Cultural Percussionist

Papa Joe Jones Day

Jonathan David Samuel Jones (October 7, 1911 – September 3, 1985) was an American jazz drummer. A band leader and pioneer in jazz percussion, Jones anchored the Count Basie Orchestra rhythm section from 1934 to 1948. He was sometimes known as Papa Jo Jones to distinguish him from younger drummer Philly Joe Jones.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jones moved to Alabama, where he learned to play several instruments, including saxophone, piano, and drums. He worked as a drummer and tap-dancer at carnival shows until joining Walter Page‘s band, the Blue Devils in Oklahoma City in the late 1920s. He recorded with trumpeter Lloyd Hunter‘s Serenaders in 1931, and later joined pianist Count Basie‘s band in 1934. Jones, Basie, guitarist Freddie Green and bassist Walter Page were sometimes billed as an “All-American Rhythm section,” an ideal team. Jones took a brief break for two years when he was in the military, but he remained with Basie until 1948. He participated in the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series.

He was one of the first drummers to promote the use of brushes on drums and shifting the role of timekeeping from the bass drum to the hi-hatcymbal. Jones had a major influence on later drummers such as Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, and Louie Bellson. He also starred in several films, most notably the musical short Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

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