Stylin and Profilin – An Evening with Joey C Jones
“I was stylin’ and profilin’ in elementary school, and knew what I wanted to do with my life when I was six years old.” said Joey C Jones, kicking back with his feet propped up when asked how it all began.
Not many can point to such an age with such conviction but when questioned on how soon Joey knew what would be in store for him, the answer was lightning quick as he finished the thought by adding that his love for the early 70s bubblegum music and the Beatles catalogue dictated what he wanted to do with his life.
As the early years went by and Joey was busy developing an early love for bands such as the Beatles and ELO, his passion would start in full force during his senior year in high school with their band called Truce. Comprised of Laine Sheridan, Brett Bodine and Gregg Ahl, they started out doing Rush covers and playing the parts verbatim.
“I discovered immediately that I was really good at singing other people’s music, because I have the ability to sound like them. Robin Zander is known as the “man with a thousand voices.” If that’s true, I have at least 500” Joey said remembering the early times with a grin. “However, I couldn’t write a good song until I was in my mid-20s. I did not have a clue. I was just good at sounding like other people, and Chris Sheridan wrote a lot of the Sweet Savage songs.”
Drawing on talent around him, Joey worked on his craft and pulled bands such as Godz, one of the biggest acts to come out of Ohio as well as another band out of Columbus called Rosie. “They were big influences on my songwriting” Joey started. “They had some great pop rock tunes.”
From these influences, Joey took a minute to think back.
“I want to thank Eric Moore, Mark Chatfield, and Carl Sheller for being my first influence from a live band standpoint. I also want to thank my cousin Gary Kendall for playing KISS Destroyer for me. It was the first time I had heard KISS. He also bought me my first Cheap Trick album, “In Color.” Cheap Trick has been with me since I was very young, and I got to write songs and was produced by Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander. This will always be one of the highlights of my career.”
As things quickly picked up and Shock Tu was busy making noise, the band was picked up by Marshall Berles company – Time Coast Records with Atlantic distribution, and before long – Joey was out to work with his early influences Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander. But it wasn’t easy and certainly a struggle to get down that road.
“After we signed the deal with Berle, he asked me what producer I’d like to work with. I only had two in mind: Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander but Marshall Berle didn’t like that idea.” Joey started.
“He set up a deal for us to showcase for legendary producer Tom Werman (Cheap Trick, Motley Crue). He was the biggest producer of hair rock in the ‘80s. Tom Werman flew to Dallas with Marshall Berle to see a sold-out Shock Tu show, Werman loved the band and agreed to produce our project for $200,000 and deal points off the contract and Berle wanted the band to go with this. We thought it was crazy expensive, and I stood firmly to wanting to work with my childhood idols, Rick & Robin.”
After some pushing and convincing, the deal Joey wanted was done and 10 tracks were recorded, 8 of which didn’t have backing vocals or countermelodies.
“At this point, the recording sessions were over budget.” Joey explained.
“The record company insisted that Nielsen and Zander finish the album based on the original agreement, budget-wise. Cheap Trick’s bulldog manager, the late Ken Adamante, would not agree to Marshall Berle’s terms and it was a clash of massive egos between Berle, Nielsen, and Adamante. They weren’t able to agree on how to finish the recording.”
Joey sat back and explained.
“I’d had enough years’ experience in the business to understand how Shock Tu got fucked on this deal. When I was living in Hollywood, I saw several of my friends get major deals with Geffen, Interscope, Warner Brothers, etc. These bands were extremely talented and completely set up to compete with style over substance acts like Bon Jovi and Motley Crue.”
With a sigh and still a bit of disbelief, Joey finished by explaining that he “still find(s) it hard to believe how much legitimate talent could be shelved by the record company.”
What Joey doesn’t have much of through the early parts of his career are the rock and roll star living on the street stories to tell. For many to most bands, getting the funds to even begin is a challenge into itself. But for Joey, this part never seemed to be one of the issues he faced.
“Sweet Savage, Shock Tu, the Gloryhounds, and Crabtree had investors and plenty of money behind us. Therefore, I don’t have any of those stories about sleeping on someone’s floor with roaches. Because of my backers, I was able to upgrade immediately in this business.” Joey recalled.
With a gleam in his eye and a smile of satisfaction, Joey chimes in with “and speaking of Crabtree, that is the best CD I ever recorded. It was the first time that I really felt like a lyricist. As far as aesthetic value, that is the best work I’ve done. Thank you Davies, Dave and Ken.”
Going back to Joeys early days and being more a vocalist than writer, it’s easy to see how this has changed over the years as the talent, hardened by the experience of the industry during it’s heyday, he can recall the first time he felt good about an end result.
“Summer Song was the first good song I wrote. As a guitarist, I have always been good enough to get the point of my melodies, arrangements, and chord progressions to a really good player, and then the song was completed. Thank you Shane Hunter.”
Not to stand pat with one song, it gets better over time and experiences.
“Plastic Grin, a song I co-wrote with Davies Baird, off the brilliant Crabtree CD. As far as Castles in the Sky goes, I think it is a fab song, and the lyrics are about my mother, so this song will always be very special to me. This song was co-written with Adam Hamilton, who, along with Craig Bradford, Chris Torok, and the genius Les Farrington, made up the Gloryhounds.
“Late Last Evening is one of the most well-received Shock Tu songs. It’s very special to me, because it’s the first song I wrote with Rick Soga. Rick and I were friends for 6 years before we were in a band together, so I was obviously happy with the results of our first effort, and I was thrilled to do it with someone who meant so much to me.”
In an industry where it’s easy to get discouraged and want to walk away and fall back on other talents, Joey never felt he had that to rely upon.
“I’m not good at anything else. And there’s no age limit to having fun. As long as I am in shape, and am surrounded by good musicians, I’m not going to say when I’m going to stop doing this. I get offers for shows in several states still. This is not the time for me to stop. My voice and live performance is better than ever. And I’m getting paid.”
Not to say there wasn’t a time where music had to share the stage with Joey, however.
“I had a three-year semi-break from doing live shows because I was a big part of the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), and a 7-year stint in the pro wrestling business. I still did band shows, but I also sold out the Bronco Bowl with the NWA. We sold out several big buildings. It was a blast. I had spent 20 years trying to make every person around me love me, and in the wrestling business, it took a matter of seconds before the whole building hated my guts. It was a wonderful feeling, after the attempt for worldwide love.” he said laughing at the memories.
In picking out his biggest “commercial” success, Joey points quickly to Gloryhounds and the production of Dito Godwin.
“The Hounds is the most success I have had in this business, as far as sales, mechanical royalties, touring revenue, and radio and television airplay. It was a blast.” He began.
“Dito Godwin is way musical with a great sense of humor. Because he had success as a musician recording and touring, he knows how band dudes think so his whole approach is the same as a musician’s: record the greatest piece of music you can, and play it the best you can live.” Joey explained, adding to his already impressive list of producers he’s been fortunate to have worked with over time.
“Some of the other notable producers I worked with, like Rick Nielsen, he was such a perfectionist that it felt unrealistic to to me. To my knowledge, Shock Tu is the only other band he ever produced, and he was a true ball-crusher. Dana Strum was a fun guy to work with. His production ideas certainly weren’t the same as mine, but he’s always been a fun guy to hang out with. Randy Nicols is a big name guy. He produced some Pal Joey demos for Warner Brothers. He is a prick bastard that has no people skills whatsoever. That messed up my Warner Brothers deal.”
The other big success of Joeys career of course will fall back to Shock Tu. Not only could they pack them in back in the glory days of hair/glam metal, but 25 years later on March 3rd of 2016, the band made a “come back” tour at the legendary Gas Monkey Live.
When asked how this came to be, Joey’s face lit up.
“It was time” Joey stated. “It was overdue. Shock Tu was selling out buildings in several states. People and fans have not stopped requesting Shock Tu shows for many years.”
When talking about the show itself, Joey was electric. ”It could not have been a better first show in 25 years. The band sounds like it has never been apart since it originated in 1988. The crowd was amazing and very enthusiastic.”
Stopping to think for a moment, with a touch of reflection Joey continued with “and the most important part for me was standing onstage with Jim Miller, Rick Soga, and Ken Koudelka again.”
Fans will be glad to know what while Lee Russell at Gas Monkey Live allowed Renegade Radio and Joey C Jones a copy of the performance, the chances to see them live are far from over.
“I am talking to bookers in Texas and Ohio, because we want to hit our best markets first. Offers have come in, and the Facebook buzz about the Shock Tu show has been just grand.” Joey confidently said, predicting with his usual confidence complete sell outs and phenomenal shows.
Shock Tu however isn’t the only band of Joeys still in the news. Sweet Savage has been re-released recently on Demon Doll records out of Hollywood, CA and in time, everything will be available online.
“My plan is to get everything I ever recorded made available. Demon Doll Records has been wonderful to me and are one of the top companies in the world at what they do.” Joey started.
“I was contacted by their A&R guy in the Nashville area, Shane. He explained what the company wanted to do. I’d already known about the success this company has had, so naturally, I was thrilled to hear from them. They have talked about reissuing the Gloryhounds CD, making available for the first time the 10 songs Shock Tu recorded with Nielsen and Zander, and a JCJ Archives CD. I also have copies of great live shows from all the bands I was lucky enough to be in, and I would love to release a live Shock Tu, a live Gloryhounds CD, some live stuff from Crabtree, and various other live material from some of my past projects.
Given the vast array of experiences Joey has had in his career, loss, which hits us all, certainly took its toll on Joey.
“I have lost my brother, Walt Woodward III – the second drummer for Sweet Savage, I have lost soundmen, guitar techs, drum techs, light men. People go out early in this business, and it breaks my heart. When George Harrison passed away, less than 20 years ago, I was beyond crushed.”
Joey stopped for a moment, collecting himself before going on about his brother Benny.
“Benny and I were together for 39 years. When I lived in Ohio, he lived with me. When I moved to Texas, he was with me. When I moved to Hollywood, he was with me. When I moved to Huntington Beach, he was with me. He was the sixth member of Shock Tu. He was our road manager, handled all the band’s business, and was without a doubt the best in the world at what he did. He was also with Sweet Savage, the Gloryhounds, Crabtree, and Orange Helicopter. Benny was the greatest brother ever. Everyone loved him, and I will never get over this loss.”
Winding down, when asked if he could go back to that kid in high school about to start off on what would eventually be his career and spend 5 minutes with that kid, Joey didn’t miss a beat.
““Damn, you look fantastic.” He said laughing in his usual contagious manner.
He then stopped for a moment, took a breath and said “You are going to have a number one record in Europe. You are going to be produced by Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander. You are going to play festivals. You are going to hear your music on the radio in whatever state you are in at that moment. Those will be the highlights, but unless you are a legend, remember, there are always down times. Be patient, take it easy on the drugs, alcohol, and women, and remember, it’s all about the song.”
In an encore for the interview, Joey stopped at the door and just talked music, pure and simple music. Where it comes from, how it makes you feel, why it keeps you breathing when nothing else seems to know how. Looking back Joey explained it like this.
“I’ve always said that the last truly great song was written in the late ‘70s, before Disco crushed everything. How can you possibly top the Beatles, ELO, Cheap Trick? So I still listen to the same stuff that I listened to when I was very young, and I have done that since I was a little boy in the ‘70s.”
Stopping to smile and recall less obvious influences, he continued with “I always loved the Motown sound. I also love the sound of the ‘70s R&B pop bands. I would love to see some of that old Motown/R&B stuff come back.”
As for the the constant change in the business and in him through his career, Joey wrapped it up with his usual smile and obvious passion.
“As far as the changes go, there are certainly fewer record companies handing out big budgets to bands. I honestly believe that in 2016, there are more acts getting record deals based on connections and who they know, versus doing a show and someone with signing power showing up, and you have a deal on the spot. I certainly wish all the young artists of all genres the best of luck, but I want you to know the road is a little harder today than it was in the ‘80s or ‘90s.”
Before leaving Joey, forever the showman, talked about what he is doing today and what we can look forward to.
“Oh, of course there’s The Joey C. Jones band – Kenny Sizelove, Christian Baird, Antonio Brazil, and of course Deluxe Dave Ford – we are doing regional shows that have included Gas Monkey Live and Concert Pub Houston. We’ve done shows with our friends in Fort Worth. I am also recording some new songs with the hardest working man in show business, Dave Crow of the JuJu Beans and Orange Helicopter. I am also doing shows in Ohio and Texas with the Joey-era lineup of Shock Tu, with Rick Soga, Jim Miller, and Ken Koudelka. Dates TBA soon.
New Music? Nothing makes Joeys face light up more than when talking about his projects and what’s coming.
“I will be recording new JCJ band songs in September. Lee Russell (Gas Monkey Live) got me some studio time at a badass studio.”
When pressed details, Joey, forever the showman, shook his head and smiled.
“You’ll hear it soon enough” he laughed as he walked away.
video courtesy of Lee Russell & Gas Monkey Dallas