March 06, 2018
By: MARK GUARINO
Darryl Jones grew up in Chicago but left when he turned 21 to play bass for Miles Davis. That led to stints with Sting, Herbie Hancock, Madonna, and, in 1993, he joined the Rolling Stones, replacing founding member Bill Wyman. On March 9 at the Park West he debuts the Darryl Jones Project (with Nicholas Tremulis) that puts him the frontman role before re-joining the Stones in the spring for their next tour of Europe. We caught up with Jones, who’s 56, before he took off.
Out of all the people you’ve played with, who influenced you the most when you were writing your own music?
In terms of lyric writing, Sting. The songs have a point of view. He’s a beautiful poet, and he finds some really interesting ways to get his point across. I really love the idea of writing songs that mean something to me but that people can see their own trials and tribulations.
Why do you think you started out as a sideman and not up front?
Different musicians have different dreams. When I was a kid I didn’t want to be Michael Jackson, I wanted to play bass for Michael Jackson. About the time I started playing with the Stones I realized I accomplished my dream. My father once asked me “What do you want to do now?” I guess I’m ambitious, but considering Bob Dylan just won the Nobel (Prize for Literature), that’s something to shoot for!
You grew up in Chatham and attended Chicago Vocational High School. How did that affect the course your life took?
Dr. Joseph Miller, who was the orchestra director, was a big influence. During that time, we were playing Bach and Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov, but we were also playing Tower of Power and pop tunes of the day. I didn’t realize until I got to college that I was almost four years ahead of everybody. Dr. Miller died years ago but my class stayed in really close touch.
The Rolling Stones won a Grammy for “Blue and Lonesome” that was a set of Chicago blues covers. Yet you’re the only Chicagoan in the band.
I remember playing a blues with them when I first joined. Those guys are historians. They know the ins and outs of Chicago scene like anybody I grew up with. It’s not word of mouth with them. They knew Muddy Waters. They knew Howlin’ Wolf. It’s been great to rediscover where I came from through their eyes.
Keith (Richards) played (what we recorded) back to me when we were in Argentina. He puts this album on and I said, “What is that? That sounds like Chess stuff or blues from early 60s.” He’s like, “Darryl, this is us.” I didn’t recognize myself. To me that’s a great thing. It means I made choices on that record that were right for that period. I’m really proud of that record.
More: See Jones perform here.