Polar Bear Return to Polar Blair's Den Menu Page


Mickey Jones
Super special thanks to Mickey Jones for the interview!
Mickey Jones
Back to "Music" Main Page
Go to "Mickey Jones" Main Page in the Actors/Actresses/Performers Department

About the Artist
CONTACT ME
Discography
Filmography (Film & Television)
Personnel
Photos
Videography
Polar Blair's Thoughts on the Artist



About the Artist:  Mickey Jones went from rockstar drummer to successful actor.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Mickey through e-mail in 2007.  When I started redesigning Polar Blair's Den in 2008, it was hard for me to decide what to do with Mickey's feature.  He's as much of a musician as he is an actor, and I had both elements rolled into the same page.  That made things a little tricky when it came time to decide where I was going to put his feature.  So I decided to give him separate entries in the Actors/Actresses/Performers Department and the Music Department.  Mickey Jones is the first person that I've ever had to place into two Departments and, in my opinion, it was the most honorable thing to do.  This feature will celebrate his music accomplishments.

    Before we get started, I want to make it clear.  This is NOT
Mick Jones, the guitarist from Foreigner.  This is Mickey Jones, hard-hitting drummer for Trini Lopez, Johnny Rivers, Bob Dylan, The Band, and, my favorite, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.  But since the days of The First Edition, Mickey switched gears into acting full-time and has given TV and movies some really interesting characters to watch.

    Out of all his characters, the one people probably remember most is Peter Bilker, member of the recurring K&B Construction crew on TVs "Home Improvement" (or is that "Tool Time"?).  His popular line, when introduced on the show-within-the-show, was "That would be me."  It is also the name of his fascinating autobiography which chronicles everything from his rock 'n' roll days to Hollywood actor.  You can study up on it at his website.


    Most interesting for people to learn is the fact that Mickey started out in show business playing drums for some of rock's hottest acts.  How did this lead to an acting career?  Let's begin from the beginning.  Mickey hails from Houston, Texas.  At the age of "real little" he moved to Dallas, Texas where he played in school groups.  It was in high school where he met Trini Lopez.  Trini, who would become one of early rock's big superstars, offered him a steady job.  This was Mickey's first real foray into the world of the traveling musician, "Nothin' but Cokes and cheeseburgers."  Trini and Mickey ended up in Los Angeles, and played at P.J.'s, the hottest club in town at that time.  They cut a duo album, "Live at P.J.'s", that became a big hit and is still highly revered to this day.

    A young P.J.'s-goer worked hard in convincing Mickey to become his drummer.  This man would become another rock legend.  His name was Johnny Rivers.  Together, Johnny and Mickey recorded hits such as "Maybelline", "Mountain of Love", and, the most popular, "Secret Agent Man".  The latter is still incredibly popular today, heavily played on oldies radio and used in more TV shows and movies than you can shake a stick at.  "Secret Agent Man" was, in fact, the theme song to a very short-lived TV spy series.  But while the TV show fell off the edge of the world into the black abyss, the song became huge, huge, huge and most people today don't even know that there was a TV show.

    For the next three years, Mickey recorded seven albums with Rivers.  Also in this package was included a tour around the world, including a trip to the heating-up country of Vietnam with Rivers and Ann-Margret.  But the times-they-were-a-changin', and another admirer of Mickey's acclaimed drumming entered his life.

    Bob Dylan caught Mickey while he was playing at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in L.A, early 1965.  This started a professional partnership that lasted for years.  A close friendship came out of it as well.  To this day, Mickey says, "The word 'genius' is not enough to describe Bobby."  Dylan, who was at his folksiest at that time, appreciated Mickey's blues roots, which he felt worked with his backing band The Hawks (which ultimately spawned into supergroup The Band).

    "When I started with Bob Dylan," Mickey recalls, "The Hawks came but with me as the drummer.  I was the fourth drummer.  Levon Helm in '65, then Bobby Greg, then Sandy Konikoff, then me.  When we started the tour, we were The Hawks."  But it didn't stay that way.  Through a rather odd twist of fate, Dylan's backing band would change their name during the tour.  And when this band had to go out on their own (Bob Dylan was hospitalized), they kept the name and became another one of rock's most sensational acts.  More on that in a bit.

    Mickey became a key part of Bob Dylan history when the man was receiving his harshest musical criticism, from the media moreso than anyone else.  It was at this time that Dylan had grown from acoustic folk artist to electric folk-rock.  And although Dylan's electric period has proven longer-lasting (at the time of this writing, Dylan's still doing his thang in 2008), it wasn't exactly a smooth transition.  Certainly one that didn't go unnoticed.

    It was a rocky World Tour for Bob Dylan and company in 1966.  It began in Honolulu, Hawaii on April 9.  It ended in London, England with the two Royal Albert Hall concerts on May 26 and 27 of that year.  They got booed off the stage in a lot of places, most infamously at The Royal Albert Hall on May 17.  The album "Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert" is still the only official commercial release from this tour.  But did Bob and Mickey and the rest of the band take it to heart?  "No.  We knew we were making good music.  The audience just didn't get it," Mickey explained in a 1998 USA Today interview.  But the audience finally DID get it, in a BIIIIIIIGGGGGG way.  And as much as that show was booed at by the attendees, the people who knew Dylan's music was cool kept it alive on the bootleg circuit until Columbia was finally hounded to release it officially, which eventually became a hit.

    I asked Mickey, "How did Bob Dylan's backing band The Hawks become known as The Band?"  This was his answer:  "After several weeks of being booed off the stage, the media never called us by our name, The Hawks.  They said, 'The BAND is too loo loud, Bob Dylan should send the BAND back to America, the BAND SUCKS!'  So after all that we started calling ourselves THE BAND.  After I left, Levon (Helm) took my place.  So I would be the original drummer with The Band.  I played on the first tracks in The Band's box set."

    But although Mickey loved his time with Dylan, he knew he couldn't join them in Woodstock, New York.  "I knew what would happen.  Everyday it would be, 'Let's get loaded'.  I was never into drugs and alcohol.  It's a crutch I didn't need."  So Jones headed to Hollywood instead where he pursued acting work on the "lowest rung of the ladder", as a movie extra.   When I asked Mickey of the actors who really served as inspiration he answered, "Growing up there was only one, Marlon Brando."  Today, he admires Daniel Day Lewis.

    Mr. Jones agreed to rejoin Bob Dylan in August of 1966 for rehearsals of upcoming shows in New York City at the Shea Stadium, and in Moscow.  But then he got the fateful phone call from Bob.  He was in the hospital!  Dylan had flipped his motorcycle and broken his neck!  He was in traction and everything was cancelled!  Everything, that is, except Bob's two-year deal with Mickey.  Mickey was still kept on salary for another year.  "Bob never tried to renege.  He's a man of his word."

    But Mickey needed regular paying work (as being a movie extra doesn't cut it) and he got it, via old acquaintances Tom and Dick, the Smothers Brothers.  There were four singers who needed a drummer.  This flowered into the group that took the name The First Edition.  When he first met them Mickey thought, "I was really impressed by their unique vocal sound and when we rehearsed it was like I'd known them all my life.  Everything just fell into place."  This highly successful musical relationship would last ten years (1966-1976).  Mickey's favorite songs with the FE?  "I would have to say 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town' and 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)'.

    I had always wondered why the group changed its name from "The First Edition" to "Kenny Rogers and the First Edition".  When I asked Mickey this question, he laid it all out like this, "We were The First Edition from 1967-1969.  In 1969 we were recording an album for Reprise Records.  Our producer, Jimmy Bowen, had a problem.  We had only 20 minutes of studio time left and we were one song short for this album.  We were going on the road the next day for six weeks and Bowen had to deliver the album to Reprise in less than 10 days.  Bowen asked the question, 'Do you guys have anything that we could throw down for filler on this album that we could do in 20 minutes?'  Kenny mentioned that we were doing an old Mel Tillis song in concert that got a great reaction called 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town'.  We ran down the first verse and Bowen said, 'Let's cut it!' 

    "We did one track with two vocal passes and it became the biggest record we ever had.  When the album came out, a radio station in Boston started playing it every other song.  Because our last hit record was a Mike Settle song called 'But You Know I Love You', we had followed it up with a song called 'Once Again She's All Alone'.  Because of the airplay that Ruby was getting the president of Reprise, Joe Smith, had to figure a way to get Ruby out as a single, but you could not have two records out in the same release window so Joe asked, 'Who sang lead on Ruby?'  We said Kenny so Joe said we are going to release Ruby as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.  For the next record, we will go back to being just The First Edition."  After the mammoth success of Ruby, "We were afraid that it might look like Kenny left the group so that is how we accidentally became Kenny Rogers and the First Edition."

    But Mickey's love for acting never died, despite the First Edition's hot music success.  As he told me, "We did our own TV series called 'Rollin' on the River' for two years.  It was a one-hour series on CTV network in Canada and the CBS-owned-and-operated stations where it was syndicated in the U.S.  The movie we did was called 'The Dream Makers' where we play a rock band.  That is where I fell in love with acting.  I dreamed of being an actor when I was eight-years-old, but never believed it would happen.  Now I tell kids, 'I am living proof that you can do or be anything you want if you are willing to put out the work, effort, and time it takes to do it.'."

    After the First Edition split up in 1976, Mickey Jones concentrated all his energies into acting.  As he says, "I mostly played killers, thugs, and bad guys."  But they were cool, interesting-to-watch bad guys, and this career move ultimately led to great success with his role as Pete on TV's "Home Improvement" and the still-enormously-popular Breath Savers commercial.

    Does Mickey still do anything in music?  He seldom drums anymore, but he did release an album in 1978, now on CD, called "She Loves My Troubles Away".  "...For my wife, Phyllis," he says.  "She is on the cover.  I really did it just for her."  He also did a song called "Double Bogey Blues" for the CD soundtrack of the 1996 movie "Tin Cup", of which he also stars.


Polar Blair's Thoughts on the Artist:  I think Mickey Jones is an incredible drummer.  His best drumming work was probably with The First Edition.  Just for fun, listen to the drums in "Just Dropped In" and "Something's Burning".  You'll hear that his drums are really quite powerful, while still articulate.  It's not just a bunch of pounding.  Jones definitely has a style.

Discography:

Albums
With
Title
Year
Trini Lopez
Live at P.J.'s
1963
Johnny Rivers At the Whiskey a Go-Go
1964
Johnny Rivers
Here we a Go-Go Again
1964
Johnny Rivers
In Action
1964
Johnny Rivers
Meanwhile Back at the Whiskey a Go-Go
1965
Johnny Rivers
...And I Know You Want to Dance
1966
Johnny Rivers
Changes
1966
Johnny Rivers
Golden Hits
1966
Bob Dylan
Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert
1998
The First Edition
The First Edition
1967
The First Edition
The First Edition's Second
1968
The First Edition
The First Edition '69
1969
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition
Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town
1969
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Something's Burning
1970
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Tell it all Brother
1970
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Fools Soundtrack
1971
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Greatest Hits
1971
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Transition
1971
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition The Ballad of Calico
1972
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Back Roads
1972
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Rollin'
1973
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Monumental
1973
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition I'm Not Making Music For Money
1974
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Greatest Hits
1976
Mickey Jones
She Loves My Troubles Away
1978
Various Artists
Tin Cup Soundtrack
1996

Mickey Jones- She Loves My Troubles Away (1978)
[CD Release Cover Images]
Mickey Jones Mickey Jones

Filmography (Film & Television):  See Mickey Jones in the Actors/Actresses/Performers Department.

Photos:

Videography: