Before you can have a friend, you have to be one. This is one philosophy
I try hard to live by. Although it's more important to be a friend,
having one is the greatest thing, in the world. That's what A. A. Jones
is to me-my friend.
I first met A. A. (Ronnie) in January, 1964 while doing a
Cerebral Palsy show in Oklahoma City. A. A. was a resident, I was a
visitor at the time. I was backstage standing in line for donuts and
coffee (it was an all-nite show) when "Pork Chop," my drummer for the
past 9 years, came running up-pulled me out of the line-and dragged me
to the edge of stage left. Porky said "This kid really sings" and he
isn't the type who hands out compliments. I looked out, around the T.V.
cameras and thru the musicians and there he was, little A. A. He looked
to be about 14 years old, (he was) was slim, dark complected, dark eyed,
curly headed and was singing-Man-was he singing. I stood there and
watched him do two more songs, thinking of and comparing him with some
of 'the young entertainers I had met and worked with during the first S
years of my career. Needless to say he stacked up pretty good. I could
see a great future for this young man, first of all, if he had the
desire, and second, if the right doors were opened for him. When he
finished his last song and came off stage, I was waiting. I introduced
myself, told him how much I enjoyed his performance and asked him if he
would like to sing on our part of the show. He grinned, stumbled over a
chair, (he was kinda clumsy) and said "yes sir."
"Yes Sir." His simple answer told me a lot about him. Here,
obviously, was a young man who had been brought up properly. He had
respect-something we don't see in people much these days. He was also
very courteous and knew how to say "Thank You" when complimented.
He then introduced me to his parents, R. L. and Mary Jones,
and his little sister Beverly. It was friendship at first sight with us.
We talked the rest of the night and the next day. A. A. did my part of
the show with me and knocked me out again. He had a beautiful voice,
especially on ballads.
The next day I had lunch with the Joneses (they had invited
me the night before). We talked about A. A. and his possibilities. I
explained that I was moving to Oklahoma
City in a couple of months and would do everything I could to
Two months later I lived in Oklahoma City (moved here from
Arkansas). Our new friends, the Joneses, helped us pick out a
house-about 400 yds. from theirs. They are a fine family and we became
great friends, and still are.
I worked with A. A. every chance I got, even took him with us
occasionally and featured him on our show. When he was about 16 his
voice started changing. We were concerned about this, but it turned out
Then I took him to Nashville and produced a session. It was very
good and he did a fine job but I could see he needed a little more work.
Two years and a lot of sweat (A.A.'s) later we went back to Nashville
and recorded again. This time it came off great. I sent the tapes to Don
Schafer, my promotion man (the greatest) in Dallas, Texas. He took it to
Slim Williamson, Chart Records. Slim really liked A. A. and signed him
up. He was then 19 years old, 5 years since we had met. He had made it
to the starting place, a recording contract. All the years of working
and sacrifice had paid off. Most of the credit goes to Mary Jones, his
mother, ("Proud Mary" we call her.) She drove him all over the state of
Oklahoma for 10 years, getting him in every talent contest she could and
anything else that would give him more experience. She was proud of A.
A. and still is. "Proud Mary."
Isn't it a coincidence that the name of A. A.'s first big hit single and
the title of this album is "Proud Mary." Well, that's the first page of
A. A's life but there are many more to come. He is a regular member and
featured singer with the Conway Twitty show and I too am very "proud" of
him. He's a fine young man as well as a great artist. So sit back now,
relax, and be knocked out by a young man who has been knocking me out
for years. My friend-Anthony Armstrong Jones