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JONES, COLEY (?–?). Coley Jones was an early Texas blues and popular musician in Dallas during the 1920s. He made a number of records during the late 1920s, a period when Dallas was the center of a flurry of recording by nationally-known labels such as Columbia, Vocalion, and Brunswick.
Coley was born probably in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is presumed that much of his life was spent in Dallas, though federal census records do not record his presence. While enough documentation places him in Dallas during the entire decade of the 1920s, his residences before and after are obscured. Tentative documentation suggests he may have been in Dallas as early as 1903.
Jones is credited on recordings as playing mandolin and guitar, as well as providing vocals. He recorded seven sides for Columbia beginning in December 1927 as a solo act accompanying himself on guitar. His recording “Drunkard’s Special” (recorded in December 1929) is notable for its origin, a British Isles folk ballad also known variously as "Our Goodman," "The Merry Cuckold and His Kind Wife," and "Three Nights Drunk." Jones was also in demand as a sideman and recorded several sides in December 1929, accompanying Bobbie Cadillac and Texas Bill Day on guitar.
Coley Jones was associated with a group called the Satisfied Five, a seven-piece orchestra that played at dances, private parties, the state fairgrounds, and in live broadcasts from the Baker Hotel and radio station WFAA. The Satisfied Five, which featured at one time Dallas-born percussionist Herbert Cowen, appeared as early as 1924, though the group was called “Coley Jones and his Satisfied Five” by 1927.
At approximately the same time, Jones became associated with the Dallas String Band, which recorded up to ten sides for Columbia from 1927 to 1929. The Dallas String Band has generated interest among music historians because of its varied repertoire, which included early blues, rags, popular tunes, and “hokum,” which has its roots in minstrelsy. The band featured Marco Washington, Aaron “T-Bone” Walker’s stepfather, on double bass and Sam Harris on guitar, who later played with Sonny Boy Williamson.
Although his music has been described as pre-war country blues, the variety of genres in Jones’s oeuvre makes it difficult to define him. His conspicuous presence in a music scene dominated by such figures as Blind Lemon Jefferson, however, places him among a number of transitional figures who fused many styles of music and inspired what is today a distinct Texas style of blues-oriented music.
Jones’s whereabouts are unknown after 1929. His recordings, both solo and with groups, have been reissued on many compilations, most notably on Harry Smith's 1952 compilation Anthology of American Folk Music.
Dallas Morning News, September 1, 1924; January 1, 1926; October 18, 1927. Alan B. Govenar and Jay F. Brakefield, Deep Ellum and Central Track; Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998). Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, and Stephen Thomas Erlewine, eds., All Music Guide to the Blues: the Definitive Guide to the Blues, 3rd Edition (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003). Stefan Wirz, “Coley Jones/Dallas String Band Discography” (http://www.wirz.de/music/jonescol.htm), accessed July 6, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, John H. Slate, "Jones, Coley," accessed October 22, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjopc.
Uploaded on May 6, 2013. Modified on October 25, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.