Turned on TV Thursday night to watch a favorite show, A P Bio on NBC, and there’s Mother (Sister Fern Jones) singing “Didn’t It Rain”
It’s a funny show about a naughty-to-bad teacher. Love the cast. These two pictured are Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt. Everybody’s at the top of their game. The classroom’s filled with young talent. The teachers’ lounge is charmingly off-center and the school office has its own quirks.
I’m glad the writers and producers and music supervisors invite Sister Fern from time to time. Her feisty rockabilly/gospel fits right in.
See those rhinestone clips on Mother’s dress in the picture? She snuck them into the studio for this 1940’s publicity photo of “The Joneses” and they weren’t seen again. She promised Daddy she’d give up makeup and jewelry when they took a church to pastor but her love of all things shiny remained undiminished.
Gramma K told Leslie Ray and me Mother’s necklines were a lot lower before she found Jesus. Gramma never forgave her daughter for leaving a promising music career to follow a country preacher around the South.
Here’s a rhinestone excerpt from my book, The Glory Road.
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Glendale, California 1955
When we set out on this trip it was with a dual purpose. First, because Gramma K lived in California, we visited when we could, and second (or first, depending on who was making the list) Mother would be performing . She was booked on the bill with several Country and Southern Gospel stars at El Monte Legion Stadium, where Cliffie Stone broadcast his Hometown Jamboree.
Daddy said yes to the show, even though it was on television because his wife was using her music to testify. And also because he was crazy about her. Since they’d found Jesus, their agreement was that no matter where she sang she would carry forth the banner, witnessing by singing only gospel. She’d already stepped in front of cameras when she sang over at Brother Daly’s Tabernacle in New Orleans.
Raising his wife required all the reassurances Daddy could muster and so far it was taking up a good deal of his time on this trip. Gramma was thrilled her daughter would be singing on television in California but no amount of church music was going to be enough for her. Gramma said gospel would never make Mother famous.
Mother was wound up tight about the TV show and that was no small problem. She was high-strung during the best of times. Added pressure sent her spinning off. Her latest concern on this trip seemed to be what to wear.
Since becoming a preacher’s wife, Mother’s sweetheart necklines were raised a bit higher. She brought out one of the dresses under consideration to show Gramma and hung it on the back of the door. Too plain for television, said Gramma, who plunged into a jewelry box on her vanity table and pulled out rhinestone clips.
The two of them continued picking through all the sparkle. Mother grabbed an especially large piece and attached it to her dress, using the clip to gather the fabric downward to a greater dip. She looked in the mirror and said,
“Could you just D-I-E!”
Gramma held out matching earrings. Big earrings with so many stones they would tax the earlobes of a timid woman. As soon as she saw the earrings in Gramma’s hand, Mother snapped,
“Mother! You know I can’t wear jewelry. I gave Raymond my word.”
“You’re not dressing for church right now. You’re singing on a program where a lot of stars wear custom outfits. I guaran-damn-teeya every woman there will have on something like this.”
There was no denying how much Mother wanted to wear them. Here was my thinking. What I’d have done in her place. I’d have taken that jewelry with me and clipped them on just before singing. Then anybody who wanted to say something about it could just go ahead. It’d be too late. Mother didn’t do that.
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Mother often sang this with gospel quartets backing her.
‘I Am A Pilgrim And A Stranger”
Fern Jones with the Sunshine Boys from the album Fern Jones/The Glory Road (Numero Group)
This version was recently featured on NBC‘s new show, AP Bio.
Thanks, NBC, for featuring The Joneses’ songs, recorded 60 years ago. And thanks A P Bio producers, Seth Myers and Lorne Michaels and the show’s music supervisors. Credit is due also to the team that keeps The Joneses’ music playing. Numero Group, Bankrobber Music, and Secretly Distribution. Two albums are now combined into one package called The Glory Road.
We started watching A P Bio because it’s clever. When the first episode began, we were surprised to hear Mother (Fern Jones) singing her rowdy version of “I Am A Pilgrim And A Stranger.” Click the album cover to hear the song.
The most recent episode featured a duet from my parents’ 1958 album, “The Joneses Sing,” especially poignant because it features Daddy’s hill country tenor on “I Don’t Care What The World May Do.” He didn’t record often. Both songs were a perfect fit for the show – says their daughter, without a lick of prejudice.
Click the album cover below to hear the song.
The contrarian teacher is played by Glenn Howerton, the principal is Patton Oswalt and the classroom is populated with talented, quirky students.
There’s talk of canceling Lipstick Jungle. Please let’s keep it. It’s one of the few shows I’m committed to. I don’t feel a bond with legal shows and police shows and dark prison shows and killing shows and medical shows. I only invest in relationship shows.
I sit down with my coffee and remote and turn on that dvr and I’m transported into the latest goings-on within the group I’ve chosen to care about.
Lipstick Jungle is fun. It’s as good as Sex And The City – maybe better. These women are grownups. They achieve and then they stumble. They have their triumphs, some on a grand scale. And then they have some of the same problems as – well – mostly nobody else I know has the same problems as these three women.
One of the three main characters is a parent. This parenting is done in a gorgeous loft in NYC. Another wants to parent but can’t yet. And, to put this all into perspective, one is dating a handsome billionaire. So – maybe there’s no common ground and maybe that’s why it’s fun.
They look good. Really good. The show is beautiful to look at and yes, it does look expensive, but where’s the problem? We don’t expect television shows to come cheap. Entertainment should sometimes be lush and well-dressed. I’ve had enough gritty. Surely NBC can figure out how to cut corners somewhere else and spare this one.
Lipstick Jungle is made for looking through the window at someone else’s life and choosing the parts we’d like to have and the parts we wouldn’t want. The best part about the show is the friendship. These three ladies love each other. They disagree and then they make up. Most importantly, they show up for each other.
I’m having trouble finding another relationship show to bond with, so please NBC, let’s bring Lipstick Jungle back for another season.