Guitarist, songwriter and storyteller Spencer P. Jones, who forged his name in Australia and overseas with rock ‘n’ roll bands the Johnnys and Beasts of Bourbon, has died. Jones was born in 1956 on the North Island town of Te Awamutu in New Zealand and moved to Australia in his late teens – pursuing a life in music from which he never wavered over the next four decades. He died on August 21. The laconic, self-taught musician was diagnosed with liver cancer in June after fighting poor health since 2015. In March, Jones and longtime friend and collaborator Brian Henry Hooper performed on stage together in Melbourne with their band Beasts of Bourbon, just a week before Hooper died from lung cancer. “Spencer was very ill at Brian’s benefit gig,’’ said Jones’ wife, Angie Jones, in June. ‘‘So to watch them both get up and smash out some Beasts Of Bourbon songs was a miracle in itself.’’ Jones left New Zealand in the mid ’70s and played guitar in numerous bands, including Cuban Heels and North 2 Alaskans before joining the Johnnys, who released their debut album Highlights of a Dangerous Life in 1986.
By the late ’80s when the Johnnys broke up, Jones had turned his attention more fully to the ‘‘swamp rock’’ of Beasts of Bourbon, who by that stage were on the cusp of releasing third album Black Milk. The band would release half-a-dozen albums over a tumultuous 35 years and carve out a reputation as one of the most ferocious live bands of theirs, or any other generation. Combining elements of jazz, country, blues and on later records a tougher, punchier hard rock sound, Beasts of Bourbon endured with original members Jones and Tex Perkins putting differences aside to play numerous times since the band was originally shelved in 2008. In between Beasts Of Bourbon albums The Low Road (1991) and Gone (1997), Jones released his first solo album Rumour of Death in 1994. He would follow it with another 10 albums over the next two decades and throughout his career worked with an enormous array of Australian musicians, including Paul Kelly, Warren Ellis, Rowland S. Howard, Renee Geyer and Gareth Liddiard. Other bands to feature Jones’ distinctive guitar sound included Hell To Pay (with the late Ian Rilen), Cow Penalty, Olympic Sideburns, the Butcher Shop, Maurice Frawley and the Working Class Ringos, Sacred Cowboys and the Escape Committee. When he wasn’t performing with a band, Jones would regularly play solo shows and regale audiences with stories in between his songs. He recorded, played alongside and inspired countless musicians over a long career and leaves behind a large body of work. Five years ago when Beasts of Bourbon came together for some shows, Jones told Fairfax Media he’d been particularly passionate about his old group for the ‘‘simple reason’’ it was ‘‘the sort of band I’d always wanted to be in.’’
This article courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald. Image courtesy of Fairfax Media