Isham Jones

Isham Jones

Isham Jones, 1922
Background information
Born January 31, 1894(1894-01-31)
Origin Coalton, Ohio, United States
Died October 19, 1956(1956-10-19) (aged 62)
Hollywood, Florida, United States
Occupations Songwriter, bandleader, saxophonist, bassist
Isham Jones in 1922

Isham Jones (January 31, 1894 – October 19, 1956) was a United States bandleader, saxophonist, bassist and songwriter.



Jones was born in Coalton, Ohio, to a musical and mining family, and grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, where he started his first band. In 1915 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, which remained his home base until 1932, when he reestablished himself in New York City. Jones also toured England with his orchestra in 1925.

The Isham Jones band made a series of popular gramophone records for Brunswick throughout the 1920s. He led one of the most popular dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s. His first successful recording, Wabash Blues written by Dave Ringle and Fred Meinken, was recorded in 1921 by Isham Jones and his Orchestra. This million-seller stayed twelve weeks in the U.S. charts, six at No. 1.[1] Noted musicians who played in Jones' band included Louis Panico, Benny Goodman (although he did not make any records during the short time he was with them), Woody Herman, Walt Yoder, and Roy Bargy.

Jones was reportedly a strict taskmaster and was known for being rather cold and distant. His lushly romantic compositions seem at odds with his reported personality.

From the start, his Brunswick records were extremely popular. There was a gap from October 1927 to June 1929 where Jones did not record due to disbanding and reorganization.

From 1929 to 1932, his Brunswick recordings became even more sophisticated with often very unusual arrangements (by Gordon Jenkins and others; Jones was his own arranger early on, but cultivated others for offbeat arrangements). During this period, Jones started featuring violinist Eddie Stone as one of his regular vocalists. Stone had an unusual, almost humorous tone to his voice. His other vocalists included Frank Sylvano, Billy Scott, Arthur Jarrett and Stone beginning in 1929 and in 1932, he added Joe Martin, another of the band's violinists, as a frequent vocalist. In April that year, young Bing Crosby recorded two sessions with Jones' group which included "Sweet Georgia Brown". Crosby at this point in his career was still singing in a jazz idiom, transitioning to his better known "crooner" style.

In August 1932, Jones signed with Victor, and these records are generally considered among the very best arranged and performed commercial dance band records of the Depression era. Victor's recording technique was especially suited to Jones' band. In October 1932, he teamed up with the Three X Sisters in New York who had just departed from CBS radio. They recorded "experimental" songs for RCA Victor which Jones began to fuse jazz and early swing music. They recorded "Where, I Wonder Where?" and "What Would Happen To Me If Something Happened To You." His Victor releases had an almost symphonic sound, often with a strong use of tuba. He stayed with Victor until July 1934, when he signed with Decca. (Jones' recordings during this period rivaled Paul Whiteman and other dance orchestras as examples of the very best and most popular dance music of the era.)

After he left Decca in 1936, he again retired and his orchestra was taken over by band member Woody Herman. Another Jones edition, in 1937-38, recorded a handful of sessions under the ARC labels: Melotone, Perfect and Banner.

In the 1940s, Jones resided on his poultry farm in Colorado, which he occasionally left for short tours with pickup bands. He later resided in Los Angeles. He moved to Hollywood, Florida in 1955, and died there of cancer in 1956. (He is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, and perhaps for that reason is often erroneously listed as having died in Hollywood, California.)

His great-nephew is the noted jazz drummer Rusty Jones.

Compositions by Isham Jones

Isham Jones' compositions (he wrote the music, Charles Newman and Gus Kahn were among his lyricists ) included:

  • "Meet Me In Bubble Land" 1919
  • "On the Alamo" 1922
  • "Swingin' Down The Lane" 1923
  • "I'll See You in My Dreams" 1924
  • "The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)" 1924
  • "It Had To Be You" 1924
  • "Spain" 1924
  • "Song Of The Blues" (1929)
  • "Not A Cloud In The Sky" 1929
  • "What's The Use?" 1930
  • "Feeling That Way" 1930
  • "You're Just A Dream Come True" (his theme song) 1931
  • "I Wouldn't Change You For The World" 1931
  • "Let That Be A Lesson To You" 1932
  • "I Can't Believe It's True" 1932
  • "One Little Word Led To Another" 1932
  • "The Wooden Soldier And The China Doll" "Calvacade of Vitaphone Shorts Volume 1: Swing, Swing Swing:1931-1944"(Cat. #ML103928) 1934
  • "I'll Never Have To Dream Again" 1932
  • "Pretending You Care" 1932
  • "There's Nothing Left To Do But Say Goodbye" 1932
  • "Why Can't This Night Go On Forever?" (another theme song) 1932
  • "You've Got Me Crying Again" 1933
  • "Honestly" 1933
  • "Old Lace" 1933
  • "Something Seems To Tell Me" 1933
  • "You're Welcome" 1933
  • "Bubbles In The Wine" 1933
  • "All Mine, Almost" 1934
  • "There Is No Greater Love" 1936

Number One Hits

During the 1920s, Isham Jones had several number one records on the pop charts in the U.S.:

  • "Wabash Blues" was number one for six weeks in 1921;
  • "On the Alamo" was number one for four weeks in 1922;
  • "Swinging Down the Lane" was number one for six weeks in 1923;
  • "Spain" was number one for two weeks and "It Had To Be You" was number one for five weeks in 1924; and,
  • "I'll See You in My Dreams" was number one for seven weeks and "Remember" was number one for one week in 1925.
  • His 1930 version of "Star Dust" was one of the best selling versions. Jones commissioned Victor Young to write a ballad instrumental of the mid-tempo tune and it was this arrangement (with Victor Young's violin solo) which became such a hit. Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for the song at this time.


In 1989, Isham Jones was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In 2005, "California, Here I Come", recorded by Al Jolson With The Isham Jones Orchestra on Brunswick in 1924, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In 2007, "It Had To Be You", recorded by Isham Jones and His Orchestra on Brunswick in 1924, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.

External links

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