Biography of Nic Jones

Nic Jones - Folk GuitaristNicolas Paul Jones was born in 1947 in Kent, the youngest of three children. When Nic was two, his family moved to Harold Wood in Essex and then to Brentwood. He was educated at Brentwood School and at the age of about fourteen his musical interest was aroused when listening to Ray Charles singing What’d I Say. After being thrown off the grand piano for trying to emulate Charles in the hallowed halls of Brentwood, he duly acquired his first guitar and proceeded to strum along with Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin, trying to perfect the art of walking in a circle, a la Shadows, whilst playing. He left school at sixteen to become a trainee accountant in Smithfield Market in London. He didn’t take to that or to being a clerk in the insurance office at the Nurses Pension Fund, so Nic abandoned office life in the City and moved outdoors to become a pump attendant at his local petrol station before becoming a lifeguard at the Chelmsford Swimming Pool.

His musical interests by now had moved on from The Shadows to listening to the likes of Chet Atkins and Wes Montgomery. Persuaded by old school friends, Nigel Paterson and Geoff Harris, who were members of The Halliard folk group along with Dave Moran, Nic started going to the local clubs in Romford and Dave’s Chelmsford club to listen to luminaries of the late sixties folk scene, being inspired by the singing of Alex Campbell, Shirley Collins, Archie Fisher and the playing of Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and Martin Carthy. The Halliard decided to turn professional, Geoff Harris left the group to pursue his career and Nic joined in his place, rather hurriedly having to adapt his style of playing and to find a singing voice. Whilst with the group Nic took up the fiddle, started to write tunes and learnt how to research songs. The group started another club in Brentwood, the running of which was left to Nic.

The Halliard subsequently became one of the scene’s leading attractions, bringing to the folk repertoire many fine broadsides to which they had added tunes such as the Lancashire Lads, Ladies Don’t Go a’Thieving, Calico Printer’s Clerk, Captain Grant and the now extensively covered Boys of Bedlam. They made two albums in 1967 before disbanding at the end of 1968, Dave and Nigel to pursue careers in social work and teaching respectively and Nic, along with his recently acquired wife, Julia Seymour, intending to buy the lease of a music club/coffee house in Bristol. They changed their minds about the business, moved to Boreham village near Chelmsford and took over the running of the Chelmsford club. While Julia continued in her own career, Nic contemplated his future in between reading chapters of Don Quixote, quite content to be a house-husband (without the house bit!), left home alone to raise newly arrived feline twins Plug and Sancho. And there he might have stayed had it not been for Christine Neville suggesting he go solo and pushing him into it by organizing a few bookings at the beginning of 1969. On his own instead of comfortably in the background of the group fronted by the ebullient Dave Moran, so embarrassed was Nic by his own performance as a solo artist on those first bookings, he was ready to head off down to the employment office until Dave Burland encouraged him not to give up. His solo career took off and he became a regular and much sought after performer on the folk scene in the UK and abroad.

Nic Jones - Folk SingerIn 1974 Nic and his family opted for rural life and moved to Doddington, Cambridgeshire, a more central location for Nic travelling up and down the country. By the end of 1978 Nic had recorded four solo albums and the Bandoggs album for Bill Leader before the Trailer label stopped producing new recordings in 1979 and Nic signed to Topic for whom he recorded one album, Penguin Eggs. An untimely car accident in February, 1982 abruptly ended his career and the legacy of the serious physical injuries and brain damage he sustained is that Nic has not been able to work since.

Because of the lack of availability of Nic’s first 4 albums and endless requests over the years for anything that was or could be made available, Nic finally agreed to the use of live recordings. Julia set up Mollie Music and Dave Emery, who over the years had lovingly and diligently rescued, catalogued and re-mastered tapes of Nic’s live recordings, produced the long awaited CD, In Search of Nic Jones.  This was followed in 2000 by the release of the "Unearthed" double CD produced by Ralph Jordan, using more live material.  

Nic now lives in West Devon and continues his long love affair with chess and the only physical sports he can manage these days, snooker and a unique style of swimming! He still does daily battle with his guitar and writes the occasional song.

Updates:

In 2005 Nic was co-erced into the recording studio by Dave Moran and Julia to record a couple of Halliard originals to complete the audio archive of Broadsides for which they had composed original tunes, and featured in The Halliard: Broadside Songs Songbook accompanied by a CD of the same title.  Unable to play the guitar himself, Nic was accompanied by his son, Joseph.  2006 saw the completion of the audio archive with the release of The Last Goodnight!

In 2007 Topic released the retrospective CD Game Set Match.

In 2007 Nic was the recipient of the Good Tradition award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

In 2010 J Ralph, the academy award winning composer, persuaded Nic to record a track called Pretty Words Lie for the album Wretches and Jabberers original motion picture soundtrack CD, released in January 2011.  All tracks, including others by Martin Carthy, Paul Brady, Norah Jones, Judy Collins, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills among others, are available for download on iTunes, with proceeds from the album going to the charity for Autism.

At the Sidmouth Folk Festival 2010 Nic was cajoled by Pete Coe into joining him and Chris Coe, as part of a reformed Bandoggs to perform a few songs during the "In Search of Nic Jones" tribute concert.   Following the success of this concert, Joan Crump (Sidmouth Folk Festival Director) was asked to reproduce the tribute concert for Stuart Lee's Austerity Binge at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southank in May, 2011.  With a slightly different line up of artists performing Nic's songs to the Sidmouth event, it was equally successful.  On this occasion Nic not only performed with Bandoggs, but also did 3 songs with his son, Joseph, and l accompanied by Belinda O'Hooley.  

September 2011 saw Nic being awarded the EFDSS Gold Badge.