On Friday, Facebook was flooded with sorrowful notices that blues master Melvyn “Deacon” Jones died on July 6. When the first posts appeared, there were no official reports of Deacon’s demise. Now, Jones’ wiki page and other sources are in agreement that the 73-year-old musician did indeed pass away in Los Angeles earlier this week.
Melvyn Jones was born December 12, 1943, in Richmond, Indiana. By the time he was a teenager, Deacon was proficient on trumpet and performed in his high school orchestra under conductor Ralph Burkhardt, as well as in the school’s pep band. After graduating in 1962, Jones formed Baby Huey and the Babysitters with Johnny Ross and James Ramey. After paying a few dues in the Gary area, Deacon and the band set up shop in Chicago where they played five nights a week for five years, according to USA Today. During that time, Jones managed to further his musical education at the prestigious American Conservatory of Music.
In the late 1960s, Deacon Jones began an 18-year run as Hammond organist and musical director in the now legendary John Lee Hooker band. At the Montreux Jazz Festival and other venues, Deacon typically offered the following introduction.
“Ladies and gentlemens, in the whole wide world, there’s only one man that can look through muddy water and spot dry land. I’m talkin’ about the king of the boogie, the godfather of the blues, the healer of all the world, Grammy award winner John…. Lee…. Hooker!”
During his tenure in the John Lee Hooker band, Deacon Jones appeared on numerous albums, including Get Back Home, Jealous, Mr. Lucky, and Boom Boom. A Jones composition, “We’ll Meet Again,” appeared on Hooker’s Grammy-winning Chill Out in 1996.
Over the decades, Deacon recorded and toured with a diversity of musical acts, including Lester Chambers, Freddie King, Carlos Santana, Gregg Allman, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Elvin Bishop, Dr. John, Walter Trout, and Playa D also shared stage and studio time with the talented Deacon. In recent years, Jones poured his passion into the Bucket of Blues Band and The Deacon Jones Blues Band. The latter was a frequent headliner at Saturday Night Live alumnus Garret Morris’ Downtown Blues & Comedy Club in Los Angeles.
In 1991, the San Francisco Blues Society declared Jones the keyboard player of the year. Real Blues magazine honored Jones by naming him top blues keyboardist in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Deacon Jones died in Hollywood on July 6, 2017. The multi-talented musician is survived by his longtime companion, Pamela Hill.
[Feature Image by Sunny Graph/Thinkstock/Getty Images]