Bluesman, educator and scholar Fernando Jones talks about the Blues of past present and future

"In order for the Blues to be healthy, credible, vibrant, fresh and worth listening to, then, there has to be a 'minor' league of musician being groomed to assume the professional ranks."

Fernando Jones: Keep the Flame Burning

American Bluesman, educator, songwriter and scholar Fernando Jones was born on the South Side of Chicago. Inspired by his older brothers, Jones taught himself how to play guitar when he was four years old. Jones is also the Blues Ensemble director at Columbia College Chicago (the nation's premier performing arts and media school) and a highly sought after lecturer focusing on music pedagogy and literacy improvement whose clientele includes the Smithsonian Institute and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Fernando Jones is a sharp dressed, raw, guitar driven Chicago power trio. Their sound is full, sexy and original. Whether Jones is playing alone in someone's living room or with his band in concert each performance is entertaining and engaging across multigenerational audiences. The incomparable Fernando Jones is a 21st Century Renaissance man and the 2008 Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipient (education). Jones is one of the most complete Bluesmen and scholars of his generation with a focus on the next generation.

Jones has been recognized and celebrated by his peers and the press as being on the "cutting edge" of the Blues. He adds new blood and a new perspective to its legacy musically and culturally. As a composer, he has taken great pride in performing his original works publicly to help insure the evolutionary development of this movement.

While refuting the many negative stereotypes that haunt this music, Jones is on a mission to show its beauty through academic implementations, lectures, and concerts globally. As a result, Jones' hands were photographed by National Geographic Magazine. His book, I Was There When The Blues Was Red Hot, has been used as a resource by the likes of the Discovery Channel, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Living Blues, London Times, and Al-Jazeera. Fernando Jones holds professional memberships with the National Alliance of Black School Educators, Real Men Cook, American Federation of Musicians; Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the Chicago Blues Festival Planning Committee, and is the founder of Blues Kids of America, Blues Kids Foundation and Blues Camp.     Photo by MoPho

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues culture and what does the Blues mean to you?

I have learned to embrace the beauty in creating "something" from "nothing" through music and music performance. Music seems to always have healing properties.

"They all come from the field holler of which is what we now know as the Blues." 

How started the thought of Blues Kids of America? How do you describe Fernando Jones music philosophy?

Great questions. I started the BKA program and Blues Camp(s) when I saw the interest of student musicians that liked the Blues and had no place to go and share it with others their own age.

I describe my music as original and refreshing.  I don't limit it to 12-bars and call and response. I use humor, personal relationships, and even desires to write.  My shows are more and more crowd participatory because I like being entertained as much as entertaining.

You are also known an educator and scholar of blues. What is the relation between Blues and new generation?

In order for the Blues to be healthy, credible, vibrant, fresh and worth listening to, then, there has to be a "minor" league of musician being groomed to assume the professional ranks.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues? What is the best advice ever given you?

My brother Foree was so hard on me. I don't like that, but understanding the role of the big brother, I know it was for the best.  He taught me to embrace "feel" when I play.

"I describe my music as original and refreshing. I don't limit it to 12-bars and call and response. I use humor, personal relationships, and even desires to write." 

Which was the best and worst moment of your career? Which is the most interesting period in your life?

The best times are when I get a call from a high profile person or organization such as Nike or the Smithsonian . . . requesting me for me and appreciating all that I have to offer.

Other moments include my Blues Kids opening up for and sitting in with BB King and Buddy Guy; when my college students played with KoKo Taylor; when my college Blues Ensemble graduate and use your advice and get a job working in the music business.

You have come to know great bluesmen. Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

There have been many. But in my last few years the people that have been the warmest and nicest have been KoKo Taylor, Eddie Shaw and Buddy Guy.

Which memory makes you smile? Are there any memories which youd like to share with us?

Over 20 years ago when my two brothers, nephew and I took the stage together. Another was a year ago when I got a last minute call to play at Buddy Guy's Legends; a band didn't show up so I played alone. Four songs into the set I was playing and had my eyes closed; when I opened them Buddy Guy was sitting next to me on stage . . .and we played together for 20 minutes. 

"Believe it or not, Bluesfolks laugh all-the-time. And the things we laugh and joke about have nothing to do with music." 

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? How has the blues changed over the years?

Sadly, I don't think the Blues has evolved enough collectively because collectively set lists are still top heavy with cover tunes. I miss the guys that loved me like a Lefty Dizz, my big brother, Foree, and Junior Wells.

Some music stars can be fads but the bluesmen are always with us. What means to be Bluesman?

It means to be an ambassador of goodwill. Pride in my heart. 

Make an account of the case of local Blues scene. What is the difference between East, West, South and North?

In Chicago there is no difference. In America it is of course because music, languages and socio economic conditions reflect and dictate the musical interpretations.

Why did you think that the Blues Culture and music continues to generate such a devoted following?

This music is raw and people can relate to it.

"I have learned to embrace the beauty in creating "something" from "nothing" through music and music performance. Music seems to always have healing properties." 

What's the legacy of Blues in the world culture and civilization? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I hope that there will always be a demand for new ideas. That will force is to grow and get better. Our fans deserve that.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Blues world?

Believe it or not, Bluesfolks laugh all-the-time. And the things we laugh and joke about have nothing to do with music.

The latest thing to touch my heart and mind was the death of my drummer Roy "Pretty Boy" Boyd this past August.

What are the lines that connect the Blues with the Jazz, Soul and continue to Gospel, Folk and African music?

They all come from the field holler of which is what we now know as the Blues.

Lets take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I'd like to have been an adult at Theresa's Lounge in Chicago at 4801 S Indiana in 1972 when everybody we loved musically was still alive.  

Fernando Jones - official website

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