Billy Jones

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Billy Jones’ story is one of a brilliant musician, who shined his light on the world through his beautiful music; and one of a complicated man, whose light was extinguished way too early.

Being the southern rebel that he was, Billy got kicked out of his Tampa High School for refusing to cut his hair. Ironically, the principal of the school was Monte Yoho’s father.

A talented musician even at young age, Billy was offered a placement in the famous Julliard School of Music in New York. He refused. Instead he studied math at the University of South Florida and graduated with honors.

After college, Billy decided to make music his career. He played a Hammond B3 organ in the beginning before switching over to guitar, out of convenience. He recorded one album with a local Tampa area band called H.Y. Sledge before joining The Outlaws in 1972.

That’s when the magic began. He became the Ying to Hughie’s Yang, the complementary component that made the band a huge success.

Regretfully, Billy took his own life at the age of 44. He had quit playing music and was living a quiet private life at the time. Billy will always be remembered for his ringing guitars solos and velvet voice prevalent in all of the Outlaws classic music.

Most rock and roll bands have one lead guitar player. The bands success hinges on the ability of the lead guitar player. Led Zeppelin had Jimmy Page, The Who had Pete Townsend, and Van Halen had, well..Van Halen! Many other acts were based on the single lead guitarist, like: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In the late 60′s, early 70′s, Southern Rock started to emerge with bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Outlaws following the dueling lead guitarists formula of the Allman Brothers, and becoming hugely successful.

One glaring difference was that the Outlaws were the only one of the three bands that did not feature a piano or keyboard player. Another difference was that Skynyrd and the Outlaws used the contrasting styles of a Fender and Gibson, while the Allman Brothers were mainly two Gibsons

These great guitar duos go down in music history and will stand the test of time. They are, in order of appearance:

  1. Dickey Betts and Duane Allman – The Allman Brothers
  2. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins – Lynyrd Skynryd
  3. Billy Jones and Hughie Thomasson – The Outlaws

There is a big difference between the sound and playability when it comes to Fenders and Gibsons. Gibsons are heavier and have more of a ringy tone. Fenders have a more country sounding, bassy tone. For perspective: Jimi Hendrix played a Fender and Peter Frampton played a Gibson.

 

In the Outlaws, Hughie played the Fender and Billy played the Gibson. When you listen to the Outlaws recordings you can hear when the lead guitarist changes during the song. It is very evident in the live version of Stick Around For Rock and Roll when on the first solo break the fast playing Hughie on his Strat, gives way to the high note ringing sound of Billy on his Gibson.

We keep mentioning ringing sounds for a reason. When Chuck Berry said he could play the guitar like a ring in a bell, he was talking about the same thing we are talking about here: the sound of a Gibson Les Paul being blasted through a classic amps. The technology and equipment used is the same now as it was over 50 years ago. So why aren’t there thousands of guitar virtuosos coming out of the woodwork?

The problem with taking a classic “rig” like a Gibson Les Paul on a Fender Twin Reverb amp and cranking it up is: any little mistake comes out like a glaring error. It sounds like a ring in a bell if you hit all the right notes, but if you miss a single note you ruin the entire song.

That’s what Billy Jones did consistently: hit the right note and rang that bell.

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6 thoughts on “Billy Jones

  1. There will be no outlaws without THE MAN HUGHIE THOMASSON AND who we miss also BILLY JONES. THEY are no doubt the greatest guitar duo ever. It’s hard to miss their sound back and forth LONG LIVE THE REAL GUITAR ARMY.

  2. They say that “Imitation is the greatest gift of Flattery.” From the first time I saw Billy Jones and Hughie Thomasson on stage in 1978 at age 18, I knew I was seeing the greatest guitar duo ever. So talented and graceful. At age 54 I still play and I tell the audience the quote. And I stress that if I have one tenth the gift that these fine players had that I was truly blessed. Billy and Hughie are my inspiration to deliver the very best to an audience. The Florida Guitar Army will ride forever on that range up in the sky. And we, the true fans of the Outlaws will be in awe

    MP

  3. Im Having a real hard time where to start?…,well Billy Jones A.K.A. “Jonesy” was the “other-half” the song-writer~guitarist~singer~that Hughie himself recuted as H.T. knew what he was seeing & hearing & he knew & wanted the 2-Lead Guitars nice pick Hughie you could not have done better if you tried the world & myself thank you so much for Billy Jones!…Hughie was a Fender player mainly the “Black-Strat” word on that guitar we all remember was hurricane Katina took it away “right up to Hughie” bet cha’…,anyway im supposed to talk Billy well Billy was a Gibson man the most recognizable guitar he played was the famous 3-pup Black-Beauty Les Paul Custom…& later went to a 25/50 Anniversary Gibson Les Paul Custom “Sa-weet” guitar!…,Billy had around 30 guitars but those 2 & perhaps the beautiful Les Paul Custom “Silver-Burst” he played a lot also & others you might have seen the mustard Les Paul in the early days o.k. move-on …Look Billy Jones was a Genus & in many ways he was a Scholar who taught a bit `but Billy was all about the music to please his Mom & Dad he got his Math Degree Instead he studied math at the University of South Florida and graduated with honors.,Billy was such a bright man with so many talents just in music alone he stared out playing the Drums also played a HammondB3 organ then picked up a Les Paul well fit like a glove but i really don’t even think he knew well ya’ he did just how great of a Guitar player he would become all of us who saw him know the jams & if you saw him or hears his live riffs you will quickly realize Billy never played the leads the same on any song he loved to mix it up i cannot put it any better than the man who played with & was Billy’s friend & Band mate “Erik Dempsey” who told me & i quote”
    Billy used to call the “risk licks.” Like when you start off a guitar run, and you are shooting for the moon on a particular lead, but you are not sure if it is going to come out like what he is hearing in his head. He took risks. Risk Licks.” end quote .,that is why he was so great to me & he just flat out burned it up anytime he wanted too but i always got a sense he held back sometimes from a longer jams Billy was not one for the spotlight even though he & his playng~singing shined like a supernova & you all know what i mean i ALWAYS wanted him to just fuc*in’ shred & tear it up more! but it was insanely great just as it was he was a very soft spoken~mellow~cool man that had the talent~the looks~the voice~that had “rock-star” written all over him but Billy was cool to let Hughie take center stage & even though they fought over it a lot shared it mostly we all have heard so many great Guitarists seen them live ive seen so many i forgot many but maybe Billy Jones was the reason because he hit a nerve in me nobody ever did i think it was the great “sound” his Black-Beauty made “i have never heard that sound on any other Les Paul how bout’ you? it was & is so clean & crisp ringing as no Les Paul i ever heard just the best Billy ran the spectrum from county picker to a real southern rock guitarist… i also hear a “heavy-metal” sound esp. from the 25/50 Les Paul Anniversary model killer “heavy-metal” sound so i could talk about the fantastic Billy Jones all day & nite & invite you all to get into him oh silly me you already are…,so in a nut-shell Hughie needed Billy & Billy needed Hughie & together the contrasting Fender vs Gibson battles the completely different playing styles of H.T. & Billy their voices could not have been much more different as well as their songs each wrote completely different songs… feel we all have are favs but we all love them both because as different as Hughie & Billy were when they played it was magic & so fun to watch & hear man it seems like yesterday…so i will sum it up like this Billy Jones in my humble opinion could play or blow away of real famous guitarists you all know them i have still go to concerts all the time seen most of the greats all give me goosebumps & make me go insane all good right? oh yes rock & roll man its life
    `keeps the globe a turnin’ & Billy Jones shook the Earth a bit off its axis simply the best ive seen & heard love so many but only one Billy Jones & Billy Jones gave his all to please us & it cost him as much as he loved the music he did not need or want to “big rock-star” image but he was anyway as another of his close buddy’s told me some time ago ~” Billy reminds me of “George Harrison” a musician first & a relutant rock-star ” well said & that was all Billy Jones wanted to do play music & im sure glad he did although i would give it all away if he was still here & he is in the music thank you so much Billy Jones…

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  5. living in the wilds of Nebraska, I saw the Outlaws play twice – once with the Allman Brothers and once with UFO, and they were just devastating – a great, great band! Thanks for putting up this show!

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