It would be correct to say that Billy Jones is one of the few vocalists whose signature song is a tribute to a laxative -- and it would certainly encourage interest as well. But it wouldn't be the whole story, because in fact, the discography of this celebrity from the '20s seems like an attempt to compile a complete list of edible items capable of seriously upsetting the digestive process. Keen fans of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong may have already flushed out the link between the aforementioned laxative and "I Miss My Swiss," a ditty dedicated to the inducement of doo-doo. Armstrong made this song part of his lifelong repertoire, to the point where his personal fondness for Swiss Miss became legendary. The original 1924 recording of the song brought Armstrong and Jones together, the trumpeter blasting away as part of a recording outfit called the Southern Seranaders.
Jones was best-known as half of a duo with fellow vocalist Ernest Hare called the Happiness Boys. "I Miss My Swiss" is not the only time the name of Jones shows up alongside Armstrong's, because thanks to the extraordinary popularity of that duo, most published lists of the 100 most popular songs in history include credits for both men. In the case of Armstrong it is for "When the Saints Go Marching In," with Jones and Hare it is "Yes, We Have No Bananas," with which they unpeeled the fruit of mass popularity. The banana relates to a digestive dilemma quite the opposite from what might require a laxative. Other titles in the Jones' repertoire have the potential to mess up the gut one way or the other, if not both: "Bringing Home the Bacon" is the greasy meat entry, "Piece of Cake" the sweetest, and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnite?" the most disgusting. Even "Alone at Last" might be interpreted as an expression of pleasure at finally finding a toilet in a time of need.
The height of popularity for the Happiness Boys were the '20s and '30s. Jones also recorded with Benny Krueger & His Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Green, and Isham Jones, among others. The enduring combination of Jones' tenor voice with Hare's baritone was one of the great A&R achievements of Thomas Alva Edison, who initiated the recording career of the Happiness Boys with sides such as the 1922 "Little Red School House." The duo also recorded for Okeh, Columbia, and Victor. Listeners whose sensitive stomachs demand a complete ban on the titles previously listed are advised to check out their recording of "Barney Google." ~ Eugene Chadbourne