The “struggle” continues for Portland-based bluesman Lloyd Jones, who finds himself carrying on a tradition he started to absorb before many of the parents of those who now attend his shows were of drinking age.
“I have to remember that the ones out on the scene right now may not know about the fact that I’ve been around, and them some,” says the 55-year-old Jones, who was the leader of one of Portland’s most popular bands, Brown Sugar, during the first wave of the electrified blues in the early 1970s.
“I feel fortunate to have grown up during the time of its insurgence,” he says from his home in Portland. “I love it more than ever. It just gets richer and deeper and I enjoy it more and more.”
During the 1980s, he joined singer and harp player Curtis Salgado, the man who inspired John Belushi’s “Blues Brother” character, in a band called In Yo Face. Then, just as his friend Robert Cray was helping the blues to re-emerge for an extended renaissance period in the late ’80s, Jones formed the Lloyd Jones Struggle. That band has been together, walking a tight line between blues and R&B, ever since. Two of the players in his band, keyboard player Glenn Holstrom and tenor- and baritone-sax player Rudy Draco, have been jamming together for the better part of three decades.
As some of the great blues figures Jones has learned from and shared the stage with pass away (including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and S.P. Leary, who was in Muddy Waters’ band), Jones finds himself an ironic inheritor of a legacy. He keeps on rockin’ along a road blazed by Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson and B.B. King, continuing to pursue the traditions of African-American music history extending back to Congo Square in New Orleans and before.
And since the blues was born out of the struggle of African Americans trying to find their place in America, Jones frequently marvels at being one of the so-called keepers of the musical flame.
“Imagine trying to be a white guy from Oregon playing this music,” he says. Hence, the reason why he calls his band the Struggle. One day, a long time ago, Leary, who was playing for both Waters and Big Walter at the time, told Jones, “Man, I’m getting old. You gotta keep it alive. It’s a struggle sometimes, but if you love it, you keep on struggling.”