Booker T. Jones spreads the medicine of music
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Booker T. Jones lives and breathes music.
"Music was a part of me when I was a little boy. I didn’t understand it, but it was the first thing that was in my mind in the morning," Jones told The Park Record during a telephone interview from his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. "I love all different kinds of music. Every day I listen to good or bad music. It doesn’t matter, because it’s a healing thing. It’s like personal medicine to me, and I’m able to administer my own medicine and I’ll sit down and play for my own pleasure."
Jones will spread those wellness vibes when he performs at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.
The concerts will be an overview of his career, and will also include some new songs from his past three albums, "Potato Hole," "The Road from Memphis" and "Sound the Alarm."
"The most recent album was ‘Sound the Alarm’ and I did some stuff with Mayer Hawthorne and the Avila Brothers," Jones said. "On the previous album, ‘The Road from Memphis,’ I worked with the Roots, and it was a good album for me."
The album before that, "Potato Hole,’ Jones played with the Drive Truckers and Neil Young.
"I’ll play my favorite songs from those albums," he said.
However, most of the show will consist of music that Jones originated as a young man with Booker T. and the M.G.’s.
"Some of them will be the big hits like ‘Green Onions’ and ‘Time Is Tight’ and then we’ll play some obscure ones for the fans who like those as well," he said. "I enjoy playing those songs."
Another part of the show will be music that influenced Jones to become a musician.
"These are songs that I heard as a young boy that I rearranged or music that I was involved in as a session player," he explained. "I played a lot of sessions in my life and I like to play those songs."
Not only did Jones play many sessions, but he played many instruments.
"When I was with Stax Records, I played baritone bass," he said. "I played piano and organ for Rita Coolidge and played sessions with Neil Young and Bob Dylan when I moved to California. So I’ll play some of my favorite songs from those sessions."
Jones will do more than play the songs, he will show the audience what he did on those recordings.
"For example, I played bass on Albert King’s version of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ and I wrote ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ for him, so I’ll play those songs and I’ll play the same lines that I did in the studio," he said. "The same will go for Bob Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door.’ I played bass on that song. So, it’s safe to say, if I was really involved in a song, I will try to recreate my part of it on stage with my band."
Jones learned how to play music in school and is a classically trained musician.
"I maneuvered to the music room, rather than the football field, and actually passed the football field to get to the band room," he said with a laugh. "I was friends with the football coach and the music director, but the music director was emotionally closer to me."
He played his first professional show when he was 13.
"I received five dollars in my first paying engagement." Jones said. "Money was hard to come by when I was young. My father was a math teacher and my mother was a high school secretary, so to go out and make five dollars in two hours was actually competitive with my father’s salary back then. And that’s how music became a way for me to make a living and then I got trapped in it."
Throughout his career, Jones has received an array of accolades including his inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Songwriters Hall of Fame and a couple of Grammy awards.
"The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was the first big award," he said. "It was really a surprise and it’s still moving to think about it. It came early when the organization was still young and as the years go on, it’s the one that means the most, because so many musicians and entertainers who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame are still not in it."
The other big award for Jones was his Grammy for "Potato Hole."
"I hadn’t recorded for years and had spent some time away from the music industry to sell real estate," he said. "So to win a Grammy with my comeback album was really nice. That’s probably the most special moment for me."
He also was honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys.
"That means that your life meant something to your peers," he said.
However, Jones confided that he doesn’t plan to slow down.
"I had a session last week in Dublin, Ireland, with Sinead O’Connor," he said. "We’ve been trying to get together for a long time, for many years.
"I’m still following my own path," Jones said. "I haven’t written for a symphony, which is something I was trained to do, although I transcribed ‘Time Is Tight’ for the Memphis Orchestra. Hopefully, in the near future I will make some concertos and symphonies."
Up to now, Jones knows that his talents took him to a certain point, but he really owes a lot to his fans.
"I want to say thank you to them," he said. "They are the people who come to the shows and listen to the music and buy the records are the reason why I’m still able to do this," he said. "They are the ones who have supported me all these years and today."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Booker T. Jones, one of the pioneers of the Memphis Soul sound and leader of Booker T. and the M.G.’s, from Friday, Feb. 27, through Sunday, March 1. Friday’s and Saturday’s shows will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday’s performance will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $39 to $65 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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