Rock Cellar caught up with singer, songwriter, actor and guitarist Stephen Bishop to discuss one of his upcoming events, a special fundraising concert for musician Jeff Jones. It’s set to take place on April 28 in Los Angeles, and Bishop was kind enough to speak with us about the function…
Rock Cellar Magazine: For those unaware of his background, fill us in about Jeff Jones and his musical legacy.
Stephen Bishop: Well, I met Jeff Jones in 1973 through my old friend, Leah Kunkel, who was Mama Cass’ sister. She was a really close friend of mine. I met Jeff and his brother Mike; they were a team back then called the Staten Brothers. They made an album for Epic Records.
Both of them were so talented; Jeff was so talented, great guitar player and singer/songwriter. Jeff and his brother Mike were in my traveling touring band. We opened for Fleetwood Mac, Randy Newman, Heart. We toured all over the United States. It was a beautiful thing.
Jeff has always been a good pal of mine; he’s been in Franklin, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, for 20 years. Jeff used to be my roommate; he lived in the back part of my house. There’s a studio back here and every day he’d be in the studio recording songs. They were gonna sign him to Sony Publishing and he got very close but he already had MS (multiple sclerosis) and he wound up getting Parkinson’s too.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Jeff enjoyed major success as a songwriter. Who were some of the artists who recorded his songs?
Stephen Bishop: Yeah, his songs were recorded by artists like Johnny Mathis. He had a big song called Calling All Angels that was recorded by Alabama. Also, Art Garfunkel recorded one of his songs.
He is a very talented guy. Awesome guitar player. As I said, he and his brother were in my touring band for years. We’ve been friends since 1973 and we’ve written a lot of songs together and have been good buddies for a long time.
Rock Cellar Magazine: How did the “Jammin’ for Jones” event come about?
Stephen Bishop: What happened was my old pal Jeff’s room in the back of my house became my “man cave” when I got married a couple of years ago. I call Jeff and check in with him to see how he’s doing and so many times I just heard his suffering…and I do mean suffering.
He’s really having the toughest time with it. He’s alone down there. He doesn’t have hardly any friends in that area anymore and he only makes six hundred bucks a month from disability.
I just heard his suffering for so many years that I got to a point where I just thought, I just can’t lie here and do nothing anymore, I have to do something.
So first we formed a “Jammin’ for Jones” fund to try and get some money for his medical expenses. I got together with two of his friends, Lena Evans, Geanie Zelig-Galinson and Marybeth Maloney Thicke, who is Robin Thicke’s aunt. We formed this coalition called “Jammin’ for Jones” to try and raise money for Jeff and help him out.
That was over three months ago. For the last three months we’ve all been working hard. These women are amazing; it’s incredible all the things they’ve done. We wound up raising about thirty five thousand dollars so far. Eric Clapton, Randy Newman and Art Garfunkel are among those who have contributed money.
We have a big show coming up on April 28th at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. There’s gonna be a silent auction for Jeff and we’re gonna try and raise some money for his medical expenses. We’ve got Kevin Nealon hosting. We’ve got some great people on the bill and I’m really excited about it.
Dionne Warwick is headlining. She’s gonna do so many of her hits like Don’t Make Me Over, and Anyone Who Had a Heart. I requested all these songs that I just love that she did. A great singer named Rumer, a big singer in England, is also taking part. Howard Jones is doing some of his big hits. Micky Dolenz of the Monkees is gonna do three Monkees hits, one of which is I’m a Believer. I’m also performing too.
In all, the whole evening is almost 20 big hits. There’s also gonna be video tributes by Michael McDonald, One Direction and we’re filming Jackson Browne next week.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Will you be performing any of Jeff’s songs that night?
Stephen Bishop: Yes. Micky Dolenz is gonna do Calling All Angels and then I’m doing a duet with a girl singer named Kathrin Shorr and we’re doing a song that I recorded on my Bowling in Paris album that I wrote with Jeff called Think I Know What Love Is.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Will Jeff be attending the “Jammin’ for Jones’ show?
Stephen Bishop: Yeah, he is coming out and wanted to be there. It’s gonna be an amazing thing when he comes out on stage. He’s been very touched by what we’re doing. We have put a lot of work into it but it’s different kind of work. When you’re doing something to really help someone, it’s a weird thing when you do something that doesn’t directly promote yourself.
As a person, most people are always promoting themselves; I’m always promoting myself as an artist doing interviews or saying, “Check out my new album!” (laughs) I am so happy to be doing this for my friend and I don’t want any kind of thanks for it or anything; I’m getting a big high just by helping him. I’m surprised I’ve turned into this kind of nice person (laughs) but I just really really want to help my friend. I call him now and before he’d be so depressed and now I call him and he’s excited and thrilled about his new album.
You should hear his new album; it’s unbelievable. It’s a fantastic album.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Is there a web site people can access and help contribute?
Stephen Bishop: Yeah, there’s a web site, www.gofundme.com/jamminforjones
Rock Cellar Magazine: Post “Jammin’ for Jones” show, how can people continue to help?
Stephen Bishop: One of the things that we’ve done is Jeff has all these great recorded demos. Now he can’t sing or play, which is really sad. We got his songs together and assembled it into an album and I’m holding it right now. It just came yesterday. It’s called Trouble in Heartland and it’s his first solo album. We’re gonna sell it on iTunes and make him some money.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Finally, fill us in about what you are working on now.
Stephen Bishop: It’s the 25th anniversary of my album Bowling in Paris, which features Sting, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins. That’s coming out and will be for sale on iTunes in about a week. It’s a really great album. The album is remastered and I totally re-did the art work and re-sequenced it.
It’s got great performances on it. It’s an album that I did for Atlantic and it’s really a punchy album. I’m really pleased with it. It features Phil Collins drumming at his best and Eric Clapton playing a solo; I don’t think people have heard him play this, amazingly.