John Paul Jones will forever be remembered as the musical Swiss Army knife who helped propel Led Zeppelin to some of the greatest heights that any rock band has ever reached. From the iconic bass line on “Dazed and Confused,” the spine-tingling organ solo on “No Quarter” and the iconic recorder intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” his contributions to the band’s sound were as critical as they were varied. Not such a bad way to be remembered, but Jones has always been a more multi-faceted figure than even his time in Led Zeppelin would suggest.
Beginning early on as a teenager in the 1960s, Jones has quietly led one of the more fascinating and surprising careers in popular music history. As a musician, arranger and a producer, he’s worked in a shockingly wide range of genres and with a surprisingly odd and brilliant assortment of artists. Here are 20 things you may not have known that Led Zeppelin’s secret weapon did.
Released a 1964 solo single, “Baja,” written by Lee Hazlewood and produced by Andrew Loog Oldham.
One of the major trends among popular artists in England in the early 1960s was to change one’s name to something a little bit more eye-grabbing. Thus, Richard Starkey became Ringo Starr and Alan Caldwell became Rory Storm. In 1964, John Baldwin entered the studio with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to cut his first single, “Baja,” a song penned by country/pop singer Lee Hazlewood. The song itself is a pretty nondescript instrumental propelled by woody-sounding guitar, but the session’s implications were enormous. Going to market, Oldham was convinced his young charge’s birth name just wasn’t going to cut it, and thus rechristened him John Paul Jones. As Jones remembered, Oldham got the name from a “movie poster for John Paul Jones the American.” The rest is history.
Played in an R&B band named Herbie Goins and the Nightimers with future Mahavishnu Orchestra leader John McLaughlin in the early Sixties.
As influential as the early British blues scene turned out to be — with bands like the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and the Animals all breaking out of it — in London in the 1960s, that community was actually quite small. Lots of future stars frequently jammed together at scene maker Alexis Korner’s residency at the Marquee Club downtown and formed upstart bands that typically folded within months of their inception. One such group was an outfit called Herbie Goins, named after the Florida-born blues singer of the same name, which featured Jones on bass and John McLaughlin on guitar. As McLaughlin later recalled, “John Paul Jones and I were very good friends. … I gave [him] harmony lessons, believe it or not.”