Jones, Garry R.
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Garry R. Jones
Born: Sept. 16, 1962 Ft. Walton Beach, FL
Lived in Glencoe, AL
Gospel Vocals Gold City
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Garry Jones is no stranger to Southern Gospel Music. His name is synonymous with great Gospel Music. Garry, how did you get your start in Gospel Music? Tell us a little about what inspired the desire in you to seek a life in SGM?
My passion for this music has always played a major role in my life. I grew up in a family where I was exposed to Southern Gospel music at a very early age. My grandmother played piano for the Stamps Baxter Union Quartet that my grandfather sang bass in during the forties and fifties. Mom and Dad always had a singing group with my uncles and aunts and then when my two sisters, my brother and I were old enough to sing we started singing with Mom and Dad on the weekends as a family group. When I was around fifteen years old, the late Dale Shelnut heard me play the piano. He gave me a job with the “Dixie Echoes Quartet” at eighteen years old which began my professional career.
You were with Gold City in the Ivan Parker/Brian Free era. What was that like?
Oh man..I wish you hadn’t asked me that. I’m still going through extensive therapy trying to get over it! I’m just kidding. It was awesome. You know in retrospect, I think to some degree we were oblivious to the expectations and demands placed on us as artists in this business of making music. We were just a group of young guys pursing a dream that was fueled by a passion to be the best we could be. It was serious business to us but we also knew how to have fun doing it. For me it was a very formative time in my career and producing the unbelievable talent in that group was something I’ll never forget. I am definitely blessed to have been a part of it all. Remind me sometime to show you some old photos and videos of behind the scenes stuff. Funny, Funny.
After experiencing the success of Gold City, you certainly must have had very high standards when you decided to form your own group, Mercy's Mark. What brought you to the idea of starting a group? How was owning your own group, with all of the responsibilities being placed square on your shoulders, different from just being a part of another group?
I did have high standards. If for no one else, but for myself and what we were trying to accomplish. That may sound a bit cavalier but for me it was personally challenging which is what I need musically. The whole idea behind the formation of Mercy’s Mark was first, a desire to sing in the quartet style of four-part harmony. Secondly because I love this music and what it represents. In answer to the group ownership thing. Well.. let's just say that in order to truly appreciate group management, everyone should try it at least once. I would compare the difference in being in a group and being responsible for the group to bacon and eggs. You see, the chicken is dedicated but the pig is committed. So I guess that means I was the pig. Don’t laugh, we are many and I know where you live.
You are known for being quite a recording producer. How does this fit into your future plans?
I have always loved the creative process of music and will be more involved with that again. I am currently re-organizing my production company “Garry Jones Music” and have plans to arrange and produce for about 10-15 artists this year. I want to help artists take their music to the next level and create a fresh identity for their individual style and sound.
What can we expect to see from Garry Jones in the future?
A combination of things that reflect my musical creativity and personality. Producing, arranging and also scheduling a select number of what I call “Piano Praise Concerts”. I have already been having a great time with these events. I will also be releasing more concept driven piano projects this year. My website http://www.garryjonesmusic.com will be finished soon and will have a lot of information about everything I will be involved with.
When you had Mercy's Mark, you seemed to have left the piano behind. I must say that you adapted to singing very quickly and had great stage presence. Do you plan to include more singing in your future, or go back to more piano?
My first love is the piano of course. There were specific reasons that I chose to fill the baritone vocal position for MM that I felt was necessary. Vocally, I’ve never considered myself to be a strong soloist. My job was merely to blend and tie harmony. In the future I will include some singing during my piano performances but more to engage my audiences in a favorite song than trying to present myself as a singer. The concerts will be piano driven including songs I’ve written and or produced from various choral books. I will be performing many of these with the church choirs and bands.
If you had any advice for young people wanting to get into SGM today, what would that be?
Well.. that’s a fairly broad subject, but coming from the musical approach my advice is to first focus on the fundamentals. I have been asked many times by young singers, what does it take to make it? Instead of giving them the standard you’ve got to work hard, hang in there and give it all you got answers, I try to give examples of a few things that other great singers that I have worked with over the years did to make it. A hard work ethic and determination is absolutely required but you have to focus on the fundamentals or you will only achieve average results.
I still believe that it all starts with your singing, musicianship, your song selection and recordings. As a producer/arranger for many great singers and groups in our industry like Ivan Parker, Brian Free, Tim Riley, Bill Shivers, Mark Trammel, Gold City, Signature Sound and many others, I can assure you they did not get to where they are by accident. They were very focused on the things I mentioned and treated their musical careers as more than just a hobby. I have personally seen some of these men at times barely able to speak above a whisper because they were so sick, yet still go out on a stage and sound simply amazing because they put in the time and hard work before they ever got there. They studied their craft and developed the techniques to become pros and overcome their vocal weaknesses. I remember asking Jake Hess one time how often the Statesmen worked on their vocals and rehearsed. He replied, “ Son we just loved to sing. We did it all the time, even when we were not getting a dime for it”.
Another example is when I toured with Ricky Skaggs in the late nineties. I was amazed at his dedication to the music and the rehearsal time he still put in even after becoming very successful. I’ll never forget one night he and I were talking about a particular performance we had done a few weeks before and he said to me, ”Man you did good that night but I think you're still playing two wrong notes on that second verse of “Highway Forty Blues”. Maybe you should listen to the record one more time”. The amazing thing to me about it was the fact that he was singing and playing his own instrument and was still hearing what I was doing. So guess what, I got it right the next time.
As a singer you may have a natural God-given ability to sing but it takes more than just that. Even the bible says we should study to show ourselves approved. It’s important to remember that you will be judged and scrutinized by people who are musically educated. Not just your family and friends. Another thing to remember is be true to your self and your individual talents to avoid being compared to someone else. When I’m working with a singer in the studio this is something that I really try to help them with. I want them to be ultimately recognized for their own individual style and sound and not the imitation of another singer. I believe that it will establish them as an artist with their own unique identity and give them a much greater chance of being successful.
More info: http://ssqfan.com/bios/garry-jones-former-pianist/