On The Glory Road – The Music Moves

While Daddy was a young man attending shape-note singing lessons taught in a country church by traveling sheet music salesmen, Mother was lying about her age to sing in honky-tonks.  When they got together, things got interesting.  They mixed her Saturday night and his Sunday morning sound and made a whole new thing.  After WWII they moved their music out of  churches and took it on the road.

I hope you’ll follow along each week as I  post updates from The Glory Road projects.  It began with short stories and essays, next a stage play (a story for another day) and now a book manuscript. My goal is to help preserve the music and these glimpses of American history.

Early recordings blended Mother’s honky-tonk alto with Daddy’s hill country tenor.  Years later, their recordings have been re-mastered, re-released and are heard everywhere, on television, in movies, on the radio, on streaming services and everywhere music is available.

Here’s an excerpt from the book manuscript.

 All Day Singing With Dinner On The Grounds.

Kousin Karl took the stage and the crowd shook off their post-dinner torpor, ready to be entertained.  He welcomed everyone back and made a few announcements, ending by reminding us there’d be plenty of food left out there at suppertime.  After the crowd rustled and scraped and quieted some, he hollered,

“Ladies and gentlemen – THE JONESES!”

Daddy called out the key to the pickup band. A piano player started off and the crowd laughed as they caught on to what was happening.  Brother Janway eased in from the side, chasing the first piano player away.  He bounced around, playing some boogie woogie first, then slid into the intro to the familiar song Daddy and Mother were about to sing.

Daddy paced and grinned, guitar strap slung over one shoulder, strumming as he walked over to the piano shaking his head, pretending to be shocked at Brother Janway’s antics.  The two buddies always had fun up there and their schoolboy foolishness had everyone smiling.  

When Mother joined Daddy onstage, he moved over next to her and leaned in so close it looked like he was about to kiss her, then he stepped away again, always in motion before returning to share the mic with her. They started off on one of Daddy’s favorites, with Mother taking the lead and him singing harmony.

       By and by, when the morning comes

       All the saints of God are gathered home

       We will tell the story, how we’ve overcome

       And we’ll understand it better, by and by

Daddy was always a crowd-pleaser yet it appeared to be accidental. He never held onto a note any longer than he had to.  When she sang she laid every ounce of emotion she could muster into a note before sending it out to the audience.

Here are Sister Fern and Brother Ray singing “By & By” from their first album, “The Joneses Sing,” recorded in the 1950’s.

On lead guitar, fellow evangelist, Brother Gene Thompson

On the Glory Road – Harmony In The Car

My brother and I were not happy little harmonizers on The Glory Road.   Daddy was following his calling to preach, Mother followed her calling to sing, but we two believed our true calling was to amble down a country road somewhere that led to a house of our own, a school we’d go to every day, and friends who’d know us from one year to the next. Just because you can sing harmony it doesn’t mean you always want to.

We were on the tent revival circuit, booked for months in advance and from time to time the family needed to refresh our presentation. Daddy said we’d best practice before we get to Amarillo. He enticed us into learning our parts by singing songs we liked on the radio. We started off with The Sons Of The Pioneers’ Tumbling Tumbleweeds and when we had our parts down on that one, he switched to What A Friend We Have In Jesus in the same key.

Long stretches of Route 66 through the Deep South offered nothing to look at except tumbleweeds, giant puffs of them rolling free on the highway or stuck to a fence.  Daddy played a game with them.

A huge tumbleweed clump was minding its own business somewhere in Texas and as we got closer it loomed about half-a-car size. The motion of our big old sedan invited it to dance.  It floated up and plopped on the windshield, covering the view.  Leslie Ray said, Daddy you better stop but Daddy said, watch this.

Instead of stopping and freeing the thing, his game was to keep driving and speed up, then brake quickly trying to get it to release itself.  Man against nature.  It wasn’t safe, but not much about car travel was back then.

Here are The Sons Of The Pioneers helping two young Gospel Gypsies learn harmony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzxz0M7Wws0

On The Glory Road

The Glory Road is where I spend most of my time these days, immersed in the book manuscript. Interested parties ask, why aren’t you blogging about that?   Starting with this week’s post, I’ll share some of the process while putting together this multi-media project about the life of my family.

We traveled the Deep South in the 1950’s, carrying songs from then to now.  Today the music Mother and Daddy recorded, much of it written by Mother, Sister Fern Jones, is heard everywhere.  Brother Ray Jones (Daddy) added harmony and rhythm guitar.

I’ll add photos and music from time to time and if you want a reminder about each week’s post, you can sign up on this page where it says “Subscribe to blog via email.”

Here are a couple of paragraphs from The Glory Road book manuscript:

Daddy was the sheriff of Mayberry with a deep Southern drawl and a Bible in his hand. Tall and good looking and enormously likable, he was in possession of both the strength and the patience of a natural leader. Mother was a pretty and provocative teenaged honky-tonk queen turned into a preacher’s wife and gospel singer. 

We were gospel gypsies, short on money, heavy in equipment, stopping to perform at Singings, at churches, under revival tents and at radio stations. We spent much of the 1950’s in our old sedan, traveling the Deep South wherever his calling to preach and her calling to sing took us. The front seat made the decisions while the back seat waited to see where we’d be living for the next few weeks….

Here’s gospel-to-rockabilly in one song, “Keeps Me Busy”  from the album “Fern Jones, The Glory Road.”  Re-mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering in Boston and released by Numero Group out of Chicago.  The original was recorded in the 1950’s at the Bradley Brothers’ famous Quonset Hut in Nashville. Guitar licks from legendary Hank Garland. While recording this album, all the studio musicians were also working with Elvis over at RCA.

More about projects at http://www.thegloryroad.com/

 

 

 

Music hath charms.

Music hath charms. YouTube helps me find them. Here’s the full quote.

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

         …William Cosgreve, British poet, playwright.

Some days we’re the rocks, other times the knotted oaks. William, you would have loved YouTube.

Do you ever hear a song that’s not about anything you’re doing but it catches your attention and by the time the song ends, you’ve been lifted? The shift is not quite definable, not quantifiable, it just is.

I respect artists who post their work on You Tube where the world can share it. I’ve met excellent musicians there. Sometimes I go to YouTube in search of a particular song for a project and while I’m there, I meet musicians I haven’t heard before. That’s how I met Chris Whiteman.

Beautiful guitar, beautiful songs.  I say hey to him in the comments section on his Instagram or Facebook or YouTube accounts and let him know his music seems to arrive at exactly the right time.

I’ve never met him in person. Don’t need to. There’s a piece of his soul in the music he makes and that reminds me I should always do the same – put the personal into the product. Please do meet Chris online and from time to time I’ll pass along links for others I find and listen to and love.  I hope you’ll do the same.  Here’s a favorite – and below, a link to Chris’ YouTube account where all the videos he posts are available.

Chris Whiteman YouTube channel