Smithsonian Folkways Remembers Clark Jones (1935-2015)
Born in 1935, Clark Jones’ love of “down-home music,” as he called it, took hold when he was just a child growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jones began with the ukulele and guitar in the 1940s. Later, when his job as editor for the U.S. Department of Commerce took him to Washington, D.C., he picked up the banjo, autoharp, and the mountain and hammered dulcimers. With these tools in hand, Jones travelled through North Carolina absorbing and interpreting traditional songs. His 1982 Folkways album Early American Folk Music & Songs features 16 traditional, botanically themed tracks. Jones was inspired by the work of the director of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, who had become one of his guitar students. He regularly performed these songs at the Gardens throughout the 1970s.
Clark Jones professed a “strong love of simplicity and genuine home-made music” (liner notes from Early American Folk Music & Songs). According to his family, he could play over 600 American folk songs from memory. In addition to his Folkways album, Jones performed his material for thousands of North Carolina schoolchildren over the years, thus ensuring that his passion for traditional songs was passed on to the next generation.
Clark Jones passed away on June 6, 2015.