Five Firsts: Tony Jones of the Penny Knight Band

Tony Jones
Tony Jones

NAME: Tony “TJ” Jones
INSTRUMENT: Bass / Vocals

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WASThe Brothers Four “Sing of Our Times” (1964). Hey, my father and mother were, at that time, recovering beret-wearing beatnik/folkies who, as a hobby, worked at the NYS Dept of Social Services and an insurance agency in Cohoes, respectively, while yearning for the 30-60 minutes or so on Saturday nights when we would camp out in front of the TV to watch “Hootenanny.”

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … The Interstatesmen Drum & Bugle Corps at either Hawkins Stadium in beautiful downtown Menands or Waconah Park in Pittsfield.

My dad played horn and, later, tenor drum in both the Interstatesmen (with whom he eventually played Carnegie Hall) and its predecessor, the Empire State Grenadiers. But … hey, mom was no slacker either, marching and playing in the horn line of a few local drum and bugle corps prior to this time. In fact, that is how they met.

So, I grew up musically in the back of a Rambler station wagon (with the manual cranked, roll-down back window) traveling every weekend throughout the Northeast to parades and concerts, all while basking in the noxious fumes from the tailpipe … which may help to explain my mental development/state for the subsequent 45 years.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … Drums. TRANSLATION: Flailing wildly on the wheelwell of said Rambler station wagon (see #2), with my dad’s drumsticks, while on the way to his drum corps competitions. I guess I could now profess to have been a traveling musician … before the tender age of seven.

My first stringed instrument was a nylon-string guitar made by Goya (who these days, produce a mean Frijoles Negros) that I pilfered from my dad. He and a friend were taking guitar lessons from an accordion player (I know … along with the tailpipe thing, that explains alot about me … try as you might, you just can’t outrun DNA), and I asked to take lessons. He thought I was too young to start.

Being the testa dura – or for you non-Italians … “hard head” – that I was/am, I practiced on his guitar every day after school, without his knowledge, until I played well enough to prove to him that he was wrong. I ultimately took lessons with the same accordionist/guitar teacher, whose unique time-tested method of speaking on the phone throughout the entire duration of my lesson contributed, in large part, to me becoming the semi-competent bass player I am today.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS …That’s a tough one … I’d have to guess it was 1962, St. Joseph’s School in Cohoes. I sang all the Jon Anderson parts and played all the Chris Squire bass lines from Side 3 of the LP “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” which was curious because that album wasn’t written or released until 1973. I NOW DARE MY DETRACTORS TO SAY THAT TONY JONES WAS NOT MUSICALLY AHEAD OF HIS TIME, DAMMIT !!!

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … In 1969, after meeting and being heavily influenced by Paul Leonardo, who went on to become the original drummer of Visitor, I formed the band Lint Enthusiasts For Jesus … and the rest is history.

And for you musical history buffs, here’s the roadmap to “how to make the wrong turns in your life” … Thanks to the gang at Nippertown for letting me share, through this forum, my dementia with the general public.

Bass thumper Tony Jones and his bandmates in the Penny Knight Band are reuniting for the J.B. Scott’s Reunion at Michael’s Banquet House in Cohoes on Saturday (May 5). They’re scheduled to kick off the shindig at 6:15pm. Also slated to perform are the Charlie Smith Blues Band, Alison Jacobs & Matt Mirabile, the Last Conspirators, the Ernie Williams Band, the Lazers, Fear of Strangers and Blotto. Tix are $33 in advance; $40 at the door.

  1. Normando says

    “The Interstatesmen Drum & Bugle Corps at either Hawkins Stadium in beautiful downtown Menands or Waconah Park in Pittsfield.”
    – It’s just this kind of confusion that underscores the need for musicians to confine themselves within state lines. These “Interstatesmen” and their nomadic ilk lead to this kind of fragmented vision of life, where people can no longer tell Menands from Pittsfield, New York from Massachusetts. Had they stuck to their original vision — of being the New York-only “Empire State Grenadiers” — the worst childhood memory conundrum confronting Mr. Jones was whether his first show was in Menands or Cohoes, and really, who could ever confuse those two. Also, by staying strictly intrastate, musicians could escape the Feds’ abuse of the Commerce Clause, and thus there would be one less Man on their back. (Sorry about the lack of all caps in this comment.)

    Seriously, I think this was my favorite Five Firsts – well done, Mr. Jones.

  2. Tony Jones (Bassist-PKB) says

    Mommy? Is that you?

  3. Normando says

    If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that ….

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