Phil Jones has had a lifelong connection with drums and percussion — a connection that’s taken him all over the world touring with the likes of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
Jones, originally from Oskaloosa, now calls the Los Angeles area home. This year, he’s an inductee in the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame, earning a lifetime achievement recognition.
In 1969, Jones ventured out of Iowa to Los Angeles to pursue a career in rock ‘n roll.
“I just remember that it was really green and warm,” said Jones. “It was a culture shock for sure.”
Right away, Jones joined the band, Oskar, named after band’s singer, Lee Oskar. Although this group didn’t gain widespread fame, Lee Oskar would go on to form the band, War, who garnered the hit, “Low Rider” from the “Why Can’t We be Friends?” album.
Jones recalled his experience in Oskar was “great,” despite only doing a few showcases with the group.
An early 1970s stop on Jones’ musical journey came in the form of the band, Crabby Appleton, whose single, “Go Back” was a Top 40 Hit.
Crabby Appleton also had the opportunity to open for bands at that time including Sly and the Family Stone, Three Dog Night and The Doors, Jones noted.
By 1979, Jones found himself tuning drums for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, thanks to a connection he’d made during his tenure with Crabby Appleton. After about nine months or so, Jones would become a touring percussionist for the band.
“I really wasn’t a Heartbreaker, as such,” explained Jones. “I was basically kind of a hired gun, you know.”
Touring with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers took Jones to gigs all over the world, including stops in England, Japan and Australia.
Jones would spend much of the early 1980s touring with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, providing live percussion such as conga drums and tambourine. Later, Jones would contribute his talent for percussion on albums including Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers classic, “Full Moon Fever” in 1989, and Petty’s hit solo album, “Wildflowers” in 1994.
For the past several years, Jones has been playing with the Waddy Wachtel Band. Wachtel’s list of collaborators includes a whole host of big names including George Thorogood, Keith Richards and Robert Plant.
These days, Jones also records and tours with Pegi Young and the Survivors. They have an album in the works right now, he said.
In 2012, Jones ventured into the realm of recording and producing material himself with the release, “ONE,” which he said was mostly recorded at his home in California. Of course, many of his friends from the music world make appearances on this recording.
“It was fun,” said Jones. “I had never done anything like that. I’ll probably do some more.”
So, how has Jones managed to continue working in the music industry?
He explained that one must “play the song” or “fit in and listen” in order to continue a career in music.
As far as the future is concerned, Jones said he doesn’t plan on putting the breaks on his musical endeavors any time soon.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I can do until I can’t do it any more,” he said.
To learn more about Jones and the many different albums he can be heard playing on, visit www.philjonesdrums.com.