Isham Edgar Jones (January 31, 1894 – October 19, 1956) was an American bandleader, saxophonist, bassist, and songwriter. Jones was born on January 31, 1894, in Coalton, Ohio, to a musical and mining family, and grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, where he started his first band. In 1911 one of Jones’s earliest compositions “On the Alamo” was published by Tell Taylor Inc. Taylor had formed a publishing company the year before when his song “Down by the Old Mill Stream” became a hit. In 1915 Jones moved to Chicago, Illinois. He performed at the Green Mill Gardens, then began playing at Fred Mann’s Rainbo Gardens. In 1917, he composed the tune “We’re In The Army Now” (known also as “You’re In the Army Now”) when United States entered the World War I. The same tune was popular again during the World War II, and it’s played even by US Army Band.
The Isham Jones band made a series of popular gramophone records for Brunswick throughout the 1920s. His first 26 sides, made at Rainbo Gardens, were credited to “Isham Jones’ Rainbo Orchestra.” By the end of 1920, the name was simply “Isham Jones’ Orchestra.” He led one of the most popular dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s. His first successful recording, “Wabash Blues” written by Dave Ringle and Fred Meinken, was recorded in 1921 by “Isham Jones and his Orchestra.” This million-seller stayed for twelve weeks in the U.S. charts, six at No. 1. It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. From the start, his Brunswick records were popular. There was a gap from October 1927 to June 1929 where Jones did not record due to disbanding and reorganization.
Noted musicians who played in Jones’s band included Louis Panico, Benny Goodman (although no records were made during the short time he was there), Woody Herman, Walt Yoder, and Roy Bargy. From 1929 to 1932, his Brunswick recordings became even more sophisticated with offbeat arrangements by Gordon Jenkins and others; Jones was his own arranger early on, but later cultivated others. During this period, Jones started featuring violinist Eddie Stone as one of his regular vocalists. Stone had an unusual, almost humorous tone to his voice. His other vocalists included Frank Sylvano, Billy Scott, and Arthur Jarrett. He also toured England with his orchestra in 1925.
Chicago remained Jones’s home until 1932, when he settled in New York City. In 1932, he added Joe Martin, another of the band’s violinists, as a frequent vocalist. In April that year, young Bing Crosby recorded two sessions with Jones’s group which included “Sweet Georgia Brown.” In August 1932, Jones signed with Victor, and these records are considered among the best arranged and performed commercial dance band records of the Depression era. Victor’s recording technique was suited to Jones’ band. In October 1932, he teamed up with the Three X Sisters in New York who had just departed from CBS radio. They recorded “experimental” songs for RCA Victor in which Jones began to fuse jazz and early swing music. They recorded “Where? (I Wonder Where?)” and “What Would Happen to Me If Something Happened to You.” His Victor releases had an almost symphonic sound, often with a strong use of tuba. During his Victor period, he recorded two long playing “Program Transcription” records as part of Victor’s unsuccessful 33 1/3 RPM series.
Reed virtuoso Al Gallodoro appeared briefly with Jones in 1933, taking part in a record date October 3. Jones stayed with Victor until July 1934, when he signed with Decca. Jones’s recordings during this period rivaled Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, Leo Reisman, and other dance orchestras as examples of the most popular dance music of the era. After he left Decca in 1936, he again retired and his orchestra was taken over by band member Woody Herman. Jones started a new band in 1937–38 and recorded a handful of sessions under the ARC labels: Melotone, Perfect and Banner. In the 1940s, Jones resided on his poultry farm in Colorado, which he occasionally left for short tours with pickup bands. He later resided in Los Angeles, CA. He moved to Hollywood, Florida in 1955, and died there of cancer on October 19, 1956. His remains were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, and perhaps for that reason is often erroneously listed as having died in Hollywood, California.
The following work by Isham Jones is contained in my collection:
It Had to Be You (1924).