Let’s leave the obvious thing out of the way. Yes, Iowa native John-Paul “Jp” Jones is often confused online with Led Zeppelin bassist John Baldwin, who goes by the 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 am John -Paul Jones Jr. He was senior, and my son is John-Paul Jones III.
“I’m wrong with Led Zeppelin’s John Baldwin online,” Jones said. “John Paul Jones is a stage name for him, but I tell people the John-Paul Jones band 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. John-Paul Jones’ session at our studios was the first to feature a heavy electric guitar band in over two years, and given that most of the band’s shows are outdoors, it was quite a experience for everyone involved.
The John-Paul Jones Group is based in Ottumwa, where Jones has lived for 28 years. They released the album, Broken in Bridge Cityin February 2021. All songs are based on true stories and personal experiences, often about life in Ottumwa, known to locals 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,” Jones said. “I think everyone has something in their city, like in Broken in Bridge City, that makes sense. Dilapidated buildings, urban and economic development, or someone you love is gone too soon and too young.
Jones’ affection for these river towns runs deep. The John-Paul Jones Band plays most of its shows within a 300-mile radius of the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Jones and the band have worked hard to meet 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 into Missouri,” Jones said. “It’s a vibrant community. There’s someone playing everywhere, and all kinds of music.
“What we’re missing are places,” Jones said. “We are an outside group most of the time. It’s one of the reasons we started a production company and have a mobile stage, production and sound. When I first moved to Ottumwa, I probably could have played five nights a week in southeast Iowa. (Now,) I would be lucky if I could play five nights in five months, in the club’s situation.
“People still want to see music, only places and buildings no longer exist,” Jones said. “It’s kind of what Broken in Bridge City is about.”
The band also makes it a priority to perform in places where children can attend and hear live music.
“I want to play where the kids can come and see live music,” Jones said. “I remember when I was little, and we would all go to see live music in the park. They just don’t have as many opportunities anymore.
Jones also wants to draw 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 kids, and the rest of the world, see that there are people like me living in rural Iowa communities,” Jones said. “We exist! We are not unicorns.
The John-Paul Jones band has several live performances booked for the rest of the year, including an appearance at the Iowa State Fair on August 17. Broken in Bridge City is available on the group’s website.