Jones Brothers Biography
Other than the Prisonaires, who are best viewed as a pop quartet, the Jones Brothers have the distinction of being the only gospel quartet Sam Phillips ever issued on Sun. Memphis was a city rich in black gospel, although Sam Phillips barely exploited this tradition. He did record the Brewsteraires back in 1951, but the results were issued on Chess.
The Jones Brothers are not typical of the deep harmony a cappella tradition that still flourished in Memphis at the time. Their style is closer to the soulish/shouting approach which emerged after gospel’s golden era and continues to dominate the field. The Jones Brothers consisted of six vocalists and a guitar (the term ‘quartet’ does not imply anything numerical in gospel singing). The group Phillips recorded had its origins in Marion, Arkansas in the late 1930s when Cas Jones formed a quartet.
“Every Night” is not a particularly successful recording. Although the lead vocal conveys style and passion, the backing is tepid. What might have been an intense outing is instead unfocussed. It fails to build the tension necessary for arrangements like this to work effectively. The lead guitar, which may have appealed to Phillips, is overly intrusive. In fact, many of the guitar lines might have been sung to greater effect.
“Look to Jesus” probably stood a greater chance of garnering some attention. The song is delivered in a classic call and response style. Again, however, this is not a noteworthy side. Truth to tell, the material is fairly ordinary, and although the lead vocalist acquits himself with panache, the backup harmony is surprisingly thin. This is a particularly strong indictment considering there were five voices available to echo the Lord’s praises.
The hard bluesy edge of these sides was probably more appealing to Phillips than the smoother vocal blending of quartet harmony. In any case, his ambivalence about releasing gospel music was still in evidence – this single was held back almost a year after recording. Despite some local action, these sides were a commercial disaster and all but sealed the fate of gospel releases on Sun.