His mother was also in the music business which allowed the family to often perform together touring around England. His influences ranged from the blues of Big Bill Broonzy, the jazz of Charles Mingus, to the classical piano of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Because his parents often toured, Jones was sent to boarding school at a young age. He was a student at Christ's College, Blackheath, London where he formally studied music. At the age of 14, Jones became choirmaster and organist at a local church and during that year, he also bought his first bass guitar, a Dallas solid body electric followed by a 1961 Fender Jazz Bass which he used until 1975. The fluid playing of Chicago musician Phil Upchurch on his You Can't Sit Down LP, which includes a memorable bass solo, is cited by Jones as being his inspiration to take up the instrument.
Jones joined his first band, The Deltas, at 15. He then played bass for jazz-rock London group, Jett Blacks, a collective that included guitarist John McLaughlin. Jones' big break came in 1962 when he was hired by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan of the successful British group The Shadows for a two-year stint. Shortly before hiring Jones, Harris and Meehan had just had a Number 1 hit with "Diamonds" (a track on which Jones' bandmate-to-be Jimmy Page had played.) Jones' collaboration with the Shadows nearly prevented the future formation of Led Zeppelin, when the parties engaged in talks about the possibility of Jones replacing their bassist Brian Locking, who left the band in October 1963. This never eventuated as John Rostill was ultimately chosen to fill the position.
In 1964, on the recommendation of Meehan, Jones began studio session work with Decca Records. From then until 1968, he played on hundreds of recording sessions. He soon expanded his studio work by playing keyboards, arranging and undertaking general studio direction, resulting in his services coming under much demand. He worked with numerous artists including the Rolling Stones on Their Satanic Majesties Request (Jones' string arrangement is heard on "She's A Rainbow"); Herman's Hermits; Donovan (on "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow"); Jeff Beck; Cat Stevens; Rod Stewart; Shirley Bassey; Lulu; and numerous others. As well as recording sessions with Dusty Springfield, Jones also played bass for her Talk of the Town series of performances. His arranging and playing on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" resulted in producer Mickie Most using his services as choice arranger for many of his own projects, with Tom Jones, Nico, Wayne Fontana, the Walker Brothers, and many others. Such was the extent of Jones' studio work - amounting to hundreds of sessions - that he said years later that "I can’t remember three quarters of the sessions I was on."
It was during his time as a session player that Jones adopted the stage name John Paul Jones. This name was suggested to him by a friend, Andrew Loog Oldham, who had seen a poster for the film John Paul Jones in France.
Jones has stated that, as a session musician, he was completing two and three sessions a day, six and seven days a week. However, by 1968 he was quickly feeling burnt out due to the heavy workload: "I was arranging 50 or 60 things a month and it was starting to kill me."
During his time as a session player, Jones often crossed paths with guitarist Jimmy Page , a fellow session veteran. In June 1966, Page joined The Yardbirds, and in 1967 Jones contributed to that band's Little Games album. The following winter, during the sessions for Donovan's The Hurdy Gurdy Man, Jones expressed to Page a desire to be part of any projects the guitarist might be planning. Later that year, The Yardbirds disbanded, leaving Page and bassist Chris Dreja to complete some previously booked Yardbirds dates in Scandinavia. Before a new band could be assembled, Dreja left to take up photography. Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, inquired to Page about the vacant position, and the guitarist eagerly invited Jones to collaborate. Page later explained:
I was working at the sessions for Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man, and John Paul Jones was looking after the musical arrangements. During a break, he asked me if I could use a bass player in the new group I was forming. He had a proper music training, and he had quite brilliant ideas. I jumped at the chance of getting him. Vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham joined the two to form a quartet. Initially dubbed the "New Yardbirds" for the Scandinavian dates, the band soon became known as Led Zeppelin.
Jones' decision to leave session work and join a group was driven by his desire to express his artistic creativity. Despite the spotlight invariably being placed on the more flamboyant members of Led Zeppelin, many cite Jones' temperament, musicianship and experience as crucial elements adding to the success of the band. He was responsible for the classic bass lines of the group, notably those in "What Is and What Should Never Be" (Led Zeppelin II), and power crunch and shifting time signatures, such as those in "Black Dog" (Led Zeppelin IV). As Led Zeppelin's rhythm section-mate with drummer John Bonham, Jones shared an appreciation for funk and soul rhythmic grooves which strengthened and enhanced their musical affinity. In an interview he gave to Global Bass magazine, Jones remarked on this common musical interest:
"Yeah we were both huge Motown and Stax fans and general soul music fans, James Brown fan. Which is one of the reasons why I've always said that Zeppelin was one of the few bands to "swing". We actually had a groove in those days. People used to come to our shows and dance, which was great. To see all the women dancing, it was really brilliant. You didn't necessarily see that at a Black Sabbath show or whatever: So we were different in that way. We were a groovy band. We used all our black pop music influences as a key to the rock that went over the top."
After "retiring" his Fender Jazz Bass in 1975, which he had been using since his days with The Shadows in the early 1960s, Jones switched to using custom-designed Alembics while out on the road. However, he still preferred to use the Jazz in the studio. Jones' keyboarding skills added an eclectic dimension that realised Led Zeppelin as more than just a heavy metal band. Keyboard highlights include the delicate "The Rain Song" (Houses of the Holy) played on a Mellotron; the funky, danceable "Trampled Under Foot", played on a Clavinet (Physical Graffiti); and the eastern scales of "Kashmir" (also on Physical Graffiti). In live performances, Jones' keyboard showpiece was "No Quarter", often lasting for up to half-an-hour and sometimes including snatches of "Amazing Grace", Joaquín Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", which had inspired Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, and variations of classical pieces by composers such as Rachmaninoff.
Jones' diverse contributions to the group extended to the use of other instruments, including an unusual triple-necked acoustic instrument consisting of a six and a twelve string guitar, and a mandolin. Jones often used bass pedals to supplement the band's sound while he was playing keyboards and mandolin.
While all members of Led Zeppelin had a reputation for off-stage excess (a label some have claimed was somewhat exaggerated), Jones was widely seen as the most quiet and reserved member of the group. His professionalism ensured that any excesses experienced on the road never hindered his performance. For his part, Jones has claimed that he had just as much fun on the road as his bandmates but was more discreet about it, stating "I did more drugs than I care to remember. I just did it quietly." Benoit Gautier, an employee of Atlantic Records in France, echoed this impression, stating that "The wisest guy in Led Zeppelin was John Paul Jones. Why? He never got caught in an embarrassing situation."
Since Led Zeppelin dissolved in 1980 with the death of Bonham, Jones has collaborated with a number of artists, including R.E.M., Jars of Clay, Heart, Ben E. King, Peter Gabriel, Foo Fighters, Cinderella, The Mission, La Fura dels Baus, Brian Eno, the Butthole Surfers and Uncle Earl.
He appeared on several sessions and videos for Paul McCartney and was involved in the soundtrack of the film Give My Regards to Broad Street. In 1985, Jones was asked by director Michael Winner to provide the soundtrack for the film, Scream for Help, with Jimmy Page appearing on two tracks. Jones provides vocals for two of the songs. He recorded and toured with singer Diamanda Galás on her 1994 album, The Sporting Life (co-credited to John Paul Jones). Jones set up his own recording studio called Sunday School, as well being involved in his daughter's (Jacinda Jones) singing career.
In 1985 Jones joined the other former members of Led Zeppelin for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling in on drums. The former members again re-formed for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert on 14 May 1988. Page, Plant and Jones, as well as John Bonham’s son Jason, closed the event. The band has also played together at various private family functions.
In 1995 the band Heart released a live acoustic album called The Road Home which was produced by Jones, and on which he also played several instruments.
Zooma, his debut solo album, was released in September 1999 on Robert Fripp's DGM label and followed up in 2001 by The Thunderthief. Both albums were accompanied by tours, in which he played with Nick Beggs (Chapman Stick) and Terl Bryant (drums).
In 2004, he toured as part of the group Mutual Admiration Society, along with Glen Phillips (the front man for the band Toad the Wet Sprocket) and the members of the band Nickel Creek.
Jones plays on two tracks on Foo Fighters' album In Your Honor. He plays mandolin on "Another Round" and piano on "Miracle", both of which are on the acoustic disc. The band's frontman Dave Grohl (a big Led Zeppelin fan) has described Jones' guest appearance as the "second greatest thing to happen to me in my life".
He has also branched out as a record producer, having produced such albums as The Mission's album Children, The Datsuns' second album Outta Sight, Outta Mind (2004) and Uncle Earl's Waterloo, Tenneesee album of Old-time music, released in March, 2007 on Rounder Records.
Recently he accompanied Robyn Hitchcock and Ruby Wright in performing the song Gigolo Aunt at a tribute for Pink Floyd founder, Syd Barrett, in London, which he did on mandolin.
He played at Bonnaroo 2007 in a collaboration with Ben Harper and The Roots' drummer Questlove as part of the festival's all-star Super-Jam, in the festival's annual tradition bringing together several famous, world-class musicians together to jam on stage together for a few hours. Jones appeared and played mandolin with Gillian Welch during the festival during the song "Look at Miss Ohio" and a cover of the Johnny Cash song "Jackson". He also appeared during the set of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals where they played a cover of "Dazed and Confused". Jones then closed Gov't Mule's first set, playing part of "Moby Dick" and then "Livin Lovin Maid" on bass, then proceeded to play keyboards on the songs "Since I've Been Loving You" and "No Quarter". Jones also performed on mandolin with the all- female bluegrass group Uncle Earl, whose album he had produced in 2007.
Mandolin-slinging Jones jammed on Led Zeppelin’s "Whole Lotta Love" with Winnipeg’s energetic Duhks at April 2007’s MerleFest in North Carolina.
Jones played in the Led Zeppelin reunion show at London's O2 Arena on 10 December 2007 with the other remaining members of Led Zeppelin as part of a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun.
In 2008, Jones produced Nickel Creek singer-fiddler Sara Watkins' debut solo album. As previously mentioned, Jones toured with Watkins, Glen Phillips, and the rest of Nickel Creek in late 2004 in a collaboration entitled Mutual Admiration Society.
On 10 February 2008, John Paul Jones appeared with the Foo Fighters on the Grammy Awards conducting the orchestral part to the song "The Pretender". On 7 June 2008, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page appeared with the Foo Fighters to close out the band's concert at Wembley Stadium. Jones performed with Sonic Youth and Takehisa Kosugi, providing the stage music for Merce Cunningham's Nearly 90, which ran 16-19 April 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Jones' most recent project is a "supergroup" with Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. The group has been announced as Them Crooked Vultures. The trio played their first show together on 9 August 2009, and their first album was released on 17 November 2009. The group is tentatively planning a second album and world tour for 2010.
On 6 February 2010, Jones' appeared with Them Crooked Vultures on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest for that evenings show. The band performed the songs New Fang and Mind Eraser, No Chaser.
John Paul Jones (born John Baldwin on 3 January 1946) is an English musician, composer, arranger, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist musician.
Best known as the bassist, mandolinist, and keyboardist for English rock band Led Zeppelin, Jones has since developed a solo career and has gained even more respect as both a musician and a producer. A versatile musician, Jones also plays guitar, koto, lap steel guitars, autoharp, ukulele, sitar, cello, continuum and the three over-dubbed recorder parts heard on Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".
According to Allmusic, Jones "has left his mark on rock & roll music history as an innovative musician, arranger, and director." Many rock bassists have been influenced by John Paul Jones including Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, Gene Simmons, and Krist Novoselic.
Jones is currently part of the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age/Kyuss) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters). He plays the bass, piano and other instruments. The supergroup released their first single "New Fang", and their debut, self-titled album on 17 November 2009.
Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent (now part of Greater London). He started playing piano at age six, learning from his father, Joe Baldwin, a pianist and arranger for big bands in the 1940s and 1950s, notably with the Ambrose Orchestra.