Playing it the way it is

Leading Israeli blues guitarist Ronnie Peterson plays a set of concerts with guitarist, songwriter and singer from Dallas.

February 5, 2010 17:01
3 minute read.
Ronnie Peterson.

ronnie peterson 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

On stage blues musicians always let it hang out. Whether it’s a song about a recently departed spouse, or even the deplorable state of their shoes, there’s always something to bemoan. Then again, the blues doesn’t have to be exclusively about doom and gloom. “Some years ago I wrote a funny happy song about my the wife called ‘Big Legs Heavy Bottom’,” says 61-year-old Dallas guitarist-singer Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, who will be touring the country alongside our very own Ronnie Peterson. “But, whatever you sing about, the blues always has to come from somewhere deep down inside.”

Jones has been digging deep, touring all over the States, and around the world, for four decades. He says he knew he was going to be a professional musician from a very young age. “I saw guitarists on the TV when I was 7, and all sorts of musicians playing around our neighborhood, country & western, blues, all kinds.” And there were plenty of encouraging vibes at home too. “My mother was a professional jazz and blues singer for many years, with a big band called the Southern Swingsters,” recalls Jones. “She stopped when I was born, but she still sang at home – stuff by Nat King Cole, Jimmy Reed, Dina Washington and old stuff, so I was surrounded by music in my childhood.”

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Jones recalls his mother singing in a church choir and he keeps that tradition going to this day. “Whenever I’m around, and I’m available, I play guitar at services at my local church,” he says. “I don’t know how religious I am but I belong to the Christian faith.” Mind you, when he’s on the bandstand it’s all strictly business. “I don’t bring politics or religion into my work. The music is mine and I just want people to like the music.”

Jones evidently showed promise from the word go and, by the time he was 16, he was sharing a stage with blues icon Freddie King. “I didn’t appreciate it back then as much as I do now, in retrospect. That was the real deal. He introduced me to lots of the great blues musicians, like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon and all those guts in Chicago. I also met [blues legend] BB King through Freddie, that was back in the Sixties.”

Although the blues doesn’t quite command the public profile it did 50 years ago Jones feels the genre is here to stay. “The Blues is an institution in America, even if it doesn’t get as much exposure as rap, or rock or country & western. But it’s the very fiber of the country and, sooner or later, it will peak again.”

Like many of his contemporaries, and the generation before him, Jones was the beneficiary of some unexpected extraneous help from elsewhere. “The British helped to revive the blues. Back then it was known as ‘the deveil’s music’ and it took the British to make it happen again for the music. Then there were all the rock and pop bands, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, they all fed off the blues and I think people get that. I think they know where they’re coming from.”

Jones feels the blues has universal appeal. “I have performed in Chile, Brazil, Japan and China, and they all dig the music. And now I’m coming to Israel. It’s a language everybody gets. It’s real music, and that’s why I called my latest album Getting Real – because it’s so real to me right now, just as it’s always been.”

Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Ronnie Peterson will appear tonight at the Givatayim Theater, the Beat Club in Haifa on February 6, Barok in Beersheba on February 10 and at the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv on February 13

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