "You Were On My Mind".
We Five was Bob's professional beginning as lead guitarist and instrumental arranger for the group that Michael Stewart originally formed along with Beverly Bivens, Jerry Burgan and Peter Fullerton. Michael was the brother of John Stewart of the Kingston Trio. He recorded two albums with them including the hit single "You Were On My Mind". We Five's first album and single sold more than two million copies each and has since gone on to become a classic of the folk rock period. Bob was one of the first to use an electric 12 string on recordings. The band appeared on national television numerous times and toured the United States and Canada extensively starting with The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. The re-arrangement of the Ian and Sylvia song "You Were On My Mind" went directly to the Billboard Top Five in 1965. We Five were nominated in 1966 for a Grammy for Best Performance By A Vocal Group (for "You Were On My Mind"). The category included The Beatles among others but they lost the award to the Anita Kerr Quartet. They were also the first commercial folk-rock artists to record music for Coca-Cola. I bring up The Beatles in that Grammy category because I got Bob to admit on The Time Machine Radio Show that he took George Harrison's guitar playing on "A Hard Day's Night" and played it in reverse for "You Were On My Mind". We laughed and he couldn't believe that he just got that off of his chest after over 40 years on the public airwaves. You take inspiration from wherever you can get it.
My oldest sister still has fond memories of We Five performing in concert at her college.
After the success of We Five, Bob founded an innovative horn based R&B band called Southern Comfort. He was lead singer, arranger and drummer for the band which produced one album for Columbia Records. It was during this period that Bob first met legendary blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield. He recorded five albums with Michael on which he played drums, guitar and sang. They also toured the United States and Canada for ten years including playing the Newport Jazz Festival. Bob is interviewed extensively in a book about these years between 1968 and 1979 called "Michael Bloomfield, If You Love These Blues, An Oral History". In addition, Bob was instrumental in getting his friend Dave Shorey into the Bloomfield Band. Dave has written a book documenting these years called "Tell On It".
During this period of time Bob also recorded with blues legends Mississippi Fred McDowell, Nick Gravenites, Sam Lay, Harvey Mandel, Otis Rush and Taj Mahal. He also played on two Brewer and Shipley albums. From 1971 to 1973; Bob played drums, percussion and sang with Alice Stuart in a band called Snake with bassist Karl Sevareid. The group toured Europe twice and made two albums for Fantasy Records.
Bob stated that in 1978, mostly due to the depressingly high body count among his musician friends because of chemical dependencies, Bob returned to college to study computer science. Bob the went on to successfully work as a programmer, first in mainframes and then on PCs. Bob continued to play with his band in Marin County, California called Tao Jones. The legendary funk bassist Rocco Prestia from Tower Of Power played with Tao Jones for about a year during the eighties.
In 1986 Bob moved to Los Angeles where he formed Bob Jones and Hard Drive. He toured Finland with this band in 1995.
In the mid-90s, Bob returned to Hawaii to care for his aging parents after they had strokes and heart attacks. Here he reformed Hard Drive with musicians from Hawaii. The turn of the century is when I met Bob and we used to be back to back on the FM dial. He'd love to tell me whenever the airplay royalties would arrive in his mailbox and thank me for playing music over the decades in my radio career that he was involved in. He said that it really meant a lot to him. That was nice considering that I wasn't the only person responsible for that because there were thousands of radio stations around the world playing those songs. He knew it but thanked me anyway. He was such a nice guy to hang out with and before he left the airwaves to fight his battle with cancer, which I really thought he'd win, we were supposed to get together to jam. I guess I'll have to wait until we meet again in our afterlife to have that music session. This time around we'll have a fog machine.
His primary project before he passed away was collaborating with his musical partner Nils Axel Rosenblad for their new band; Bob Jones And The Drive which resulted in the incredible album "Michael And Me". It is a musical retrospective of the music he made with "Mike Bloomfield And Friends" in the seventies but done in a modern way. Bob and Nils played around the island of Maui as an acoustic duo and the whole band used to rock Lahaina's Captain Jack's as well. Bob's talents were included on one my favorite Maui albums from Nil's other duo The VooDoo Suns (with Anastasia Gilliam) titled "Songs From The Haleakala Kitchen".
My heart goes out to his wife Donah along with all of his closest friends. Maui lost a loving soul. Hawaii lost a genuine man. The music world lost a brilliant musician. I lost a friend who I will never forget. Aloha ʻOe Bob...whenever I play James Brown I will always think of you...aloha pumehana...A hui hou kākou...