Isham Jones

1894 - 1956

Purple Line

Isham Jones

This guy went on to become one of America's most prolific song writers and at the time one of the more popular bands. It is really a shame that more people are not aware of the name Isham Jones. But if you have heard any early Woody Herman, you will get an idea of his later sound, for it was one of his last units that formed the nucleus of the early Herman band.

Isham Jones was born January 31st, 1894 in Coalton, Ohio. But at an early age, his family moved to Saginaw, Michigan. At the age of 18, young Isham started and led his own band. Then in 1915, he moved to Chicago.

Here he started a trio, with himself on tenor sax. The trio was featured at the Chicago nightclub known as "Mahoney's Club". Later he led an orchestra at Green Mill, and at the Rainbow Gardens in Erie, Pennsylvania. Subsequently his orchestra played a long residency at the Hotel Sherman back in Chicago from the early 1920s. The Sherman was later known as the "College Inn", and was to become in later years a favorite haunt for jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and others. Bix in fact would frequently listen to the Jones Orchestra, and even sat in a few times while he was still a student at the near by Lake Forest Academy.

In 1924, he appeared briefly in New York before sailing to London, England. By the time he returned to the U.S., he was well on the way to establishing himself and his orchestra as a national hit. For the rest of the twenties, until well into the 30s' his various orchestras remained quite popular. All along, Jones was also a prolific composer which included such hits as "Spain", "On The Alamo", I'll See You In My Dreams", "It Had To Be You" and many others.

Over the years, many members of his various bands have gone on to bigger and better gigs. Some of the notables who worked for the Jones organization included Paul Mares;(t), Leon Rappolo;(cl) and Elmer Schoebel;(p) who had earlier formed the sensational New Orleans Rhythm Kings. "Farewell Blues" (BRN by the N.O.R.K. trio has all of the excitement of the N.O.R.K. version on Gennett, (GEN 11179-C/4966) since the three composers were with Jones for this session.

His last band, Isham Jones' Juniors, contained the basic personnel for the orchestra formed by Jones' one time sideman Woody Herman. The Juniors broke up in 1936. At this time, Jones decided to commit more of his time to composing, and turned the reigns over to Herman. But during the pre-war years he put together a number of bands and occasionally fronted others. During the forties and early fifties, he seemed to drop out of music entirely, focusing instead on managing a general store in Colorado. Then in 1955, he pulled up stakes again, and moved to Florida. One year later, Isham Jones was dead; the victim of cancer.

The W.A.M.S. collection contains more than an hour of Isham Jones Orchestra sides on Brunswick. Most are from the twenties, and were designed for play-back at 80 rpm. The quality of these early Brunswicks are not nearly a good as Victors or Columbias of the same period, but the music soars above the background hiss!

Purple Line

Return to the W.A.M.S. Home Page