Joe Jones

Singer of 'You Talk Too Much'

Joe Jones, singer: born New Orleans 12 August 1926; married (four sons, three daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Los Angeles 4 December 2005.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, in the early 1960s, Fats Domino kept on smiling when his style was copied by the southern performers Joe Jones, Joe Barry and Clarence "Frogman" Henry. Joe Jones's "You Talk Too Much" (1960), was an impersonation of which Rory Bremner would be proud and a superb record in its own right. By the time of his hit, Jones had spent more than a decade learning his trade.

Joe Jones was born and raised in New Orleans. Turning 16 in 1942, he joined the US Navy and he became one of the first black petty officers. He played piano for a navy band and, after the Second World War, returned to his studies and formed a modern jazz band, Joe Jones and his Atomic Rebops. His band was used by Roy Brown to record "Good Rockin' Tonight" (1947).

The Musicians Union in New Orleans was poorly run and Jones, in defiance of its rules, formed a rival group. His expulsion was originally for life, but he was reinstated after others interceded on his behalf.

Jones worked with B.B. King as his pianist and valet and cut his first solo single, "Adam Bit the Apple", for Capitol in 1954. He discovered Shirley and Lee and encouraged them to record "Let the Good Times Roll" (1956).

In 1958 he recorded "Every Night About Eight" for Roulette but a potential follow-up, "You Talk Too Much", was not released. It was an R&B novelty, taken way too fast, and the lyric could have applied to himself:

You talk too much,
You worry me to death.
You talk too much,
You even worry my pet.

Thinking that Roulette had forgotten about him, Jones recorded a slower version for Ric Records in 1960. "You Talk Too Much" had to beat off a cover version from another New Orleans musician, Frankie Ford. As it climbed the charts, Roulette was furious, securing a leasing agreement with Ric and taking over Jones's contract. Ric Records responded with "I Don't Talk Too Much" by Martha Nelson: Valerie Carr recorded "I Talked Too Much": and Jones's follow-up was the equally similar "One Big Mouth (Two Big Ears)".

His "California Sun" (1961) was revived very successfully by the Rivieras in 1964. Jones appeared in the zombie film, The Dead One (1961), which was set in a plantation outside New Orleans.

Like most Roulette artists, Jones failed to make anything from his million-seller and he moved into music publishing, discovering the Dixie Cups ("Chapel of Love") and Alvin Robinson ("Something You Got"). He formed a jingle company in Los Angeles in 1973 and encouraged black musicians to fight for their royalties. Jones also wrote a campaign song for Jimmy Carter.

Spencer Leigh

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