‘LITTLE HAT’ JONES
Little Hat Jones was a fine singer with a strong guitar technique, but he had a habit of starting his songs very quickly, slowing down drastically when he started to sing, and then arriving at some kind of compromise as the song went on. He turned this fault into a virtue insofar as it made some of his recordings quite distinctive, but I don’t think record companies were too impressed, and he remains a small footnote in the story of the Blues.
Born by the Sulphur River in Bowie County, Texas in 1899, George Jones was often mistakenly given the forename ‘Dennis’ in early Blues histories. When George first appeared as a street entertainer in San Antonio in the early 20s, he probably came into contact with Blind Lemon Jefferson, as his crisp, delicate guitar picking and booming bass notes bear a strong resemblance to the pioneering Texas songster’s technique. George’s guitar skills got him noticed, and he was brought in to accompany the singer Alger ‘Texas’ Alexander at some San Antonio sessions in June 1929. Eight of the nine tracks recorded with ‘Texas’ were successfully released on the Okeh label, and at the same time George cut six tracks of his own, showcasing his dynamic guitar style and passionate vocals. They were all released and sold well, including ‘Little Hat Blues’, which gave George his enduring Blues name. A further session for Okeh the following year saw four more tracks issued, but sales were thin as the economic depression began to bite.
Superb quality of recording on ‘Little Hat Blues‘ from 1929;
Nothing more was heard from Little Hat until the Folk/Blues revival of the early 60s, when young researchers combed the South hoping to find the originators of the Blues still working the fields and picking guitar on the back porch. Many were successful in their endeavours, including Morris Craig, who found Little Hat living in Naples, Texas in 1964.
Little Hat was photographed wearing a greasy baseball cap, and they recorded eight songs together, half of which were untitled, but they remain unissued. This event did not mark a revival of Little Hat’s career as it did for so many of his contemporaries, and he passed away at the Municipal Hospital in Linden Texas seventeen years later, aged 81.
As a footnote to a footnote, one of the tracks from that 1930 Okeh session, ‘Bye Bye Baby Blues’, was featured in the 2001 movie ‘Ghost World’.