Obituary: Senator Jones (1934-2008)

One of the last New Orleans independent R&B producers/record label owners, Senator Jones, died at his home in Raymond, Mississippi on or about November 28 from an apparent heart attack. He was 75.

From the early 1960s until the late 1980s, Jones recorded scores of local artists including Rockie Charles, James Rivers, Tommy Ridgley, Barbara George, Ray J., and Walter Washington.

Born November 9, 1934 in Jackson, Mississippi, he moved to New Orleans with his family in 1951. He began performing in the mid-1950s during a stint in the army and continued his interest in music when he returned to New Orleans. Jones made a handful of singles in the early 1960s, but he realized if he wanted to succeed in the music business, he’d better chose another avenue.

“I could see local artists weren’t recording as much as they should have,” recalled Jones in 1981. “That’s when I started thinking about producing.”

Jones set up the Black Patch label in 1968 and recorded Rockie Charles’ “Mr. Rickashay.” After that, he set up the JB’s, Jenmark, Superdome and Hep’ Me labels.

“As I got more artists, I didn’t want to go to the radio station with seven records on the same label. I knew the deejays would say, ‘I can’t play all those records; they’re on the same label.’ So I started new labels.”

In the early 1970s, Jones was especially successful with releases by Charles Brimmer and Eddie Lang, which he leased to national labels. By the late 1970s, his best selling artist was Johnny Adams. Arguably, Adams best work was recorded with Jones in the control booth. Hits including “After All the Good Is Gone,” “Hell Yes I Cheated,” “Love Me Now” and “I Live My Whole Life at Night” came out during this period.

By the mid 1980s, many local radio stations were being bought by large corporations and out-of-state owners. “The stations in New Orleans forgot about us small companies. It got to be impossible to make a profit on a local record.”

Briefly, he managed a club and motel on the West Bank, but by 1990 he’d returned to Jackson, worked for Malaco Records and formed a partnership with Ace Records’ Johnny Vincent. He deejayed at a small station in Jackson and continued to produce and search for talent. Jones was responsible for the success of Sir Charles Jones’ “Love Machine,” which was released on Mardi Gras Records earlier this decade. Jones is survived by several children and grandchildren.