Keeping up with the Joneses

Dallas blues history according to two who lived it

"We were on a salary just to rehearse," he says. "They had a buildin' with a rehearsal space on Ross, and we'd go there five days a week and rehearse all day. [Label founder] John Abner Sr. would come in and listen, and so did Dale Hawkins, who was doin' their producin'. We took breaks, there was a recreation room, and we'd shoot pool and drink a whole lot of pop. We rehearsed six months before they even let us out of the buildin'." Patterson and the Mustangs played showy soul-pop at frat parties and on local TV. They cut Jetstar 45s (DJ copies on orange vinyl!) that sold well regionally.

"But the deal didn't work out with Abnak," grins Andrew. "We were too young and wild for 'em."

The Hendrix era had arrived, but Andrew shunned the fuzzed-out Hendrix sound, opting for cleaner tones. He played the Red Jacket (not the present one on Greenville Ave., but the original establishment on Maple) and the Ali Baba, and in '73 rejoined Freddie King. King's "Goin' Down" (1971) had hit big with the rock crowd, and he and Andrew opened shows for ZZ Top, Little Feat, Tower of Power, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

One night in Cleveland, the band members were loading their tour bus and cranking the engine, which--lacking a functional muffler--was rather loud. People in the tenement they were parked next to hurled down protests and insults. The band hurled them back, provoking a platoon of Clevelanders wielding baseball bats and tire chains to pour out of the building. Andrew threw up his arms to ward off a bat blow and saw stars as the bat bounced off his hand. Clutching his ballooning hand, he saw the bat again descending, this time right toward his face.

"Right then I saw this shape--and it was Freddie!" Andrew recalls. "He stepped in right in front of me, took the lick, and started punchin' this guy just like a big ol' boxer. Took the lick and kept on strokin'." King held Cleveland at bay until the arrival of the constabulary, who seemed disinclined to arrest any of the home team, but did confiscate the bats and chains. The bluesmen went on their way.

In early '76, Andrew got bronchitis and had to lay off the road a while. Later that year, Freddie King died. Andrew's next project was a power-funk band, the Creators. "We signed with RCA for a year and then self-destructed," Andrew recounts.

In the '80s, Andrew played for soul-blues slickster Johnnie Taylor. In 1987 he went to L.A. to team with the Silent Partners, with whom he accompanied Katie Webster on Alligator's Swamp Boogie Queen, then joined harp blower Charlie Musselwhite.

"Memphis Charlie" (as he was once billed) helped create the new and present blues millennium in Chicago, and then moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, where he was too busy being true to the blues to become a hippie. Andrew worked with Musselwhite for eight years and was on three of his Alligator albums, including 1993's In My Time.

Andrew returned to Dallas and fell in with the Lowlifers, an excellent band cored around bassist Hal Harris, backing R.L. Griffin at the Blues Palace several times weekly. Since Griffin often doesn't come onstage till well into the night, the Lowlifers' (usually) instrumental opening set gave Andrew what may have been his best setting in which to really stretch on guitar. Freed of the strictures of backing a frontman, he revealed an oft-breathtaking ability as a soloist, with an improvisational vigor and a sense of dynamics that brought to mind Cornell Dupree, Larry Carlton, and even Jerry Garcia more than it did your average bluesbanger. This fell right in step with the reason he came back to Dallas in the first place: to start his own thing. For him, the Lowlifers were a good place to hone his skills; at least for the nonce, he felt himself "not ready."

No doubt hearing his cue, John Stedman stormed in, checkbook cocked. He and Andrew powwowed at blues hangout Greenville Bar and Grill; shortly after, Andrew cut his debut CD, I Need Time, for JSP, and things started happening quickly.

Ron Levy, who produced Tutu Jones' Bullseye CD, came to Dallas to do sessions with Andrew, Henry Qualls, and other locals for a regional blues series he was developing. While here he produced Smokey Wilson's Man From Mars, employing as sidemen both Andrew on guitar and Andrew's son, Christole, on bass. (Amusingly, liner credits lopped off the last name of drummer Charles "Sugar Boy" Meyers, and surnamed him Jones, too!) The regional blues material will surface on Cannonball, a new label co-formed by Levy. Replaying their move on Tutu, Bullseye signed Andrew away from JSP; I Need Time will be rereleased under the Bullseye imprint.

There are, however, still plenty of JSP originals left, and Andrew, in the time-honored tradition, is taking to the road to sell them with Ronnie Bramhall's Blues Revue--featuring Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones. Taking to the highway in Andrew's new GM van, the group will go east through the South, up the coast to New York, and then through the Gloom Belt to Chicago, where they'll play the club B.L.U.E.S. (Ballsy step, that last: Chicago's the one place where a blues person's being from Texas can be more of a minus than a plus.)

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