Nicknames: “Orchid Fingers” “Pumpkinhead” “Nicest Guy in Show Biz”
Raised on Easter Island in the Southern Pacific, his destiny as the next tribal chief was derailed when he was struck on his ample head by an eleven-pound coconut…(read the rest below)* OK this is how it really happened in his own words…
I started playing the banjo in 1977 (I was 19) on a dare and ended up playing in a bluegrass band for several years, in the late 70’s I started up on the pedal steel. Tommy Connell joined the band in the late 70’s early 80’s and they played music that sounded like Air Show, we actually used to play “Choo Choo Ch’boogie” back then.
After that I played multi-instrumentalist for years in a dozen bands, lost track of Tommy and lost track of my mind. Joined Grievous Angels mid 90’s, got the Bloodshot deal and the rest is history.
Touring with Neko opening up for the Jayhawks in Los Angeles, Tommy Connell was in the crowd. Got reacquainted after 18 years.
Always wanted to make a steel guitar record paying homage to previous steel players who made (good) bad steel records and I wanted to record with friends (and great musician) Neko, Kelly, Sally, Tommy, Tom V. Ray, Joey, John, Kevin, Nick and Craig.
Since I knew Tommy again, it added a Speedy & Jimmy element not to mention his amazing ability.
Played for years and made my own style without using effects and then hooked up with Jamal Ruhe and formed Sleepwalker which, by the way the steel was saturated with effects. One released Sleepwalker record and two in the can waiting.
Been touring fairly heavily for the past 3 to 4 years with Neko Case (this was in about 2003, so it’s been longer now) and before that with Grievous Angels, Waco Brothers, John Langford, Chris Mills, Sally Timms, and Kelly Hogan.
Influences & Heroes
- Pure Prairie League with John David Call on steel guitar
- Joe Ely with Lloyd Maines
- Asleep at the Wheel with Lucky Oceans
- Commander Cody with Bobby Black
- All Big Band music and the Big Band leader Alvino Rey whose instrument was steel guitar.
- Definitely Speedy West and a guy in Austin named Mike Hardwick.
On his current playlist are :
*His three weeks of recovery were characterized by feverish rantings about Santo & Johnny and Speedy & Jimmy and cross-dressing. When fully recovered, Jon was uncontrollably lured to the rusty pedal steel guitar that laid for years in the hold of a World War II cargo plane that had crashed on the wrong side of the island many decades before. His playing was flawless; technically proficient, yet totally swashbuckling and swoony. The rest of the islanders quickly grew tired of his noodling and persistent good nature and threw him and his instrument into a hastily constructed out rigger canoe, and cast him from the island. Eventually, Jon found his way to the brown air that shrouds Phoenix and started his career as a stand in for Alice Cooper’s snake.
The 70’s saw Jon being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. It was his soothing and tropical guitar wizardry that helped set an amicable tone during the negotiations between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to end the Vietnam War. Henry, being the 20th Century’s biggest jackass refused, however, to share the award three ways. (Just one more reason to hate the man). His ego bruised, Jon spent the remainder of the decade defending his enthusiasm for the trend of “streaking.”
He is also revered in Nottingham, England. Seriously.
This originally appeared at Bloodshot Records