One of the most talented and hardest-working musicians of the rock era was born. Happy 74th birthday John Paul Jones, long may you rock!
Although best known as the bass player for Led Zeppelin, Jones can play guitar, mandolin, violin, ukelele, autoharp, piano (which he learned to play at age six by his dad’s side. Dad was a concert pianist and big band member) and more or less anything else put in front of him! By the time he was 16 he was touring with The Shadows, at the time one of Britain’s top acts and in the mid-’60s he worked for Decca Records as a session musician, adding bits to records by the Who’s Who of the day’s music- Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, the Yardbirds…where he met Jimmy Page, making him an obvious invitee when Page and Robert Plant were starting their own band.Page recalls “he had quite brilliant ideas and I jumped at the chance to get him.”
In Zeppelin, Jones excelled at keeping to the shadows, both on the records and on stage. While the others had reputations for being the quintessential hard-partying rock stars, Jones rarely attracted attention. “I used to change my appearance all the time just to make sure I wasn’t as recognizable. I can’t see the point of travelling around the world and not seeing anything,” he said. People at Atlantic Records suggested he was the “wisest guy” in the band, “Why? He never got caught in embarrassing situations.” Likewise, while he’s not in the front and center of the band’s sound and is credited to far fewer songs than Plant and Page, it was very much Jones and his little flourishes – arranging string sections, adding oddball instruments and so on – which made them stand out, and made them different than say, Black Sabbath as he’s quick to point out.
Since Zep, Jones has kept busy enough, being in Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl with whom he also guested on the Foo Fighters In Your Honor , which Grohl considered an honor. “The second greatest thing to happen to me,” the avowed Zeppelin fan noted. As well, Jones has kept busy producing records for, or adding and arranging string sections for records by the likes of Lenny Kravitz, R.E.M. and The Mission, whose very Zeppelin-like Children album he produced.