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Wizz Jones

+ {Lazy Farmer}

Born Raymond Ronald Jones, 25 April 1939, Croydon, Surrey in England, “Wizz” – so-called because of his speedy finger-picking – was one of the first acoustic folk-blues artists to emerge along with JANSCH, RENBOURN and DAVY GRAHAM on the back of American bluesmen like BIG BILL BROONZY, MUDDY WATERS, SON HOUSE and TAMPA RED. Looking more like a dishevelled RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT or WOODY GUTHRIE, the bearded beatnik-cum-hobo styled JONES endeared himself to a good many of the British folk-boom public.
Having abandoned busking in Paris, The Wranglers, and north Africa with CLIVE PALMER (soon to be an affiliate with The INCREDIBLE STRING BAND), JONES returned to England to find work with bluegrass banjo legend Pete Stanley; SIXTEEN TONS OF BLUEGRASS (1966) {*5} was duly released before they went their merry ways. Taking encouragement and experience from this brief encounter, the man and his guitar delivered a handful of sets – all really quite rare – for various labels: the eponymous WIZZ JONES (1969) {*7} for United Artists, THE LEGENDARY ME (1970) {*7} on small independent The Village Thing, RIGHT NOW (1972) {*7} for C.B.S., and another for The Village Thing, WHEN I LEAVE BERLIN (1973) {*6}.
Together with other likeminded country-folk bumpkins (or so it seemed), LAZY FARMER (1975) {*6} and the group behind it: wife Sandy Jones (banjo), Don Cogin (banjo), Jake Walton (hurdy-gurdy and dulcimer) and ex-CLIVE PALMER associate John Bidwell (flute and guitar), WIZZ JONES diversified somewhat, but with the usual apathetic response from the public.
Leaning – or indeed horizontal – the solo JONES was back courtesy of three German-only sets, HAPPINESS WAS FREE (1976) {*7}, MAGICAL FLIGHT (1977) {*7} – with STEELEYE SPAN in session – and SOLOFLIGHT (1978) {*7}. ROLL ON RIVER (1981) {*5} – a collaboration with German guitarist Werner Lammerhirt (plus session bassman Manfred Sauga and drummer Ron Kushner in tow) – featured a handful of renditions of blues cues from the pens of MANCE LIPSCOMB (`About A Spoonful’), Snooks Eaglin (`When Shadows Fall’) and Bill Boazman (`Roll On River’).
Back on solo hunting ground, THE GRAPES OF LIFE (1987) {*5} and the collaborative LATE NIGHTS & LONG DAYS (1993) {*6} – the latter crediting his son Simeon Jones – were testing examples of where Wizz could stretch his musical boundaries, while DAZZLING STRANGER (1996) {*5} took him on a JANSCH-type journey of discovery – well, at least in style, if not totally in song.
LUCKY THE MAN (2001) {*7} rounded off a most celebrated time for JONES, some of his closest musical allies (JOHN RENBOURN, JACQUI McSHEE, CLIVE PALMER, Gerry Conway and again, his son Simeon) toasting the eclectic stylings of JONES by way of several originals plus renditions of BLIND BOY FULLER’s `Weeping Willow Blues’, CANNONBALL ADDERLEY’s `Sermonette’, ARCHIE FISHER’s `Mountain Rain’, PALMER’s `Paris’, JACKSON C. FRANK’s `Blues Run The Game’ and RAY CHARLES’ `Funny But I Still Love You’, among others. Live in Kulturwerkstatt Buer, YOUNG FASHIONED WAYS (2004) {*6} was released in Germany.
Several years and more down the line, Wizz was only too happy to take up an invitation to join RALPH McTELL at the Folk Cottage in Cornwall. It’d been half a century since they’d first enjoyed a collaboration, although this time around there was a full-set document to prove it was all worthwhile by way of 2016’s `About Time’.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015-Jul2016

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