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Eddie "One String" Jones

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In most blues reference books, the name Eddie Jones refers to the given handle of the New Orleans guitarist better known as “Guitar Slim.” But this time, we take pause to relate what little information exists on another Eddie Jones, this one a street musician situated in Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

Eddie “One String” Jones was, by no stretch of the imagination, a professional musician. Nor, like his more famous namesake, was he even a guitar player. Had it not been for his chance discovery by folklorist and ethnic musicologist Frederick A. Usher in February of 1960, it’s a pretty safe bet that no recorded document of him would probably exist.

Usher was in Los Angeles’ Skid Row section on business with an associate when he was accosted by two panhandlers. One of those two men (Jones) was holding a rough cut 2’x4’ plank, a homemade one-stringed instrument of the crudest construction. After a bit of cajoling from Usher, Jones reached into his pocket and fished out the other two working tools he used to make music with the board, a half pint whiskey bottle to slide with and a carefully whittled stick to bang the single string with in place of a guitar pick. The sound was raw, jangly, and chaotic, as far removed from normal slide or bottleneck techniques as Usher (or anyone else) had ever heard. This was evidently a direct tie to the African instrument known as the “diddleybow,” but Jones’s technique with the stick gave the music an otherworldly edge, multiple tones to be derived from a single note, and a total departure from what most folklorists had previously known about the instrument. Sensing that Jones was a modern day link to an African art form long since dissipated, Usher was bowled over and ran back home as fast as he could to grab his portable tape recorder.

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