"Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss."
Dennis Jones: Blues with no limits
Sizzling hot guitar solos. Smooth and soulful vocals. High-energy stage performance. Backed by a rhythm section that is second to none, this IS Dennis Jones. Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The drums were his first passion and they still form his relentless grooves. Check out a live show, and you’ll instantly agree, Dennis Jones’s band ROCKS the blues like NO other! With original songs, some of which are sure to become classics, Dennis’s feet are firmly rooted in the past, yet his heart and soul are connected to the present. He writes songs that seamlessly blend the best of both worlds, presenting a unique and contemporary style of American rock and blues. And unlike some others, he isn’t afraid to tackle the controversial issues of today.
Since 2003, Dennis has released four successful albums on his own label, Blue Rock Records. The newly released CD, My Kinda Blues, features legendary guest musicians, Kenny Neal, and Guitar Shorty.
Dennis is no stranger to film either. Deep Blues from his first CD, Falling Up, was featured in a 2006 Lions Gate movie, Sea of Fear. Finally, Dennis is one of several artists featured in the much-anticipated Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn and "Mama" Laura Mae Gross. He opened for such greats as Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour. Dennis won the International Blues Competition, Memphis, 2004, as part of Zac Harmon’s band and in May 2012, was honored to present the Awards for BB King Entertainer of the Year.
Dennis and his band continue to work hard to achieve the next level of musical success. Increased touring opportunities and greater exposure to new fans will undoubtedly make this band a household name. So if the same old blues has got you down, then it’s time to check out the Dennis Jones Band!
Interview by Michael Limnios
What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?
Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss. Each individual life experience, good or bad, is unique, yet its resulting pain or glory is often understood, and even felt, by others, as part of our common human experience. This is what I love about the blues.
Blues music is also part of my heritage, and a birth right, which I cherish and want to be remembered.
Photo by Bob Uecke
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?
The fact that I have had lots of experiences in my life is what makes me a good bluesman and songwriter. It’s hard to understand true happiness if you have never felt despair, and I’ve been there. Other than this, my passion for making and playing blues music certainly helps.
What characterize Dennis Jones sound and music philosophy?
My sound is a combination of all music that I played and grew up with. At any given time, any of these elements can come to the surface. I always consider the song itself as most important. A great song will last forever. But a great guitar solo in a bad song will not last.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?
Robert Jr Lockwood shared great stories with me, and Guitar Shorty shared not only great stories, but hands-on guitar techniques with me as well.
How and where did you get the inspiration for your song?
I am inspired by conversations with my friends, and just watching things in the world. A few years ago, I was talking to Cedric Burnside and Bill Wax while seated on a bus– that’s where the idea for the song, Same Train, came from. But my songs can also come from other sources, and I often think of ideas and start writing lyrics while just sitting home playing guitar.
Tell me about the beginning of Dennis Jones Band. How do you describe Sam Correa and Michael Turner?
Over the years, I have had several variations of included instruments in my band, e.g. keyboards, horns. But my trio combination right now feels better and more right than ever before. Michael Turner and Sam Correa are the best combination of musicians that I have ever played with – there is something special about the dynamic that the three of us create that I cannot explain, but fans can see and hear it. I do not have any barriers or limits on what we can do.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
The best moments of my career are yet to come, though there have been many great ones already. The worst moments are behind me, and I do not wish to dwell on them.
What is the “feel” you miss most nowadays from the Blackhead and 80s era?
It was a big part of my life at the time, but now I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed being part of a positive movement in which black artists were crossing over to many genres of music.
Why did you think that the “Blues Poetry” continue to generate such a devoted following?
It’s real and it represents what we go through as humans every day.
Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
The most interesting part of my life is today, the present. All of the hard work that I have put in over the years is finally starting to pay off, and I am no longer distracted by a day job, nor by any human drama. Now I focus each day on becoming a better musician and better human being.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
My advice is to find someone who has been doing it a long time, and ask a lot of questions. If you are not a natural songwriter, then take classes to learn, and practice with other musicians. You can only get so good on your own in your parents’ basement.
Are there any memories opening for Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour, which you’d like to share with us?
Opening for Johnny Winter was a dream come true. In his heyday, no one could touch Johnny on slide guitar, and I mean NOBODY! It was hard for me not to jump on stage and play Mother Earth with him. The other experiences were enjoyable too.
Tell me a few things about your meet with Zac Harmon, which memory as part of Zac’s band makes you smile?
Zac and I remain very good friends to this day. Winning the International Blues Competition (IBC) in 2004 is one of my best memories of playing in Zac’s band. Plus every time I got on stage with Zac Harmon, I knew it was going to be a good night. Our styles were different, and that is why we fit together so well.
Other good memories were of females taking off their tops to see our reactions, and people throwing money onstage, and I’m not talking change.
What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?
It is better to be a bad you (i.e. Dennis Jones) than to be a good somebody else. I took this advice to heart.
What’s the difference and similarity between the European blues scene (European blues musicians) and US?
The only difference is where the musicians live. The blues has no borders.
Tell me a few things about your experience in Europe?
I had a great experience playing in Germany when I was younger. When I toured France and Italy more recently, the response was also really good. I enjoy other cultures – the food, the arts, the people – it was a great experience. I am looking forward to playing again in Europe in the near future.
What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?
The best jam I ever played in was on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Pacific Coast, with Chico Banks, Zac Harmon, Debra Coleman, Chris Duarte, and a few others. It was just one of those moments that I will never forget.
The most memorable gig I ever had was playing a Teen Center Dance at my High School for the first time, when I was 17 years old. A more recent memorable gig was opening the Doheny Blues Festival in 2011 on the main stage, where I have seen and heard so many great blues acts over the years.
Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your recording time with Guitar Shorty?
Guitar Shorty walked in to record You Took My Baby with me, for the newly released CD, My Kinda Blues. Shorty opened his guitar case, and then cords, pedals, and the kitchen sink fell out. Ten minutes later, he plugged in, and played the best guitar solo on that song that I have ever heard. We had dinner, I shook his hand, and we said good night.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
Blues is the core of most styles of American music, from surf to rockabilly, and even soul and funk. The blues is there. I wish the Blues would continue to mature and evolve, and not always rely upon what has already been done.
Which things do you prefer to do in your free time? What is your MUSIC DREAM? Happiness is……
I spend my free time with my friends and my lady, and at least once a day, with my guitar. My dream is to make a good living playing, writing, and performing the music I love, and sharing music with blues fans everywhere.
Happiness is internal. People need to love and respect themselves before they will ever give a damn about anyone else. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t, and it guarantees them a miserable life. Many people focus on money and other external sources to try to appear happy to others, which only makes them unhappier. Fortunately I have learned and loved a lot in my life, and things keep getting better and better for me.
Dennis Jones - Official website