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Mel Jones and his Bag O’ Bones

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
MOCKSVILLE ó Mel Jones is a man in love with music.
And whether he’s playing and singing with Mel Jones and his Bag O’ Bones, Wicker and Jones or Tin Can Alley ó the three bands he’s formed over the years ó Jones inspires others to fall in love with music, too.
At age 56, he performs and sings with one of the bands three days a week, sometimes four.
“My music is basically about having fun,” he says. “‘I know the blues is not about having fun, but the best way to get rid of your blues is to listen to somebody else’s.”
Mel Jones and his Bag O’ Bones will be playing at The Blue Vine, 209 S. Main St., Friday night from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Cover charge is $5.
A resident of Davie County, Jones grew up in Chapel Hill listening to rhythm and blues, Motown and Memphis music.
“When the Beatles came to the United States, I was 13 years old in the throes of a serious hormonal crisis,” he says. “I had to get a woman somewhere, and I really didn’t know how to go about it.
“So I looked around for role models, and I noticed the Beatles had a bunch of women following them around.”
The solution was simple, Jones says. He decided to become a Beatle.
“The problem was I would have to learn how to sing and play. I did finally get a woman (he met wife Denise while they were students at Appalachian State University), and I’m still learning how to sing and play.”Mel Jones and his Bag O’ Bones has recorded four CDs featuring mostly original material, the latest of which, “Bonehead,” has sold out.
A crowd favorite is “Plumbing Blues,” written and sung by Jones, who works as a plumber when he’s not playing music.
Other song titles from the CDs include “Back When I Had Money,” “Cornbread Song,” “Court Square Strut,” “Happy Man” and “Sick and Tired.”
The band will debut a new song, “We Knew Each Other Too Well,” at The Blue Vine. “What it’s all about is the isolation that can come between people that know each other very well,” he says. “That’s sort of a blues theme.”
Jones, who plays the harmonica and sings, is joined in his Bag O’ Bones by guitarist Don Story of Wilkesboro, upright bass player Calvin Johnson of Winston-Salem and Kip Snow, originally from Elkin and now of Mocksville on the mandolin, guitar and banjo.
Humor plays a major role in their act. “Maybe everything we say isn’t going to make them laugh,” Jones says, “but we’re going to try. Humor is as important on stage as it is in life.”
Wicker and Jones, the oldest of the three bands, has recorded two CDs. Jones and Danny Wicker started the traditional Piedmont blues act in the mid 1990s. “Danny plays guitar and I play harmonica,” Jones says, “and we both sing.”
Wicker and Jones also performs country blues, jazz blues and gospel.
The duet won the Charlotte Blues Society solo duos contest last year for the second time in three years, earning the opportunity to compete in the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis in February.
“It’s the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world,” Jones says, “160 acts competing over a period of three days in 16 venues in a three-block area on Beale Street. It’s almost like Blues Disney World because you can’t take it all in, there’s so much going on all the time.
“It’s way more fun than I should ever be allowed to have.”
Jones’ third group, Tin Can Alley, started a year and a half ago as a party band. He and Bag O’ Bones members Don Story and Calvin Johnson started the band to play at wineries.
Story wanted Jones ó who toured as a drummer and singer in rock and roll and rhythm and blues bands for years before starting his own ó to play percussion.
“I said, ‘I’m a lazy old man now and don’t want to carry around a heavy set of drums,’ ” he says. “He said, ‘You figure it out.’ ”
Jones says he found a trash can drum his oldest daughter, Regan, had made. “It sounded great,” he says. He also plays two congo drums and a harmonica.
“And everybody sings,” he says. “We do a lot of the old soul rhythm and blues, Motown and Memphis music.”
Tin Can Alley performs two to three times a week. “It’s the busiest band we’ve got right now,” he says.
For more information on Mel Jones and his Bag O’ Bones, log onto BonesBlues.com. His music can be downloaded at myspace.com/bones blues and myspace.com/wickerandjones.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.

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