5 Questions with Darryl Jones

Darryl Jones
Darryl Jones

Legendary musician, Chicago native, and current bassist for The Rolling Stones Darryl Jones has had a remarkable ride in his long career in the music industry. All it took was one fateful day at a talent show for him to decide that music would be his life’s work. He’s played with countless incredible artists ranging from Miles Davis to Sting to LeeAnn Rhymes to Madonna so listen in as he sits down with us and we ask him (way more than!) 5 Questions.


J: How long have you been in the Rolling Stones now?

D: 25 years.

J: 25 years, so you’re almost an actual Rolling Stone! He’s more than a real Rolling Stone…. his career is about as storied as you can get. So, when did you start professionally playing the bass?

D: By professionally you mean getting paid? Well it was so little that I got paid that I don’t even wanna go back that far! But probably around 14 or 15.

J: What made you pick up the bass as opposed to let’s say another instrument?

D: Actually, I saw a guy play in a talent show – a guy who lived a couple of doors down from me. He eventually became my first teacher. Well when I saw him play in the talent show I decided really at that moment that I’m gonna be a musician. For the rest of my life. I was 9. And I decided when I see, Angus Thomas is his name, when I see Angus again I’m gonna ask him to teach me how to play the guitar. So, I ask him ‘Can you teach me how to play the guitar?’ and he says ‘What do you want to learn how to play? The lead guitar or the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘What do you play?’ and he said, ‘I play the bass guitar.’ and I said, ‘Well I’m gonna play the bass guitar.’ To be honest I didn’t know there was a guitar that had 4 strings that was a bass! I thought all guitars had six strings.

J: So, have you reconnected to Angus since that time?

D: Oh, he’s like my boy! I mean I saw him when I was in Warsaw playing with the Stones two months ago.

J: So he realizes the impact he had on your life.

D: Oh absolutely!

J: So obviously you cut him a commission cheque every now and then!

D: I’m afraid not! But we’ve done each other quite a lot of favours. Actually, he played with Miles after I left.

J: Really? Just nonchalantly mention Miles! So, you’re 9 years old, you fall in love with music, you pick up the bass…. and then you play with Miles Davis.

D: Yeah just a few months later……

J: Well there is that old joke right – a dad sends his son to bass lessons and the dad says, ‘What did you learn today?’ ‘Oh, we learned the first string.’ So, he sends him back to bass lessons the next week and says, ‘What’d you learn today?’ and he says ‘Oh I blew it off I got a gig.’ So anyways you started playing with Miles Davis….

D: Well I was playing around town in Chicago with Miles’ nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr., and one day, you know, he called me and said, ‘Hey man, Miles wants you to play over the phone.’ and I didn’t end up playing over the phone, but I did end up auditioning the next day.

J: So, what was that audition process like?

D: He asked me to play along with a board tape, you know, of the gig, just like jams, funky jams with guys playing lines over them. Mostly that stuff. And then he had me play a B flat blues real slow.

J: How slow is real slow?

D: Well… that’s an interesting question because I started, and he stopped me and said ‘I mean REAL slow.’

J: Can you play us a super slow B flat blues?

D: You know I got into trouble starting it too slow later on…. when I started playing with him later on but….

**Insert slow blues bass-line example here…you’ll have to listen to the interview to hear it! Video down below**

D: I don’t even know if that was right! I think I just blew that!

J: Amazing. So, in that request, what do you think he was trying to determine from you?

D: He was trying to determine if I could deal with the changes. Because when you start playing a tune really slow, the changes kind of start to kind of give you a lot of space to make a lot of mistakes. And actually, to be honest, there was a period there, a gig there, one night I started the blues really slow…. And got lost.

J: Its deceptively difficult isn’t it?

D: Yeah! I mean in a way… particularly for a young player.

J: How old were you at that time?

D: I was 21.

J: Wow. And how old was Miles at that time?

D: 56 I think.

J: Did you just feel like you jumped in head first into the deep end and you’re like ‘Oh my god I gotta hold on for dear life here’?

D: Yeah…. Well both that and realizing that the guys I grew up playing with, Angus Thomas and his friends, the guys who I first saw on stage… we all played jams…playing Miles type stuff, and I played with some vocalists and I played some funk, a little bit of jazz, so in a way I had really been well prepared for that gig and particularly what he was doing at that time.

J: Now you’re a cool guy, but secretly in your head when you were 21 you’re going ‘OH MY GOD I PLAYED WITH MILES DAVIS!!!!!!’

D: Yeah, I mean who’s not?! Of course, of course, but at the same time – the day that I met him – he was just funny. He was cracking jokes and telling me I looked weird, and so I think he created an atmosphere where it was like – listen man this is gonna be fun and actually, one of the things he did was when I hear people talk about how mean he was, one of the things that really sticks out with me is before I played, he said ‘Listen if this doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you can’t play. It just means I’m looking for something else.’

J: So, did that put you at ease all of a sudden?

D: Absolutely man cuz if you think about it, the guy is taking care of me before I even play a note. So, if he’s cool enough to realize the effect that it can have if it doesn’t work out – I could have walked away like ‘Aw Miles didn’t dig the way I play, I don’t think I want to play anymore.’ But he was trying to be sure that ‘If it doesn’t work out it does mean you can’t play’ it just means… you know.

J: It’s interesting that I have a philosophy myself like – many people would look at your situation and that first audition with Miles Davis and think ‘Oh here comes your life changing moment.’ but really – that wasn’t. Really your life changing moment was when you were 9 years old if you think about it.

D: Well that’s true. Well – both – but yeah.

J: Professionally speaking yes, but I’m saying the initial impact of being touched by music.

D: Absolutely man and to make your point – that day that I saw those guys play, when the curtains opened, and I saw those guys start playing – it hit me like a shock. I mean I was as sure of that at that moment when I was 9 years old as I’ve been as sure of anything else in my life. I was like ‘THAT’S. IT.’

J: It was an epiphany

D: Completely. I guess it was like the reaction of the crowd, and I was kind of a shy kid, and so all of those things worked together and this guy Angus, many years later, was teaching in Europe and he would have students come and say ‘I want you to teach me how to play like Darryl Jones’ and he’d be like ‘Okay yeah yeah, right right’ and I would say in interviews this guy taught me how to play and he said ‘Man stop saying that.’ He says ‘Because the truth is …. Neither one of us realized it at the time but you were a bass player long before you picked up an instrument.’

J: I can just picture a 9-year-old Darryl Jones with this big giant bass being like ‘I can’t reach the twelfth fret!!’ If you wanted to give a quick ten second brief history of time between Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones. So, after Miles you play with….?

D: Sting, that band the he put together after he left The Police… Herbie Hancock…. Peter Gabriel for a little quick tour… Madonna.

J: So, nobody that big really?

D: Oh, you know a few b level artists.

J: So, what’s it like playing The Baked Potato now, like totally depressing?

D: No, I dig it!!! It’s interesting that I guess one of the other reasons I became a musician is because I don’t want to do the same thing every day. So, I DIG playing at a giant stadium and then a few nights later playing a little club.

J: Do you ever get nervous anymore?

D: You know it’s funny… if I’ve been playing a bunch of stadiums and then go into a little club and the people are that close it freaks me out!! It’s like the opposite!

J: So, 100,000 people – no problem. But 14 people at The Baked Potato and you’re having an anxiety attack.

D: It depends on what I’ve been doing you know? But we’ve been playing stadiums, and we played a little club in Amsterdam – famous club – and I looked down and people were almost as close to me as you are now. And it had been 6 months since I played with anybody that close. It freaked me out a little bit!

J: Cuz you’re thinking ‘Oh my god they’re judging me’ or….

D: Well I mean they can see me! And I can see them!  It’s just one of those quick moments where you’re like ‘Oh! My god…. That’s a little bit weird.’

J: So obviously you have an absolute ton of experience …. But then you join the Rolling Stones. I’m certainly not trying to belittle the experience you had growing up because – by the way – playing with Miles Davis one time, that goes on somebody’s tombstone you know what I’m saying? That’s a real statement for your life. But then you join, arguably the biggest rock band in the history of rock and roll music. And you’re filling big shoes. So, what’s that experience like – stepping into your first rehearsal with Mick and Keith and here’s Charlie Watts and we’re about to play ‘Satisfaction’?

D: Again, the first time I played with them was an audition and Mick said, ‘If you don’t know the tunes we’ll teach you the tunes, and then we’ll have the audition.’ So again, these two most important auditions that I did – Miles and the Stones – both of them, the guys were totally cool and mellow. I auditioned for Janet Jackson a week before I auditioned for the Stones, and I was the most nervous for Janet because she was also nervous…. she had never really at that point been involved with putting a band together. And so, she was nervous, so I was nervous. Mick wasn’t nervous, so I was like ‘Well he seems pretty mellow’ …. Miles? He was cracking jokes about how I looked, and I was chewing gum in the elevator on the way up with Miles and he looked at me and said ‘Lemme have a stick of gum.’ and I said ‘It’s my last piece.’ and he said ‘Man you came all the way to New York and you only brought one piece of gum?’ He was crackin’ jokes the whole way!

J: That’s amazing, what an incredible story. Well listen – Darryl just actually finished playing on a song for me for a project I’m doing in China, and this is one of the things I really love about you…. You just love music. And I’m grateful that when I called you, you eagerly came and joined and laid your talents onto this incredible record. I’m so thankful. So, everybody…. Mr. Darryl Jones!

Check out Darryl’s beautiful instruments here: https://jonesmusicalinstruments.com/