An Interview with painter Lennie Jones: An American Folk artist of the holistic Blues experience

"We can all identify with the realities in the Blues on some fundamental level. In spite of the often painful lyricism, what a joyful soulshakin' noise."

Lennie Jones: Art with heart and soul

Lennie Jones is an acclaimed self taught primitive American Folk Artist living in the rural Everglades Region of Southwest Florida. Lennie works primarily with acrylic paint on linen canvas, as well as occasional works on driftwood that he has discovered deep in the Everglades.

Lennie’s subjects generally revolve around Southern blues & roots music themes, and his creations are colorful, soulful & singularly unique.

Lennie’s completed works have included Festival & Event Posters, CD Covers, magazine & media, prints & portraits and he has received a wide variety of appreciative testimonials & accolades.

As a very young boy, his South Louisiana father instilled in him a deep love of blues music, drawing pictures, and endless swampy wilderness. As a traveling blues musician, Lennie was gigging in New York in 1968 when he met and heard the incredible Albert King. Albert’s unique combination of incomparable power, heartfelt pain, passionate subtlety and compelling musicianship moved his soul like no music ever had before. Opening for the original Canned Heat, shaking hands with Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, Bill Graham, seeing the immortal Jimmy Reed and giggin’ for Zappa further solidified his love of playing, hearing and living the Blues. 

For many years now he have thrived in the mysterious and primitive wilderness, happy, and blessed with a timeless source of sprititual inspiration to his art, heart and soul...An’ the music never left him.

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

 

What first attracted you to the Blues culture and how has changed your life?

My South Louisiana born Daddy was a drummer & music lover who had turned me on to Blues & jazz at a very Early age…and I was an instant Blues fanatic. It's the voice, Mojo & spirit of American roots…with all the hardships, suffering, joy & soul wrapped in a wonderful package.

 

How do you describe your progress and what characterizes Lennie Jones' music and art philosophy?

No philosophy involved...I paint what I paint like I once was driven to play the music: because I need to. Real simple, basic & natural!

 

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music and art?

No secrets, just hard livin' & good life lessons...

 

What is the “feeling” you miss most nowadays from the New York City at late 60s?

The vibe! The creative energy, camaraderie amongst musicians, and opportunities for & sounds of "outsider" music idioms was just amazing & a fertile training ground for a young musician.

 

Are there any memories from Albert King, Canned Heat, Muddy Waters, Bill Graham, Jimmy Reed, and Frank Zappa, which you’d like to share with us?

Let’s see…Muddys warm charismatic smile, Franks intelligence, humility & creative vision, Bill Grahams wisdom, patience an' time for a young ambitious Artist, Jimmy Reeds hypnotic simplicity, and Albert: his huge hand on my shoulder terrified me…and his music changed my life & music reality: Albert could do more with 3 notes than any guitarist alive…And Canned Heat were such a wonderful talented friendly bunch of eclectic musicians that I was absolutely blown away by their music & Blues knowledge, and forever changed. They are SO underrated as blues patriarchs. Lead singer Bob "Bear" Hite once complimented my harp playin', and bassist Larry "the Mole" Taylor played my funky old harmony bass (with faces painted all over it) that my granddaddy gave me for a whole Canned Heat set. SO ahead of their time, playin' early on with Sunnyland Slim & Hooker?! Have Mercy...

 

 

Which memory from Buddy Guy and Willie King makes you smile?

Buddy’s' amazin' memories, warmth, humility & incomparable guitar technique: the very last of our Blues Fathers. And Willie King: what a fine man, humorist, wonderful musician, wise philosopher & charitable community leader. A walkin' talkin' guitar slingin' lesson in overcoming hardship. My Blues Buddha, I dearly loved Willie.

 

Why did you think that the blues faces, culture and status of life, continues to generate such a devoted following?

We can all identify with the realities in the Blues on some fundamental level. In spite of the often painful lyricism, what a joyful soulshakin' noise.

 

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from your inspiration to make a painting?

Many have been significant memories for me. My most soulful memories were presenting Willie King with a portrait of him that I had done in front of a large University crowd: Willie hugged me, gently wept and whispered in my ear "you know you ain't white".

And, seeing Buddy Guy tear up when I presented him with a portrait of Muddy…

As well, bringing' a painting to the Robert Johnson family at their request…So honored.

 

Who are your favorite musicians, both old and new, would you like to meet and drew?

Favorites include Lightnin' Hopkins (!!!), RL Burnside, Hooker, Elmore James, Michael Burks, Mississippi John Hurt, Wolf, Muddy, Hank Williams, Buddy, Li'l Walter, Jimmy Reed, Butterfield & Bloomfield, Bob Dylan, Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Albert, Freddie & BB, Canned Heat, Eric Clapton, Anders Osbourne…

 

What characterize the sound, faces, smells and colors of folk blues art?

For me it’s characterized by bin' natural, from untrained hands, an' expressive of folks who have lived marginally & lived full...

 

What kind of music you hear when you painting and how does the blues music come out of your art?

I'm listening' as I paint, and seeing the music I hear…

What's the legacy of all these legendary blues adventures? The BLUESMEN was more a “ghost” or a human?

The legacy of the Blues is forever etched in all our beings….The ghosts of its originators still speaks to our very souls, grabs our heart & brings Blues music’s organic joy to our waiting ears. That’s what I’m talkin' 'bout.

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Here & Now, 'cause I had nuthin' common' and I’ve lived to tell about it with a smile….

Lennie Jones Folk Art Blues - Home

 

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