In the realm of R&B harmony, Shirley Jones stands as a testament to the enduring power of sisterly voices. Her soaring vocals, intertwined with those of Brenda and Valorie, painted sonic tapestries that captivated audiences worldwide. As a member of the iconic group, The Jones Girls, she graced the stage with elegance and grace, her melodies echoing through the annals of music history. Today, we embark on a journey into the heart of her artistry, delving into the inspirations that fueled her passion and the challenges she navigated as a woman in the music industry. Through her candid reflections, we gain a glimpse into the soul of a true R&B legend, her voice still resonating with the power to move and inspire.
BB: Congratulations on your new single, “When You Love Somebody”! What inspired you to write this song?
SJ: I did not write this song, it was written by Michon Young and presented to me towards the end of the pandemic. I fell in love with the lyrics and felt it is the perfect song for now because coming out of the pandemic, we all need to spread much more love among each other, the same love we feel for our family and loved ones.
BB: What is the message you hope listeners take away from this song?
SJ: The importance of learning to listen and understanding others, strangers and people you meet along the way. Embracing them with love and not hate.
BB: What are your thoughts on the state of R&B music today
SJ: With R&B music today, there is too much explicit sexual love! And not enough good old fashion cliche love & love for your fellow man. Most don’t use a lot of lyrics, they”re just saying the same thing over and over again. They use much graphic sexual language as possible to get on the charts with no real feeling to it. Not all bad because there are some that remind me of 70’s and 80’s R&B when it was real. Real instruments, real singing.
BB: Can you share some of your earliest memories of forming The Jones Girls and what inspired you to pursue a career in music together?
SJ: My sisters and I started out singing background for our mom Mary Frazier Jones, who was the first black gospel singer signed by RCA records. She was also musical director at our church and knew voices. She trained us and taught us how harmonize and how to use our individual voices to blend and sound like one voice. Always rehearsing us in the living room while our Godmother played the piano. Most fond memories are those of us rehearsing and practicing from young girls to grown women, practiced even more so after the success of our first album with Gamble and Huff.
BB: The Jones Girls are known for their harmonious vocals. How did you develop your unique sound, and what was the secret to your vocal chemistry as a group?
SJ: Our tight harmonies were groomed and nurtured by our mother.
BB: “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” and “Nights Over Egypt” are classic hits loved by fans(and Me) around the world. What stories or emotions were behind those songs, and how did they come to life in the studio?
SJ: When Gamble and Huff presented us with the song “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else,” we knew it was a hit. We were surprised to learn that it had also become a disco hit. We thought it was too slow for disco, and we would cringe when we played it at clubs, wondering if people would get up and dance. But they always did, and the song gave us our first gold single, which is now platinum. On the song “Nights Over Egypt,” my two co-writers, Dexter Wansel and Cynthia Biggs, decided to forgo any leads or step-outs and let the unison and harmonies be the lead. All that practice and rehearsing paid off, as the song was a success.
BB: Can you tell us about some of the challenges and memorable moments you encountered while touring and performing together?
SJ: There are so many memorable performances. Our first tour was when we opened for ‘The O’Jays.’ We learned so much about entertaining large crowds from being out there with them. The four shows we did with ‘The Jacksons,’ and we met them. Still looking for those pics that were lost. Our tour with Teddy Pendergrass, where we had truly perfected our craft and were getting standing ovations regularly. The challenges were, of course, a fast-paced lifestyle, one airport after the other, one city after the other, huge tour bus rides, and living in different hotels constantly, but it all comes with the price of being successful.
BB: Your music has had a lasting impact on R&B and soul music. How do you view the evolution of the music industry since your heyday, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists today?
SJ: Music has changed tremendously in some aspects, but one thing remains the same: practice, practice, practice, know your craft. Be prepared so when the opportunity presents itself you can grab it.
BB: Are there any upcoming tours, projects or collaborations you’d like to share with your fans?
SJ: I am working quite a bit before this year is over with upcoming shows in Raleigh, NC, Ontario, CA, Hopkins, SC, and Chicago on New Year’s Eve. Starting 2024 off with The Soul Train Cruise in January, a 20-city tour with ChiLites, Stylistics, and others in February, Portugal and Greece in May, June, and the UK in July. So, I am quite busy. Thankful to be busy keeping the legacy alive and thankful that people still want to hear the beautiful body of work my sisters and I have contributed to the world.
BB: Finally, can you offer a message or words of wisdom to your devoted fans who continue to cherish your music?
SJ: My sisters and I are all about Love, loving each other as human beings. We put God first which is Love, learn your craft, learn the business of music and practice, practice, practice.
As a final note, I want to express my gratitude to Ms. Jones for sharing her incredible insights and experiences with BackBeat R&B. Her journey through the music industry, filled with unforgettable moments and unwavering passion for her craft, has been truly inspiring. As we eagerly await the release of her new single, “When You Love Somebody,” it’s clear that this song holds a special place in her heart. With this track, Ms. Jones offers her audience a timeless, intergenerational true love song that resonates with all ages.
The lyrics beautifully captures the profound impact of finding that one special person who accepts you, flaws and all, making your days brighter and your nights warmer. Infused with that signature harmonious Jones Girls flavor, this song is not only a musical delight but also easy for listeners to sing along to. We can’t wait to experience it and continue to be enchanted by Ms. Jones’s musical artistry. Thank you Shirley Jones for taking the time to share your stories, voice and your unique talent with BackBeat R&B.