Of all the Hall-of-Fame inductees this year, Del “Saxman” Jones is the youngest and probably the most well known.
As a kid, he was forced to join his Des Moines junior high school band. “My dad had always wanted to play the saxophone and since he couldn’t and I was the oldest, I was doomed,” he laughs.
Well, if touring the world countless times over is “doom,” then so be it. Whether Jones was pushed into blowing Blues or he chose to do it, music has become his career. During the course of his 32 years as a performer, the 51-year-old has become quite a savvy businessman – a rarity among musicians.
By the time Jones hit high school in 1970, big bands already had their eye on him. He first started touring as a junior in high school with New Establishment. But success didn’t go to his head. He put options for a national and international career on hold to study at Drake University, where he also was a member of the wrestling team. He kept playing, hitting clubs around the Midwest. But almost the minute he was done with his academic studies, Bob Marchand (“Shake Your Money Maker”) recruited him and thus begins the Jones’ tale of fame.
Isaac Hayes, The Presidents, Sly & the Family Stone, and Buddy Miles were just a few of the big-league players Jones seduced with his saxophone. He went on to spend two years touring the world (305 gigs one year) with James Brown, and another two years with Tina Turner.
“I was going on 24,” Jones says, when he returned to Des Moines. “I was determined to make a band in Des Moines and make it a hit nationally. I was going to do what no one else had done. I figured, with my connections, I could make it happen. “But,” he says with a chuckle, “not everybody thinks the same way I do.”
Although he gave it a good college try, Jones wasn’t able to get the commitment from local players hanging around Des Moines in the mid-1970s, so he headed to Las Vegas. He did stints on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Soul Train and had an actual fan club for his group called Split Decision, which often fronted for the likes of War, Cameo, Con Funk Shun, and The Commodores.
He spent 10 years with Split Decision, but left the group when he was given the option of joining C.C. Ryders. From 1989 to 1997, Jones, based out of Hong Kong, made a successful career of touring throughout the Orient. (He now speaks five languages, and his wife speaks another four.)
Leaving the Far East behind, Jones returned home, but because of his acumen and talent, he was quite a musical commodity. Life really didn’t settle down for Jones until late 1999, when he formed The Final Mix Show Band. The current lineup consists of guitarist Maxx “G”, drummer Jerome “J.B.” Bishop, bassist Ed “Funkster” Eaves, and singer Melinda Vanags. Though the group can be found playing somewhere in the immediate area on most weekends, that won’t be the case for long. Jones, who picked up quite an education in business while on the road, has been negotiating deals for an Asian tour.
The group has also been busy in the studio. “We’re going to release a series of CDs – one every three months or so with three tracks on it,” he says. “Instead of making one CD that might have four or five good tracks on it, this way we can pick out the tracks that everyone likes and give it to them for $4 or $5 per CD, and people will want to listen to them all.”
Concerning his induction into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, he says: “It’s such a positive that a thing like that exists here. It shows that people are really into (the Blues). And it’s such an honor to be recognized in my hometown for this. A lot of people here, I think, don’t even know what I do, and it’s really nice to come home and be recognized this way.”
– Sarah Hankel
As published in the Des Moines CityView · 1/16/2002
www.dmcityview.com – reprinted with permission
PHOTO © JEN TAYLOR – VIVIDPIX.COM