John-Paul Jones Group are on a mission
The southeast Iowa-based John-Paul Jones Group honor their homes and heritage through their music, while also rocking out loud and hard.
Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way right up front. Yes, Iowa native John-Paul "Jp" Jones is frequently mistaken online for Led Zeppelin bassist John Baldwin, who goes by the stage name John Paul Jones. Jp Jones is proud to point out that his family had the name first.
“My father was named after his mother’s brother, John, and his father’s brother, Paul,” said Jones, whose family has lived in the Chariton Valley area since 1863. “So I’m John-Paul Jones Jr. He was Senior, and my son is John-Paul Jones III.”
“I get mistaken for John Baldwin of Led Zeppelin online,” said Jones. “John Paul Jones is a stage name for him, but I tell people the John-Paul Jones Group has been around longer than him.”
If John-Paul Jones and John Baldwin have anything else in common, it's their affinity for loud, bluesy rock music. The John-Paul Jones Group's session in our studios was our first to feature a heavy, electric guitar-based band in over two years, and considering most of the band's shows are outdoors, it was quite an experience for everyone involved.
The John-Paul Jones Group is based in Ottumwa, where Jones has lived for 28 years. They released the album, Broke In Bridge City, in February of 2021. All of the songs are based on true stories and personal experience, often about living in Ottumwa, which is known to folks in the area as “Bridge City.”
“Like every river town in Iowa, (Ottumwa) has its own quirks and issues, and this album is literally about those quirks and issues,” said Jones. “I think everybody’s got something in their town, like in Broke In Bridge City, that makes sense. Buildings run down, urban & economic development, or somebody you care about is gone too soon, and too young.”
The affection Jones has for those river towns runs deep. The John-Paul Jones Group plays most of its shows within 300 miles of the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Jones and the band have worked hard to address the challenges of playing in the area.
“We play along what I call the ‘Mississippi River Corridor’ - Keokuk to Dubuque, then across Highway 2 and down to Missouri,” said Jones. “It’s a vibrant community. There’s someone playing everywhere, and all kinds of music.”
“What we lack is venues,” said Jones. “We're an outdoor band most of the time. That’s one of the reasons we started a production company, and have a mobile stage and production and sound. When I first moved to Ottumwa, I could’ve probably played five nights a week in southeast Iowa. (Now,) I’d be lucky if I could play five nights in five months, in the club situation.”
“People still want to see music, just the venues and the buildings don’t exist anymore,” said Jones. “That’s kind of a little bit of what Broke In Bridge City is about.”
The band also makes it a priority to perform in spots where children are able to attend and hear live music.
“I want to play where kids are able to come and see live music,” said Jones. “I remember when I was a little kid, and we’d all go see live music in the park. They just don’t have those opportunities as much anymore.”
Jones also wants to bring attention to the fact that, contrary to what some might think, there are Black families living in rural Iowa.
“It’s important to me that the kids, and the rest of the world, see that there are people like me that live in the rural communities of Iowa,” said Jones. “We exist! We’re not unicorns.”
The John-Paul Jones Group have several live performances booked for the rest of the year, including an appearance at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 17. Broke In Bridge City is available at the band’s website.