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Good Times With the Handy Man (1955-1994)

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Album Review

Best known for his 1960 R&B hit “Handy Man,” Jimmy Jones started his singing career in 1954 when he joined the doo wop group the Berliners, who became the Spirits of Rhythm, and then became the Sparks of Rhythm when they signed with Apollo Records, releasing a pair of singles under that name with Jones, then only 14 years old, as lead singer. He left to form another doo wop group, signing them to Savoy Records (who promptly named the new group the Savoys) and released another couple of singles. The group left Savoy, and now calling themselves the Pretenders, signed with George Goldner's Rama Records, again releasing a couple of singles before moving on to record one single for Whirlin’ Disc Records, and then, now calling themselves the Jones Boys, they tracked sides for the Holiday, Apt, and Arrow imprints before Jones gave up on the group idea and went solo in 1959, signing with the MGM-owned Cub Records. Working with producer Otis Blackwell, Jones hit it big right out of the box with his self-penned “Handy Man” that year, and the single was an international hit (as well as spawning later cover versions by Del Shannon and James Taylor that were also big hits). This two-disc set combines the key Jones sides from all of these groups and labels (no doubt a licensing miracle) between 1955 and 1960, and makes for an in-depth and chronological portrait of this sweet-voiced and compelling singer at his best and in his prime.


Born: 30 December 1918 in Birmingham, AL

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

An unusual piano stylist (who sometimes played complex block chords) and a masterful accompanist for singers, Jimmy Jones had his first important job playing and recording with Stuff Smith (1943-1945). After working with J.C. Heard (1946-1947), he was Sarah Vaughan's pianist (1947-1952 and 1954-1958) with a two-year illness separating his two long stints. Jones recorded often throughout the 1950s, including "How Hi the Fi" (1954) with Buck Clayton. He worked with Duke Ellington on the 1963 show My...
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Good Times With the Handy Man (1955-1994), Jimmy Jones
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