John Paul Jones is widely considered to be a highly influential and important bassist, keyboardist, and arranger in the history of rock music. Many notable rock bassists have been influenced by him, including John Deacon of Queen, Geddy Lee of Rush, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gene Simmons of Kiss, and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana. Chris Dreja, the rhythm guitarist and bassist of The Yardbirds, has described him as "the best bass player in Europe".
Jones started playing piano at age six, learning from his father, Joe Baldwin, a pianist and arranger for big bands in the 1940s and 1950s, notably with the Ambrose Orchestra. His mother was also in the music business which allowed the family to often perform together touring around England. His influences ranged from the blues of Big Bill Broonzy, the jazz of Charles Mingus, to the classical piano of Sergei Rachmaninoff. At the age of 14, Jones became choirmaster and organist at a local church and during that year, he also bought his first bass guitar, a Dallas solid body electric followed by multiple basses in which he part exchanged until he finally bought his 1962 Fender Jazz Bass which he used until 1976. The fluid playing of Chicago musician Phil Upchurch on his You Can't Sit Down LP, which includes a memorable bass solo, is cited by Jones as being his inspiration to take up the instrument.
Jones joined his first band, The Deltas, at 15. He then played bass for jazz-rock London group, Jett Blacks, a collective that included guitarist John McLaughlin. His big break came in 1962 when he was hired by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan of the successful British group The Shadows for a two-year stint.
In 1964, on the recommendation of Meehan, Jones began studio session work with Decca Records. From then until 1968, he played on hundreds of recording sessions. He soon expanded his studio work by playing keyboards, arranging and undertaking general studio direction, resulting in his services coming under much demand. He worked with numerous artists including the Rolling Stones on Their Satanic Majesties Request (Jones' string arrangement is heard on "She's a Rainbow"); Herman's Hermits; Donovan (on "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow"); Jeff Beck; Françoise Hardy; Cat Stevens; Rod Stewart; Shirley Bassey; Lulu; and numerous others. As well as recording sessions with Dusty Springfield, Jones also played bass for her Talk of the Town series of performances. His arranging and playing on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" resulted in producer Mickie Most using his services as choice arranger for many of his own projects, with Tom Jones, Nico, Wayne Fontana, the Walker Brothers, and many others. Such was the extent of Jones' studio work – amounting to hundreds of sessions – that he said years later that "I can’t remember three quarters of the sessions I was on."
It was during his time as a session player that Jones adopted the stage name John Paul Jones. This name was suggested to him by a friend, Andrew Loog Oldham, who had seen a poster for the film John Paul Jones in France. He released his first solo recording as John Paul Jones, "Baja" (written by Lee Hazlewood and produced by Oldham) / "A Foggy Day in Vietnam", as a single on Pye Records in April 1964.
During his time as a session player, Jones often crossed paths with guitarist Jimmy Page, a fellow session veteran. In June 1966, Page joined The Yardbirds, and in 1967 Jones contributed to that band's Little Games album. The following winter, during the sessions for Donovan's The Hurdy Gurdy Man, Jones expressed to Page a desire to be part of any projects the guitarist might be planning. Later that year, The Yardbirds disbanded, leaving Page and bassist Chris Dreja to complete previously booked Yardbirds dates in Scandinavia. Before a new band could be assembled, Dreja left to take up photography. Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, asked Page about the vacant position, and the guitarist eagerly invited Jones to collaborate.
Page later explained:
"I was working at the sessions for Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man, and John Paul Jones was looking after the musical arrangements. During a break, he asked me if I could use a bass player in the new group I was forming. He had a proper music training, and he had quite brilliant ideas. I jumped at the chance of getting him."
Jones' diverse contributions to the group extended to the use of other instruments, including an unusual triple-necked acoustic instrument consisting of a six and a twelve string guitar, and a mandolin. Jones often used bass pedals to supplement the band's sound while he was playing keyboards and mandolin. On the band's 1977 tour of the United States, Jones would sing lead vocals on The Battle of Evermore, filling in for Sandy Denny who sang on the studio version.
Since Led Zeppelin dissolved in 1980 with the death of Bonham, Jones has collaborated with a number of artists, including Diamanda Galás R.E.M., Jars of Clay, Heart, Ben E. King, Peter Gabriel, Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitz, Cinderella, The Mission, La Fura dels Baus, Brian Eno, the Butthole Surfers and Uncle Earl. He appeared on sessions and videos for Paul McCartney and was involved in the soundtrack of the film Give My Regards to Broad Street. In 1985, Jones was asked by director Michael Winner to provide the soundtrack for the film, Scream for Help, with Jimmy Page appearing on two tracks. Jones provides vocals for two of the songs. He recorded and toured with singer Diamanda Galás on her 1994 album, The Sporting Life (co-credited to John Paul Jones). Jones set up his own recording studio called Sunday School, as well being involved in his daughter's (Jacinda Jones) singing career.
In 1985 Jones joined the other former members of Led Zeppelin for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling in on drums. The former members again re-formed for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert on 14 May 1988. Page, Plant and Jones, as well as John Bonham's son Jason, closed the event. The band has also played together at various private family functions. In 1992, he arranged the orchestration on the R.E.M. album Automatic for the People.
Zooma, Jones' debut solo album, was released in September 1999 on Robert Fripp's DGM label and followed up in 2001 by The Thunderthief. Both albums were accompanied by tours, in which he played with Nick Beggs (Chapman Stick) and Terl Bryant (drums).
In 2004, he toured as part of the group Mutual Admiration Society, along with Glen Phillips (the front man for the band Toad the Wet Sprocket) and the members of the band Nickel Creek.
Jones plays on two tracks on Foo Fighters' album In Your Honor. He plays mandolin on "Another Round" and piano on "Miracle", both of which are on the acoustic disc. The band's frontman Dave Grohl (a big Led Zeppelin fan) has described Jones' guest appearance as the "second greatest thing to happen to me in my life".
He has also branched out as a record producer, having produced such albums as The Mission's album Children, The Datsuns' second album Outta Sight, Outta Mind (2004) and Uncle Earl's Waterloo, Tenneesee album of Old-time music, released in March, 2007 on Rounder Records.
In May 2007, he accompanied Robyn Hitchcock and Ruby Wright in performing the song "Gigolo Aunt" at a tribute for Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett in London, which he did on mandolin.
He played at Bonnaroo 2007 in a collaboration with Ben Harper and The Roots' drummer Questlove as part of the festival's all-star Super-Jam, which is the festival's annual tradition of bringing together famous, world-class musicians to jam on stage for a few hours. Jones appeared and played mandolin with Gillian Welch during the festival during the song "Look at Miss Ohio" and a cover of the Johnny Cash song "Jackson". He also appeared during the set of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals where they played a cover of "Dazed and Confused". Jones then closed Gov't Mule's first set, playing part of "Moby Dick" and then "Livin Lovin Maid" on bass, then proceeded to play keyboards on the songs "Since I've Been Loving You" and "No Quarter". Jones also performed on mandolin with the all-female bluegrass group Uncle Earl, whose album he had produced in 2007.
Mandolin-slinging Jones jammed on Led Zeppelin’s "Whole Lotta Love" with Winnipeg’s energetic Duhks at April 2007’s MerleFest in North Carolina.
Jones played in the Led Zeppelin reunion show at London's O2 Arena on 10 December 2007 with the other remaining members of Led Zeppelin as part of a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun.
In 2008, Jones produced Nickel Creek singer-fiddler Sara Watkins' debut solo album. As previously mentioned, Jones toured with Watkins, Glen Phillips, and the rest of Nickel Creek in late 2004 in a collaboration entitled Mutual Admiration Society.
On 10 February 2008, John Paul Jones appeared with the Foo Fighters on the Grammy Awards conducting the orchestral part to the song "The Pretender". On 7 June 2008, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page appeared with the Foo Fighters to close out the band's concert at Wembley Stadium. Jones performed with Sonic Youth and Takehisa Kosugi, providing the stage music for Merce Cunningham's Nearly 90, which ran 16–19 April 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
In February and March 2011 he appeared in the onstage band in Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera Anna Nicole, about the Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London.
In August 2011, he appeared at Reading and Leeds Festivals to play alongside Seasick Steve.
Jones' most recent own project is a supergroup with Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme named Them Crooked Vultures. The trio played their first show together on 9 August 2009 at the Metro in Chicago, and their first album was released on 17 November 2009. -Source: Wikipedia
For even more info on John Paul Jones, visit his website: http://www.johnpauljones.com/