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Jones began to play guitar seriously in the mid- to late '50s after being inspired by the literature of the Beat Generation, and American blues and folk recordings such as those of Son House, Blind Blake, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Jones bore a strange figure in British coffeehouses with his uncharacteristically long hair and hobo-ish demeanor, including a guitar that was literally held together with leather straps. He knew his stuff, however, and his playing was rooted deep in the Mississippi Delta and in early Chicago blues styles and he established a reputation early among younger players who soaked up both his image and the licks he fired off from a rapid right-handed picking style that was clearly his own. Jones was interviewed early on by the BBC who was trying to figure out what the ruckus was on the new British folk music scene, and came off as a bearded shaggy-haired smart a**. To the BBC's credit, they left his segment in and Jones became a folk hero to the second generation of Brit folk musicians, many of whom were about to make their own mark. Among those who saw the broadcast and claim to have been directly influenced by it are John Martyn, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and Richard Thompson.
Embracing the beat life, he and Clive Palmer took to busking in the streets of France for a while -- even encountering a young British bluesman in Paris named Rod Stewart. Back in England, Jones met banjo king Pete Stanley in 1962 and formed a bluegrass duo that released a now legendary -- and highly collectible -- Columbia recording called Music for Moonshiners in early 1963. The duo issued one more recording for the label called Sixteen Tons of Bluegrass before disbanding in 1966.
Beginning in 1968, Jones began recording a series of albums upon which his obscure, yet legendary, modern reputation was founded. Hanging with a bunch of locals and a loose-knit band he formed called Lazy Farmer, Jones issued nine albums between 1969 and 1977 for labels United Artists, Village Thing, and Plant Life, in addition to Columbia as well as a small host of German independent records. These discs include Wizz Jones, The Legendary Me, Right Now (w/ John Renbourn), Winter Songs, When I Leave Berlin (with Lazy Farmer and Bert Jansch), Lazy Farmer (as Lazy Farmer), Happiness Was Free, Magical Flight, Folk and Western Songs, and Solo Flight.
From the end of the '70s and through most of the '80s, Jones played the festival and small club circuit in the British Isles and in Europe and almost ceased to record on his own, though he was a regular performer on other artists' recordings, including those by Ralph McTell, Derroll Adams, and Chas MacDevitt. Only two records appeared during the '80s, Roll on River with Werner Lammerhirt and The Grapes of Life, in 1981 and 1987 respectively.
The '90s saw the beginning of Jones' resurgence as a solo performer, teacher, and recording artist. First there was the Live in Dublin recording for LPR Publications, and then the issue of The Village Thing tapes which were compiled of '70s material, showed there was a renewed interest in Jones' work. Perhaps due to the excellent BBC series, Acoustic Routes, presenting the U.K.'s folk heritage, Jones' talents were in demand on the festival circuit, at home, and throughout Europe for much of the '90s. Other recordings of note from the '90s include Late Nights & Long Days, and a single of "Easy Rider."
1995 saw the issue of Jones' first U.S.-released recording, Dazzling Stanger, a newly recorded compilation of his earlier music on the Scenes Of label. In 1998, Jones was paid tribute to by being included in the Masters of British Guitar series. Jones played no less than 15 songs for his segment.
Jones' Through the Fingers album on Far Flung is an issue of his highly regarded and much sought-after Milton Keynes performance from 1998. He also released Lucky the Man in 2001, another Scenes Of disc released simultaneously on both CD and limited edition. Guests include Renbourn and Jaqui McShee from Pentangle, old busking mate Clive Palmer, Gerry Conway, Simeon Jones, Martin Weatley, and others. Jones' career in the early part of the new century included touring and recording balanced with reissues of his entire catalog by various labels in the U.K. and U.S., all of them with bonus tracks, creating a new wealth of material for collectors. ~ Thom Jurek