Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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JONES, Wizz

(b Raymond Ronald Jones 25 Apr '39, Croydon, Surrey) Folk revival guitarist and vocalist. The British folk scene produced a number of guitarists of international stature, none more distinctive, influential and unsung as Jones. Ralph McTell (on whose Easy he guested in '74) named him as a major influence, both as guitarist and songwriter, while Martin Carthy cites him with Davey Graham and Bert Jansch as a transforming spirit. Jones was inspired by the wave of American folk blues which broke over Britain late '50s, and concurrently by the bohemian literary traditions of the Beat scene; interviewed by BBC TV '60, he was the archetypal beatnik living in Newquay in Cornwall (a sequence charmingly resurrected for Acoustic Routes, a tribute to Bert Jansch '93). His recording debut was a single cover of Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown' on Columbia '65, followed by Sixteen Tons of Bluegrass for the same label '66 with Pete Stanley; solo debut album was Wizz Jones on United Artists '69. He recorded for Village Thing, CBS, Autogram, Songbird, Interchord-Xenophone, FolkFreak and Plant Life during the next decade, increasingly in demand in Germany from '69 onwards. Formed Lazy Farmer c'73 when he perceived a change of climate, incl. John Bidwell, Don Cogin, Sandy Jones and Jake Walton; when the Germans began looking for new thrills, Jones had to re-establish himself in his homeland, although he continued recording for German labels '80s. He worked outside music to make ends meet, but The Grapes of Life '87 on Run River brought him back into the spotlight. His German connections helped get a spot at the Tanz&FolkFest Rudolstadt '91, a festival which began '55 in East Germany but was looking for a new profile; Wizz and son Simeon Jones appeared on the subsequent Tanz&FolkFest Rudolstadt '91 appropriately performing "When I Leave Berlin'. (Simeon's career incl. work with Geno Washington, Gary Glitter, Bad Manners, Sam Browne and Godley and Creme.) Compilation The Village Thing Tapes '92 on WundertŁte was gleaned mainly from When I Leave Berlin '73 and Happiness was Free '76. Late Days & Long Nights on Fellside '93 was co- credited to Simeon and featured in the Acoustic Routes documentary and resultant soundtrack on Code 90/Demon '93, incl. a version of Robin Williamson's "First Girl I Loved'. His first USA release '95 was the delightful Dazzling Stranger for Northampton MA-based Scenescof label, an album of originals, songs by Alan Tunbridge whose work he had long championed, David Nichtern ("I Never Did Sing You A Love Song'), traditional and Blind Boy Fuller covers. Jansch has described Jones as "the most underrated guitarist ever', and he also represented the flowering of British folk culture as it broke away from skiffle and became an alchemy.