From his family's gospel band to the Young Bucks, bandleader Eddie Jones used music to rise out of poverty. 

Still Kickin' From his family's gospel band to

As the years go by, some bands disappear. Others worry about advancing age. But after 35 years with the Young Bucks, soul singer/guitarist Eddie Jones is proud of his longevity.

The Young Bucks have played the Washington, D.C., r&b circuit since 1955, long enough to qualify them as a musical institution. Jones joined in 1966 at the age of 15 and has seen the band through several stylistic changes.

"[Audiences] come to see style, good singing and good musical accompaniment," the now 49-year-old musician says by phone from his D.C. home. "We play a wide, wide, wide scope … of music."

First formed in 1955, when vocal doo-wop groups were all the rage, the Young Bucks delivered tight harmonies and performed styles ranging from contemporary jazz to the twist. When Jones joined in 1966 they covered the Clovers, Drifters, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. After he took over the group in 1972, Jones kept the vocal emphasis alive.

"[Any] musician I hire, he has to be able to sing," Jones says. "People come to hear singing. Singing is what draws people's attention."

Jones began singing at 10 in his family's gospel band. He also played bass and later took over guitar duties when the lead player quit. But he always had an itch for popular music and a friend got him an audition with the Young Bucks. Bandleader Earl Simpson took to Jones' musicianship and hired him after one rehearsal. Jones remembers his mother setting rules before he could join.

"She didn't mind us doing secular music as long as we didn't forget … [that] on Sundays we had to be in church."

Simpson eventually gave the band's leadership to Jones. In the nearly 30 ensuing years, group members have changed. But Jones says he's maintained high musical standards through the changes. As a result, Jones has escaped from the housing projects of his youth. For Jones and some of his friends and neighbors, music was the answer to a dead-end environment.

"If you weren't an athlete," he recalls, "you'd better be a good musician."

Jones also stretched his musical abilities outside the Bucks. During the '70s, he played bass with soul singer-songwriter Bobby Womack when Womack appeared in D.C. clubs. He also played in a young Roberta Flack's band during her formative days in the Capitol Hill bar Mr. Henry's. In 1982 after leader Sonny Til's death, Jones started singing with the Orioles — a street-corner group first widely popular in the '50s — and he still plays an occasional gig with the band.

But Jones has always been centered on the Bucks. Maybe the past 35 years have not brought him fame and fortune, but he's OK with that.

"It's been more good times than bad times," Jones offers in closing. "I'd say I'm pretty blessed. Most guys… [are] on a job they hate. I'm not worrying about bills."


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