Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Called "a vital piece of Nashville's R&B history" by the Nashville Scene, Johnny Jones was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame's 2004 "Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970" exhibit in 2004, and through that project's Grammy-winning CD compilation and its sequel, Jones' 1960s recordings with famed Nashville producer Ted Jarrett were discovered by a new audience of blues enthusiasts.
Jarrett discovered Jones playing in a Clarksville house band backing female impersonators and elevated him to the role of sideman for Nashville R&B favorites Gene Allison and Earl Gaines. "He had enough insight to see my potential," Jones told the Scene in March. "I'm a blues man, had a blues foundation. But Nashville was country, jazz and gospel, and Ted was behind all the local stuff. During this process, man, Ted taught me how to read music and showed me all this other music. Most blues artists my age don't have that kind of background."
Jones first encountered Jimi Hendrix after the future guitar giant was discharged from the army, working Nashville R&B clubs after his release from Fort Campbell in Clarksville, Tenn. Jones and Hendrix once faced off in a legendary guitar duel at the city's Club Baron in the early 1960s. Jones replaced Hendrix -- who eventually moved to New York -- in the King Casuals combo, which also counted Hendrix's future Band of Gypsys bassist, Billy Cox. He also appeared alongside Jimi on the regional TV music series 'Night Train,' where Jones played in the House Band.
Rounding out the decade, Jones performed with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown on the Nashville-produced R&B music TV show 'The Beat' and toured with soul-blues giant Bobby "Blue" Bland. By the 1970s, he had grown tired of the financial struggle in being a musician and retired until the late '90s. Jones returned to performing, supporting local R&B singers and ultimately releasing his first solo album, I Was Raised on the Blues' in 1999. In the past decade he continued to release acclaimed discs like 'Blues Is in the House' and kept an active performance schedule.