Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
Remember this guy?
Yeah, you do.
Pete Bilker, the hardhat-wearing construction worker on Home Improvement in the 90s?
Monty Johnson, the drummer in Doyle Hargrave's band in the movie, Sling Blade?
Chester, the regular at Flo's Yellow Rose, in the early 80s sitcom, Flo, a spin-off of Alice?
Rodney “Hot Rod” Dunham, the marijuana kingpin from the TV show, Justified?
How about the biker dude on a New York Subway in the 1993 Breath Savers TV commercial?
Pretty good resume for Mickey Jones, a character actor born in Houston, Texas; but, that's just a piece of his story.
Mickey Jones was born on June 10, 1941, son of a U.S. Naval Officer and a homemaker. He attended Sunset High School in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas, Texas and learned to play the drums, forming a local group called The Catalinas.
Jones drummed for Trini Lopez briefly before pursuing a college degree at North Texas State College, then moved to California to take a short-lived factory job at Rohr Aircraft in San Diego, California. Moving to Los Angeles, he hooked up again with Trini Lopez, who went on to some commercial success with “If I Had a Hammer”.
By 1964, Jones left Trini's group to join Johnny Rivers's band, touring and entertaining the troops in Vietnam. In '66, Bob Dylan offered him a job, briefly replacing Levon Helm and working with the other members of Dylan's band, who would go on to become The Band.
Following Dylan's motorcycle crash, Jones decided to head back to L.A. and concentrate on a full-time career in acting. He had landed a few roles as an extra, when The First Edition called, looking for a drummer to round out their new band, consisting of former New Christy Minstrels members, Kenny Rogers, Thelma Camacho, Terry Williams, and Mike Settle.
The First Edition's first big hit came in 1968 with a counterculture classic, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, written by Mickey Newbury, famed songwriter of “An American Trilogy” and “Frisco Mabel Joy”, in which he told the tale of a Waycross, Georgia farm boy who befriended a San Franscisco “lady of the evening”. Leaning into more of a country-folk direction, the group continued on, scoring a moderate hit with “But You Know I Love You”, written by First Edition guitarist Mike Settle. The song that pushed them back into the Top Ten again in 1969, “Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town”, came from the pen of country singer-songwriter, Mel Tillis, legendary member of the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, who just passed away this past November 19—God rest his stutterin' soul.
After the success of “Ruby”, and with an eye toward marketing, the group changed their name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and followed with more hits—“Reuben James”, “Something's Burning”, “Tell It All, Brother”, and “Heed the Call”.
By 1975, the group's sales had begun to decline; and, seeing the writing on the wall, Mickey Jones was the first to leave, easing back into his former comfortable role as a successful character actor in Hollywood—portraying the role of many a lovable and memorable television and movie character that would make him a household face in America.
Oh, and he was Bob Dylan's drummer, too.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin