1946 – Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones is born in Sidcup, England

John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin

1946 – Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones is born in Sidcup, England. As a ’60s session man, he played on and arranged tracks for the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jeff Beck.

John Paul Jones (born John Baldwin on January 3, 1946) is an English musician, composer, arranger, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist musician.

Best known as the bass guitarist, keyboardist and, less often, mandolin player for Led Zeppelin, Jones has since developed a successful solo career, and is widely respected as both a musician and a producer. A versatile musician, Jones also plays guitar, koto, lap steel guitars, autoharp, mandolin, ukulele, sitar, cello, continuum and the three over-dubbed recorder parts heard on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.

According to Allmusic, Jones “has left his mark on rock & roll music history as an innovative musician, arranger, and director”


Early years

Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent (now part of Greater London). The stage name “John Paul Jones” was suggested to him by a friend, Andrew Loog Oldham, who’d seen a poster for the film of that name in France.

Jones started playing piano at the age of six, learning his keyboard skills 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.

Because his parents often toured, Jones was sent to boarding school at a young age.

Session work

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. Jones’ 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. Shortly before hiring Jones, Jet and Tony had just had a Number 1 hit with “Diamonds” (a track on which Jones’ bandmate-to-be Jimmy Page had played.)

Jones played his ’61 Fender Jazz Bass on hundreds of recording sessions from 1962 to 1968; Herman’s Hermits; Donovan on “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow”; Jeff Beck; 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. Jones also got to record with fellow friends of Tony Meehan and Jet Harris, none other than Meehan and Harris’ ex-band, Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

Before these recordings, Cliff Richard and the Shadows came close to nearly preventing the future formation of Led Zeppelin, when they had talks about Jones replacing their ex-bassist Brian “Licorice” Locking. Instead they chose John Rostill.

Jones has stated that he was completing two and three sessions a day, six and seven days a week.

Led Zeppelin

Main article: Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin in 1969. From left to right: John Bonham, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones.

During his time as a session player, Jones often crossed paths with guitarist Jimmy Page inquired to Page about the vacant position, and the guitarist eagerly invited Jones to collaborate, later explaining:
“     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.     ”

Vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham joined the two to form a quartet. Initially dubbed the “New Yardbirds” for the Scandinavian dates, the band would soon be known as Led Zeppelin.

Contribution to the band

Jones’ decision to leave session work and join a group was due to his desire to express his artistic creativity. Despite the spotlight invariably being placed on the more flamboyant members of Led Zeppelin, many cite Jones’ temperament, musicianship and experience as crucial elements adding to the success of the band. He was responsible for the classic bass lines of the group, notably those in “What Is and What Should Never Be” (Led Zeppelin II), and power crunch and shifting time signatures, such as those in “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV). As Led Zeppelin’s rhythm section-mate with drummer John Bonham, Jones shared an appreciation for funk and soul rhythmic grooves which strengthened and enhanced their musical affinity. In an interview he gave to Global Bass magazine, Jones remarked on this common musical interest:
“     Yeah we were both huge Motown and Stax fans and general soul music fans, James Brown fan. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve always said that Zeppelin was one of the few bands to “swing”. We actually had a groove in those days. People used to come to our shows and dance, which was great. To see all the women dancing, it was really brilliant. You didn’t necessarily see that at a Black Sabbath show or whatever: So we were different in that way. We were a groovy band. We used all our black pop music influences as a key to the rock that went over the top.     ”

After “retiring” his Fender Jazz Bass in 1975, Jones switched to using custom-designed Alembics (as seen here) while out on the road, but still preferred to use the Jazz in the studio.

Jones’ keyboarding skills added an eclectic dimension that realised Led Zeppelin as more than just a heavy metal band. Keyboard highlights include the delicate “The Rain Song” (Houses of the Holy) played on a Mellotron; the funky, danceable “Trampled Underfoot”, played on a Clavinet (Physical Graffiti); and the eastern scales of “Kashmir” (also on Physical Graffiti). In live performances, Jones’ keyboard showpiece was “No Quarter”, often lasting for up to half-an-hour and sometimes including snatches of “Amazing Grace”, Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”, which had inspired Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, and variations of classical pieces by composers such as Rachmaninoff.

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.

Attitude to fame and popularity

While all members of Led Zeppelin had a reputation for off-stage excess (a label Robert Plant later claimed was somewhat exaggerated), Jones was seen as the quietest and lowest profile member of the group.

In an interview, Jones explained that fame with Led Zeppelin was not something that he became preoccupied with:
“     Not really; I’d done it all before … I would like to think that I wasn’t too stupid either. I tried to stay out of the drift of the rock star’s path, mainly because I needed my sanity and freedom on the road. So generally, I used to check out of the hotel, and then get out on the street. I’d go walking … I’m not as recognizable as Plant and Page. Plus, I used to change my appearance all the time just to make sure I wasn’t as recognizable …      ”

However, following several exhausting tours and extended periods of time away from his family, by late 1973 Jones was beginning to show signs of disillusionment with life as a member of one of the biggest bands in the world. He considered quitting Led Zeppelin to spend more time with his family, but was talked into returning by the band’s manager, Peter Grant. Jones later explained his reservations in a magazine interview:
“     I didn’t want to harm the group, but I didn’t want my family to fall apart either. We toured a huge amount in those early days. We were all very tired and under pressure and it just came to a head. When I first joined the band, I didn’t think it would go on for that long, two or three years perhaps, and then I’d carry on with my career as a musician and doing movie music.     ”

“Royal Orleans”

It is rumoured that the Led Zeppelin song “Royal Orleans”, from their album Presence is about an experience Jones once had on tour in the United States. The song is about a person who mistakenly takes a drag queen up to his hotel room, who then falls asleep with a joint of marijuana in hand, lighting the room on fire. “Royal Orleans” was the name of a hotel where the members of Led Zeppelin would stay when they visited New Orleans, because not as many people asked for autographs there. In an interview he gave to Mojo magazine in 2007, Jones clarified the reliability of this rumour, stating:
“     The transvestites were actually friends of Richard Cole’s; normal friendly people and we were all at some bar. That I mistook a transvestite for a girl is rubbish; that happened in another country to somebody else… Anyway ‘Stephanie’ ended up in my room and we rolled a joint or two and I fell asleep and set fire to the hotel room, as you do, ha ha, and when I woke up it was full of firemen!     ”

Other work during time with the band

Jones’ involvement with Led Zeppelin did not put a halt to his session work. In 1969 he returned to the studio to play bass guitar on The Family Dogg’s A Way of Life album, in 1970, keyboards for guitarist Peter Green on his solo album The End of the Game. Jones was Madeline Bell’s first choice to produce and arrange her 1974 album Comin’ Atcha. He has also played keyboards on many Roy Harper albums, and contributed to Wings Rockestra, Back to the Egg.

After Led Zeppelin

Since Led Zeppelin dissolved in 1980 with the death of Bonham, Jones has collaborated with a number of artists, including R.E.M., Heart, Ben E. King, Peter Gabriel, Foo Fighters, Cinderella, The Mission, La Fura dels Baus, Brian Eno, Karl Sabino, the Butthole Surfers and Uncle Earl.

He appeared on several 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 surviving members of Led Zeppelin for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling in on drums. The surviving 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.

Zooma, his 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 : 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 into album production, having produced such albums as The Mission (band) album Children, The Datsuns’ second album Outta Sight, Outta Mind (2004) and Uncle Earl’s upcoming album.

Recently 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.
Jones playing mandolin in 2007

He played at Bonnaroo 2007 in a collaboration with Ben Harper and Roots drummer ?uestlove as part of the festival’s all-star Super-Jam, an annual tradition in the festival that brings together several famous, world-class musicians together to jam on stage together for a few hours. He came out and played mandolin with Gillian Welch at Bonnaroo 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 all female blue-grass group Uncle Earl, whose album he had produced.

Mandolin-slinging Jones jammed on Zep’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 December 10, 2007 as part of a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun.

In 2008, Jones plans to produce 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 Feb. 10, 2008, John Paul Jones appeared with the Foo Fighters on the Grammies conducting the orchestral part to the song “The Pretender”.

On 7th June 2008, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page appeared with the Foo Fighters to close out that band’s concert at Wembley Stadium.


* Fretless Fender Precision Bass
* 1961 Fender Jazz Bass (used in live performances)
* 1951 Fender Precision Bass (used live for Black Dog from ’71-’73)
* Fender Bass V
* Ibanez RD300 Bass
* Gibson mandolin, used in live acoustic performances.
* Andy Manson custom Triple Neck Mandolin, 12 string & 6 string acoustic (Used in live performances)
* Alembic Triple Omega
* Alembic Series II
* Custom made Pedulla Rapture Bass
* Acoustic Control Corporation 360 Bass Amp
* Hammond organs
* Hohner Clavinet
* Hohner Electra-Piano
* Fender Rhodes
* Mellotron
* Steinway piano
* Yamaha CP-80 piano
* Symbolic Sound Kyma system
* Korg Trinity synthesizer
* Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer
* EMS VCS3 Synthesizer
* Moog 15 Modular Synthesizer


With Led Zeppelin

* Led Zeppelin (1969)
* Led Zeppelin II (1969)
* Led Zeppelin III (1970)
* Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
* Houses of the Holy (1973)
* Physical Graffiti (1975)
* The Song Remains the Same (1976)
* Presence (1976)
* In Through the Out Door (1979)
* Coda (1982)
* BBC Sessions (1997)
* How the West Was Won (2003)

Solo albums

John Paul Jones’ first solo recording was a single for Pye Records in April 1964 which featured “Baja”. The B-side was “A Foggy Day in Vietnam”.

* Scream for Help (1985) (soundtrack)
* The Sporting Life (1994), with Diamanda Galás
* Zooma (1999)
* The Thunderthief (2001)


* The Song Remains the Same (1976)
* Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)
* The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993) Composer
* Risk (1994) Composer
* Led Zeppelin DVD (2003)


1. ^ Dillon, Charlotte. “John Paul Jones Biography”. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-11-11.
2. ^ a b c Snow, Mat, “The Secret Life of a Superstar”, Mojo magazine, December 2007.
3. ^ Led Zeppelin In Their Own Words compiled by Paul Kendall (1981), London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-86001-932-2, p. 17.
4. ^ a b c d Denver – Music – Getting Out of the Led
5. ^ Tolinski, Brad , (Jan. 1998). “Like a Rock”. Guitar World, p. 60.
6. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Triple J Music Specials – Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
7. ^ a b c d Dominick A. Miserandino, Led Zeppelin – John Paul Jones, TheCelebrityCafe.com.
8. ^ Tolinski, Brad , (Jan. 1998). “Like a Rock”. Guitar World, p. 122.
9. ^ “…I set about recording 16 HIP HITS at Regent Sound with  Jimmy Page on guitars…”, said Andrew Loog Oldham in his book STONED (isbn 0-312-26653-7), page 323.
10. ^ Davis, Stephen (July 4, 1985). “Power, Mystery And The Hammer Of The Gods: The Rise and Fall of Led Zeppelin”. Rolling Stone (451). http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/ledzeppelin/articles/story/17537975/power_mystery_and_the_hammer_of_the_gods. Retrieved on 15 January 2008.
11. ^ Long, Andy (March 2002). “Get The Led Out”. Global Bass Online. http://www.globalbass.com/archives/mar2002/john_paul_jones.htm. Retrieved on 17 March 2008.
12. ^ Dave Lewis (2004) The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, London: Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9, p. 77
13. ^ Gilmore, Mikal (August 10, 2006). “The Long Shadow of Led Zeppelin”. Rolling Stone (1006). http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/11027261/the_long_shadow_of_led_zeppelin/print. Retrieved on 9 December 2007.
14. ^ Keith Shadwick (2005) Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music, 1968-1980, San Francisco: Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-971-0, p. 207
15. ^ Dansby, Andrew. “Toad Singer Up the Creek”. Rolling Stone. July 28, 2004. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
16. ^ Pink Floyd news :: Brain Damage – Roger Waters and Pink Floyd at Syd tribute – full details
17. ^ “Whole Lotta Love with the Duhks”
18. ^ Dickens, Tad. “End of the road for Nickel Creek?”. The Roanoke Times. November 2, 2007. Retrieved March 1, 2008.
19. ^ Fricke, David. “Reunited Zeppelin Plot Their Future”. Rolling Stone. January 24, 2008. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
20. ^ Watkins, Sara. “And then my friend yelled ‘put your fists in the air.'”. MySpace. November 25, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2007.

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