Of Juvenility and Jack Jones

We return today to an evergreen theme on this blog and that’s entertainers I once found intrinsically ridiculous and have since acquired respect for. The “lounge singer” thing was held in very low regard in the ’70s, when I was a kid, at least by most young people. Top 40 radio, which I listened to religiously, was dominated by hard rock, disco (or proto disco), country rock, soul/R&B, and contemporary pop (the rhythms and sounds of which were very different from the swing, show tunes, and standards that had defined pop in the pre-Elvis era). Comedians like Bill Murray made fun of lounge singers, their insincerity, their almost heroic inability to notice that audiences had changed and wanted music that didn’t sound like it was 40 years old.

But here’s a thing I’ve since found fascinating: Jack Jones (b. 1938) was not YET 40 years old himself, when he recorded the hokey, (unintentionally) hilarious Love Boat theme in 1977, and -yet that lounge thing was his bag! One can’t fault him: he was the son of musical comedy star Allan Jones (of Show Boat and the Marx Brothers’ first two MGM films), and movie actress Irene Hervey (whom we’ll write about in a few months). His folks were famous in the ’30s and ’40s. Most of his generation rebelled against the style of their parents in those days (e.g., Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda vs. Henry Fonda), but Jones opted to sort of apprentice with his father, and that’s how he got his start. (And may I say that it was fortunate for him that he was “Jack” rather than “Allan Jones, Jr”, lest he face the fate of these poor souls). So Jones was only 20 when he went on American Bandstand and The Steve Allen Show in 1958. And though that’s at least a couple of years into the rock and roll revolution, he didn’t do that sort of thing at all. Which was fine. To a degree I imagine most younger people aren’t aware of, the old style pop held its own in the charts, at least for a few years. Jones first cracked the Hot 100 in 1962 with “Lollipops and Roses”, the same year as Tony Bennett’s smash “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. The old guard still had a presence.

What’s wild is that he kept his streak going for a few years with even bigger hits well into the era of the British Invasion, folk rock, and so forth: “Wives and Lovers” (#14 in 1963), “Dear Heart” (#30 in 1964), “The Race Is On (#15 in 1965), “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha (#35 in 1966), and “Lady” (#39 in 1967). (Let’s face it, some of the numbers on the album cover above, like “Call Me Irresponsible”, “Alfie”, and “The Shadow of Your Smile” may have been among Jones’s biggest hits, but they were bigger hits for other artists). He also sang the theme songs to the movies A Ticklish Affair (1963), Love with the Proper Stranger (1964), Where Love Has Gone (1964), and Anzio (1968), as well as the TV shows Funny Face (1971-72) with Sandy Duncan, and yes, The Love Boat.

In 1974 and 1977 he had his own BBC TV variety show The Jack Jones Show. (They have always been kinder to old school entertainment in the Mother Country). In the states he appeared on the variety and talk programs of Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Joey Bishop, Ed Sullivan, Jack Paar, Garry Moore, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Danny Thomas, Red Skelton, David Frost, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson, etc as well as things like The Hollywood Palace and Kraft Music Hall, and game shows like Hollywood Squares and Password. Much like his father, he really only dabbled in acting. he was on Rat Patrol, McMillan and Wife, Police Woman, and naturally The Love Boat. He was part of the ensemble of the 1980 TV mini series Condominium, and starred in the 1978 horror movie The Comeback. And some of you may remember that he was stunt cast in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), doing a bit of self parody.

Naturally in live performance, Jones plays old school places like Vegas and other resorts, night clubs, small arenas and the like. I imagine he’s especially enjoyed the last few decades, since Tony Bennett’s comeback and several crops of young people have sprung up with no Generation Gap hang-ups (even though Jones was always chronologically, if not stylistically, of the rock generation himself and in later decades, he did throw some Beatles and Beach Boys songs into his set). Miraculously he is now way cooler at 80 than he was at 40, or even 20. To wit, check it out, he has this gig coming up in April:

To be 84 and have lots of things on the horizon — that’s the best reason I can think of for going into show business. Keep up with his doings at the official Jack Jones web site here.