An Interview with Jack Jones
When Frank Sinatra calls you ‘One of the major singers of our time’ you know you’re doing something right. And it’s fair to say that Jack Jones has been as right as they get for over 60 years.
And now, to celebrate his 80th birthday, Jack Jones returns to the UK in January to play 14 dates across the country. A professional singer since 1957 and one of the world’s original and best-loved crooners, not to mention star of musical theatre, TV and film, Jack Jones has won accolade after accolade.
The recipient of two Grammy Awards (with another five nominations) and an Emmy, he has performed at two Royal Variety Shows and has over 60 albums to his credit, 17 of which have charted in Billboard’s Top 20.He has clocked up 32 Top 50 hits in the Billboard AC chart, including three No 1s, and he even has his own star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ironically it was Sinatra himself that made Jack commit full time to music. As Jack explains: “My friend at school, Nancy Sinatra, said to me one day: ‘Hey Jack, you’ve got to come and hear my Dad sing’. So I went along and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Although his parents had been in showbiz themselves it wasn’t a given that Jack would follow in their footsteps. “I think they’d much rather I’d have been a doctor or a lawyer,” he says, “but my mind was made up.”
“I can give up the day job now!”
His mother was the actress Irene Hervey while his father was the actor/singer Allan Jones and Jack was born the night his father recorded the song that was to become his signature tune, ‘The Donkey Serenade’. “Maybe I got my taste for music and travel right there,” he jokes.
Jack’s professional debut was a brief stint as part of his father’s act at the Thunderbird Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas when he was just 19-years-old. He went out on his own three weeks later, working odd jobs to support himself while pursuing his singing career.
His first break came when a demo he recorded found its way to Capitol Records. Although he left Capitol after a few singles and an album, one song – ‘This Could Be The Start Of Something Big’ – caught the attention of a San Francisco club owner who booked him for a three-week run. He was discovered by Pete King, a producer and artist for Kapp Records, who quickly signed him to the label.
Jack was still working at a petrol station when his first album on Kapp was released. He recalls: “I was washing a windscreen one day when I heard one of my songs on the radio. I remember thinking maybe I can give up the day job now!” Jack went on to release a further 21 albums with Kapp before switching to the RCA label in 1968.
Jack Jones has made no secret over the years of his love of a well crafted song. He’s worked with many major artists and has had massive hits with numbers such as ‘The Impossible Dream’, ‘Wives and Lovers’, ‘Lollipops And Roses’, ‘Call Me Irresponsible’, ‘If You Ever Leave Me’, ‘Lady’, ‘The Race Is On’ and, more recently, the theme to the enormously successful US hit TV show ‘The Loveboat’.
He recalls: “The writers wanted me to do it and asked me but I was pretty stupid because I didn’t think anyone would watch a show about a cruise ship – how wrong can you be!”
Although Jack has been hailed as one of the top singers in the world by many artists including Tony Bennett , Mel Torme and Paul Williams, conveying the feeling of a song didn’t always come naturally.
“My first manager was a former singer, Jack Leonard, and he told me I really needed to understand what I was singing about. He said I needed to fall in love. So I did. And then he said now if she’d only leave you then you’d know what you’re singing about… and she did!”
When I asked Jack what we can expect from his forthcoming tour he says: “We’re doing songs from my last album and songs from way back. I talk about them and my connection to them. It’s fair to say that I’ll be singing songs that have meant something to me throughout my career and songs that have always been favourites of my audience and myself.” He adds: “It’s certainly going to be one big celebration.”
With a catalogue of some of the best loved international hits of all time to draw upon, it sounds like it will be just that. A real Happy Birthday celebration – and then some.
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