The other sound of Te Awamutu
A google search for ‘famous musicians from Te Awamutu’ comes up with predictable results: it’s all about a couple of brothers that had a successful vaudeville pop band in the late 70s/early 80s. And about the younger brother’s subsequent band that sold zillions of albums of nice gentle pop songs that had British backpacker girls swooning on the steps of the Opera House.
Google neglects to mention a contemporary of the aforementioned brothers; the guitarist and songwriter Spencer P. Jones, who was also born in the town. At 19, Jones left the Land of the Long White Cloud for the Land of the Long Weekend to pursue a career in music.
Spencer P Jones became an integral part of the Australian music scene, playing with innumerable bands over the decades. He was a mainstay in The Johnnys, co-founder of the Beasts of Bourbon, and collaborated with many other members of Australia’s music royalty including Chris Bailey, Rowland S Howard and Paul Kelly. In addition, he released an impressive catalogue of solo albums.
By all accounts, he fulfilled the hard living, hard rocking stereotype. However as Kim Salmon (who played with Jones in the Beasts of Bourbon), explained in an interview for Double J’s ‘The J Files’, there was a lot more to Spencer P Jones: ‘…he was a very thoughtful, erudite chap. Incredibly well read…he had time for everybody.’ Jones supported, encouraged and mentored up and coming artists, and was described by Jon Schofield (long-time Paul Kelly bandmember and Jones’ bandmate in Hell to Pay) as the ‘gentleman of Australian rock ‘n’ roll’.
Jones’ masterful guitar playing crossed many genres, and his lyrics were at times light-hearted, at others gritty and raw. He is not New Zealand’s biggest musical export, but his creativity connects with generations of fans left uninspired by pop’s commercial, radio-friendly offerings. I hope Te Awamutu can save a few plaudits for its other musical son.
For the Sydney Morning Herald obit for Spencer P Jones click here
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