When Bishop Fred A. Jones Sr. was a young man he decided if he ever married, and if he ever had children, he would train them to be gospel singers. When he married Sarah M. Jones, she had four children already, and together they had three more. The Jones Family Singers were born. For over two decades, the gospel group has been sharing their music and faith with audiences in churches, nightclubs, festivals, prisons, interfaith events and community celebrations around the country and world.
Now, the family will be performing in Taos. Roots & Wires presents The Jones Family Singers on Friday (Nov. 6), at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
For 30 years, the Jones Family Singers performed on the Southern Gospel circuit. They were discovered by the wider music world with the help of music critic Michael Corcoran and Austin’s SXSW Music Festival and they have since toured in Europe, Canada and Russia. Their rise in the public light was made into the documentary film, “The Jones Family Will Make A Way.”
When the family is not on the road, Bishop Jones heads up the Mt. Zion Pentecostal Cathedral of Markham, Texas. He has a bachelor, masters and doctoral degree in Theology and is licensed as an International Evangelist in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Tempo caught up with Bishop Jones for an interview, shortly after the Jones Family Singers returned from a trip to South America’s French Guiana.
Tempo: Can you tell me about your early experiences with music, and particularly with gospel music?
Bishop Fred A. Jones Sr: My early experience with music is pretty much as it is now, something I’ve always enjoyed doing, something I do on the regular. I’ve had the privilege of singing with different groups down through the years learning the art of gospel music.
Tempo: What does gospel music mean to you?
Jones: Well, to me it means good news. It means that whatever is ailing me there is support. Whatever problems I am confronted with there is a way out of it through the teachings of the gospel, through the information that the gospel provides. So, to me it is my lifeline.
Tempo: When you were a child, did you sing with your family?
Jones: No, none of them could sing. I was given an LP between (the age of) 13 and 15 of The Mighty Clouds of Joy and I listened to that over and over and over and it became my inspiration to sing. But, no I didn’t grow up singing with my family.
Tempo: What is it like to sing with your family?
Jones: It’s a joy for them and a joy for me to do it with them. I couldn’t think of nothing better.
Tempo: I understand that you head up the Mt. Zion Pentecostal Cathedral in Markham, Texas. Can you tell me about what you do as a church leader, and how your music fits into it?
Jones: I am the pastor of the church. We sing every Sunday together there when we’re home. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to come home after being on the road. We aren’t gone every Sunday, but we are gone some Sundays. It’s just a blessing to me to come back and do what I do at the church.
Tempo: How is it different for you to sing at your church, versus when you’re out on the road?
Jones: Well, the only difference is the different faces. People are people everywhere, and they hurt, they have situations in their life … the needs are the same across the board. And, so whether we are at home or abroad we treat it with 100 percent of everything that we got.
Tempo: Can you say a little more about what you mean when you say people have needs?
Jones: People go through different changes in life. They deal with different issues. Everybody’s needs are not the same, so we have to be spirit led, so when we sing or speak we are there to address whatever the spirit needs us to address cause he knows the hearts of people. All we know is that we have … to follow his lead and to be a blessing to all who are in the audience.
Tempo: Why do you think your music appeals to secular audiences?
Jones: I believe our music appeals to secular audiences because it’s different, and it even addresses secular audiences’ needs because, again, whether or not they are church folk or secular folk they’re still folk and they still deal with life’s issues. And, I tell you this, we get a better response I would say from the secular side more so than the church side, because church folk are used to being sung to and ministered to, but out there on the secular side, you know, rarely do they get the opportunity to get what folks in church get on the regular. So, it’s better received.
Tempo: There was a documentary made about your family. What was that like for you?
Jones: It’s a dream come true and especially since I know from whence we came, and I know what we came through and the Lord did enable us to overcome that. I like to tell people that their present condition is not their conclusion. Just keep on pressing, things do change.
Tempo: Will this be your first time visiting Taos, N.M.?
Jones: Our very first time. One thing I want people to get out of this is that we are regular people. They can come up and talk to us, take pictures with us. Don’t stand off, cause we’re people just like them.
Tempo: What do you have planned for your show here?
Jones: We’re gonna give them a little traditional, a little contemporary, a little R&B gospel. We’re gonna take ‘em to the eagle. We’re going all the way to the end. So, if they’re coming and they want to have a good time, that’s going to be the place to be, and if not, I don’t know what to tell you.
Tempo: Anything else you’d like to add?
Jones: We’re coming to be a blessing. Go to our website and check us out, jonesfamilysingers.com.
Cover is $10 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Call (575) 758-1900 to reserve a table.