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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, June 09, 2011


. . . is also turning 70: tomorrow. Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Jones, Mickey [1941 - ]
Michael Jones was born in Houston, Texas on June 10, 1941, but grew up in Dallas, learning to play drums early in life and dropping out of high school to play on tour with Trini Lopez, whom he followed to Los Angeles, where Lopez had a regular gig at PJ’s nightclub. When Lopez was signed to Reprise, they wanted an album Live at PJ’s, and this, released in 1963, launched Lopez’s career. From it came his big hit single of ‘If I Had A Hammer’, which he had learnt from a PETER, PAUL & MARY records. Hence even Mickey Jones’ first recording success had a tenuous Dylan connection   -  and yes, that finger-snappy, thin, echoey drum sound on Lopez’s irksomely chirpy ‘If I Had A Hammer’ is Mr. Jones.

From Lopez he went to work for smoothed-out-rock’n’roll hitmaker Johnny Rivers (an act Bob Dylan seems to have been inordinately fond of, and whose 1968 version of ‘Postively 4th Street’ Dylan says he liked better than his own, even calling it his favourite cover version). Mickey Jones stayed with Johnny Rivers for three years, playing on seven of his albums and including in his touring a March 1966 trip to Vietnam with Ann-Margret.

Before that trip, Dylan caught Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in LA, called Jones over to his table, told him he loved his playing and offered him a job. The job began straight after the Vietnam trip: it was playing live on the Hawaii-Australia-Europe tour of 1966 with Dylan and the Hawks, after LEVON HELM had earlier dropped out and been replaced by SANDY KONIKOFF, who had played the February-March 1966 US dates. Mickey Jones made his début with the group on April 9 in Honolulu. He rode it out right through till after the London Royal Albert Hall concert of May 27  -  and he was up for the further North American dates he’d been led to expect, including New York’s Shea Stadium, till Dylan had his motorcycle crash and cancelled everything. Except, apparently, Jones’ paychecks. ‘I had a two-year deal, and Bob never tried to renege,’ said Jones. ‘He’s a man of his word.’

Opinions vary as to the quality of Jones’ contribution. Barney Hoskyns writes scathingly about him, as musician and personality, in his biography of THE BAND, Across the Great Divide (1993), calling him ‘the overweight Texan’ with a ‘penchant for collecting Nazi regalia’, whose ‘sensibility was as different from that of the Hawks as his ham-fisted drumming technique was from the rangy, loose-limbed style of Levon Helm.’ And he quotes D.A. PENNEBAKER as saying:  ‘The Hawks’ hearts were down in the swamps of Lousiana…. Mickey’s wasn’t, I’ll tell you that. He’d gotten out of Texas as fast as he could, and he wanted the bright lights.’
It’s true that Levon Helm’s playing was more subtle and flexible, but for many, Mickey Jones’ drumming was perfect for the radical, incendiary electric music that Dylan and the Hawks were hurling out at their audiences. The uncompromising defiance of his snare-drum attacks, like volleys of machine-gun fire, cranking up the pitch of excitement unfurled by this most glorious music, propelled the sound and the spirit of the whole fiery ship on through hostile oceans. It was the surely the best rock drumming since its obvious precursor, D.J Fontana’s thrilling, galvanising rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat on ELVIS PRESLEY’s ‘Hound Dog’ ten years earlier.

Even the ‘overweight’ jibe seems slightly unfair. Alongside the Bob Dylan of 1966 nearly everyone else in North America looked overweight. None of which lessens the pleasing witticism of the editing on a fleeting moment of the concert footage of ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ put together by Pennebaker as a promo for Eat the Document (back when he thought Dylan would co-operate with his version of that project). Before the extraordinary riches of extant 1966 concert film were glimpsed more generously in SCORSESE’s No Direction Home in 2005, bootleg copies of this would-be promo film, centred upon a Scandinavian concert’s ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, offered the only complete song-performance to be seen  -  and there’s a neat moment within it where Dylan sings that chorus line ‘You know something is happening but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?’ and as he completes the question, the film cuts to Mickey Jones, pudgy and blonde, in the dark behind his drumkit.

It isn’t a fair connection, and isn’t meant to be  -  plenty of people were in the dark at the time, while Mickey Jones understood the thrust of the music and helped make it  -  but it was a gem of editing (and it was surely HOWARD ALK who devised it).

After the tour, Jones’ moment of glory, his contribution to history, was over. It was straight downhill into Kenny Rogers & the First Edition after that, and ‘I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In’. When Kenny Rogers went solo in 1976, to become rich as Croesus in the multi-platinum late-1970s country superstar stakes, Mickey Jones concentrated on acting, encouraged by a small part alongside Rogers (and with music supplied by the First Edition) in the TV film The Dream Makers in 1975. As he grew larger, hairier and more piggy-eyed he became increasingly suited to rôles as the menacing biker, the creepy backwoodsman, ‘man at pizza joint’ and ‘burly miner’. He enjoyed a starring rôle as the Ice Man in Misfits of Science (supported by Courteney Cox), played the character Peter Bilker in the TV series ‘Home Improvement’ throughout the 1990s, and according to Edna Gundersen in USA Today, ‘he became a household face as the burly biker in a long-running Breath Savers commercial.’

In 2002 he released the video/DVD Bob Dylan - World Tour 1966: The Home Movies - Through the Camera of Dylan’s Drummer Mickey Jones. Its anecdotes, told by Jones with some verve, are inevitably interesting, though as one punter-review on Amazon noted, the overall package was ‘heavily criticised by fans, who felt that a DVD with the words “World Tour 1966” in the title should contain at least some concert footage. (It does, but without sound.)…. It is a collection of primitive silent home movie clips, some of which actually include Bob Dylan in the frame.’

In 2007 Jones finally succeeded in publishing his memoir That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor to Hollywood Actor by settling for the print-on-demand process.
[Mickey Jones: That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor to Hollywood Actor, Bloomington & Milton Keynes: AuthorHouse, 2007. Barney Hoskyns, Across the Great Divide: The Band and America, London: Viking / Penguin, 1993 (New York: Hyperion, 1993); 2nd edn London: Vintage / Ebury, 2003. Edna Gundersen, USA Today, US, 16-18 Oct, 1998; this is also the source of the Jones quote re his salary from Dylan. DVD review by ‘Docendo Discimus’, seen online 4 Feb 2006 at]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a moving story about the lasting affect of a child's meeting with Bob Dylan:


8:58 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hmm. I find myself thinking: first, that while being a "gypsy boy" would have been romantically appealing, Bob would almost certainly have been less interested in talking "for hours" to victims of this bloke's aggravated burglaries, and second, that it's very hard to believe that the song Bob chose to sing to this boy in 1969 would have been 'North Country Blues'. I know: I'm a sceptic.

9:59 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Why on earth would anyone make up a story like that Michael? particularly as it was published anonymously.
The "aggravated burglaries" suggestion seems a particularly cheap shot at those who dont fit a social norm.

6:32 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I wasn't suggesting he'd made up the whole story. I was suggesting that at least one of the details seemed implausible: specifically that his recollection might well have been faulty as regards which song Dylan had chosen to sing for him.

And I don't think it's any more of a cheap shot to spare a thought for the victims of this man's aggravated burglaries - ie when he was carrying a firearm or other offensive weapon (or imitation gun) when breaking into people's houses - than it is a cheap sentimentalism to only take from his profile the fact that he was a gypsy and a boy.

1:35 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

How long has your Telegraph column been going now?
Perhaps we should track down this recalcitrant blackguard and have him horse whipped for his villainy.

Dylan may attend and sing some cheap sentimental verse,

"Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing"

Joan may chime in with "There but for fortune"

7:19 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Ever since I said something you didn't happen to find politically correct, apparently.

"Tolling for the mute"...

9:24 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Mute ??????

Michael you seem to be out of touch with the Britain of this century. The hang 'em and flog 'em brigade has never been more vocal.

Look at the Home secretarys since 2000 David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson,Theresa May, the silent majority has never been more deafening.

What I took from the man's profile was that Dylan helped him turn his life around, and, maybe at this stage of his life he is able to reflect on the victims of his crimes.

The current use of the term "political correctness" as a perjorative usually masks a reluctance to accept that society has changed. Even the Bullindon Club's most famous luminary "call me Dave" David Cameron tried on a hoodie once.

perhaps you should widen your Fleet St contacts?
"Striking for the Guardians and protectors of the mind"

10:01 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Joe
You don't think you might be becoming just a tad extreme about all this?

First you rush to claim that I said this bloke must have made his story up; I said no such thing.

Then you complain that my comment about his conviction for aggravated burglary was "a particularly cheap shot at those who dont fit a social norm"; yet your sole ground for supposing I harbour any dislike for "those who don't fit a social norm" seems to have been that I had dared to doubt a detail in his story.

And you assume without a leg to stand on that I dislike other people's acts of violent burglary less.

Then you label me a Telegraph columnist type (and apparently that isn't a cheap shot) and imply that I must be in favour of the violent punishment of offenders. I'm not.

After that you really crank up the indignation. Bring on the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade, the Bullingdon Club, all those awful Home Secretaries!

I've never been in favour of the death penalty. Or of the over-privileged. And as it happens, I agree that those Home Secretaries were/are awful, with the possible exception of Kenneth Clarke (a politician somewhat more leftwing than New Labourites like John Reid) - but I'm not so out of touch with British life today that I haven't noticed that all of them rightly resisted that "deafening" pressure to bring back hanging.

Finally, it may have been merely your eccentric use of capital letters, but coming straight after the reference to Fleet Street it seems a particularly partisan misquoting of Chimes Of Freedom when you have him "Striking for the Guardians and protectors of the mind".

All this jumping up and down with righteous indignation (because, apparently, sympathy for the burgled is very right-wing) suggests a different Dylan line to me: "Everybody is shouting 'Which side are you on?'"

2:23 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

Joe, I hadn’t thought it worth commenting on the original post or your first post, but you seem to have got things so out of proportion I think I’ll wade in.

I didn’t find the story either moving or credible – in fact I thought it read more like an entry in a short story competition or an English essay set by Dylanista English teacher. (Write the story about an imagined meeting with Dylan…) Its mixture of cliché and caricature border on the laughable, and the central proposition – that a gypsy trespasser should have got anywhere near Dylan in 1969 – just doesn’t stack up. Dylan was paranoid at this time about the public trying to get to him and had people to ensure they didn’t.

And I don’t recognise your comment. “The current use of the term "political correctness" as a perjorative usually masks a reluctance to accept that society has changed.” People who jib at the notion of ‘political correctness’ tend to be all too aware that society has changed; aware that we now have a Thought Police who will strap us into our straight-jackets of mind-numbing and patronising conformity. Subscribers to the dead hand of PC tend to be precisely the kind of people who simplistically divide English society into Telegraph readers and Guardian readers. Spare us, please….

5:17 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Dearest Michael

I have never harboured for a minute the idea that you are right wing, but if you wrote a piece for the Spectator or penned a glowing biography of Boris Johnson I would read it.

I read "Hand me my travellin' shoes" and was very moved by the accounts of southern racism which existed and still exist.

So I was dissapointed when your comment on this story focussed on the victims of "this bloke". I had been enchanted by his portrayal of himself, making pegs from hawthorn bushes for god sake. "I was about 12 going on 30" now if that dosn't tell you something about his childhood what does? Then to question the authenticity of his recollection by nerdishly suggesting that
Dylan wouldn't have sung North country blues in 1969, betrays
the sensitivities of a trainspotter.

Finally while I will admit some of my "righteous indignation"
bordered on Dave Spartlike rhetoric , I was surprised you mistook my attempt at humour "Grauniad" for a typo.

yours in solidarity


6:10 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Pope Leo
Did you aquire your political sophistication when you met Atilla the Hun? I don't divide people in that simplistic fashion, but I'd wager that a straw poll of Telegraph readers would involve listening to a lot of heel clicking.

It was Michael who introduced the notion of political correctness not me, and I doubt whether a lack of concern for the victims of crime is on any PC agenda.

To return to the substantive issue of the story's credibility. If dylan was so paranoid in 1969 ( do you have first hand knwledge of his mental state) how on earth was he persuaded to get up infront of 100,00 plus people?

As for the story reading like a competition entry isnt that what it was when it appeared in the Times?

9:10 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

Para 1: Oh, dear. Daily Telegraph…Atilla the Hun…(What happened to Genghis Khan?)
Para 2: But it was you who made a very specific judgment about political correctness.
Para 3: Is performing on a security-guarded stage the same as being intruded upon on private property? Paranoid? Read ‘Chronicles 1’.
Para 4: Ah, so it was a competition! And the lucky winner is…..

11:56 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

...nobody. So I think we'll call a halt to this discussion now, gents.

12:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My ear tells me the rhythm section of The Band (Jones in particular) was out of it's depth in trying to keep up with Dylan. The band almost never sounds in sync and the appeal is mainly that there is something glorious about the way his rhythm tramples over top of what reasonably could be expected to dissolve into a muddle. It's like watching a stallion blaze ahead full tilt on a muddy track.
Patrick Ford

6:06 am  
Anonymous Elmer Gantry said...


Just to add another Irish connection with Bob, don't know if you have seen this from the following website:

I've just started reading Dave van Ronk's autobiography. He says that as a kid he learned
a song, "Chimes of Trinity." Later, he sang it for Dylan, who used it as a basis for "Chimes
of Freedom." So, I'm looking for the lyrics to "Chimes of Trinity."

I found sheet music for a song of that name at
but I don't think that's the right song.

I found a recording of the tune at php?query=Tubular+bells&queryType=@attr+1=21
actually played on chimes, but there's no vocal, just an instrumental. About 55 seconds
in, it goes to what is clearly recognizable as the B part of "Chimes of Freedom," so it's
the right tune.

I also found a CD of Christmas tunes available at various online outlets, a CD which has
the right "Chimes of Trinity," but again I think it's done as an instrumental.

Just so no one else goes down the wrong track, here's the first verse of the wrong "Chimes
of Trinity."

I love to listen to Trinity chimes on the last day of the year
I love to stand at the old church gate when the chimes ring loud and clear
For the chimes that ring with a merry din recall the sweet long ago
When to church I hied by my dear mother's side while the belfry swang to and fro (2x)

11:55 pm  
Anonymous Elmer Gantry said...

Just to add that you can download a version of the 'Chimes of Trinity' from here:

11:59 pm  

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