Brian Jones

This article is about the British musician. For the balloonist, see Brian Jones (aeronaut)
Missing image
Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones plays his signature prototype Vox Phantom guitar in 1965.

Brian Jones, born Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, (February 28, 1942 - July 3, 1969, Essex, England) was the original leader, lead guitarist and backing singer in the British rock group The Rolling Stones.

He was also known for his multi-instrumental skills, his fashionable mod image, drug and sexual excesses, and his tragic death.


Early Life

Jones was born in the Park Nursing Home in Cheltenham during World War II, suffering from asthma his entire life. His parents were Louis and Louisa Jones, middle-class residents of the town. Brian had a sister, Pamela born in 1943, however she died a year later. A second sister, Barbara, was born in 1945. It was later found that Brian had an IQ of 135, placing him in the top 3% of the British population.

Jones's mother Louisa was a piano teacher and started teaching her son the instrument at a very young age. Eventually he required formal lessons as he progressed too quickly for her to continue teaching him. In addition, he took up the clarinet, and soon after started composing pieces for the piano. When he was 13 he traded in his clarinet for a saxophone, and progressed in his playing very quickly. Around this time he also started teaching himself how to play the guitar.

Attending local public schools including Pate's Grammar School, Jones was known as an exceptional student, getting very high marks in all of his classes. However he found his schooling to be too regimented and formal, and refused to conform when he reached adolescence. He was known to eschew wearing the school uniforms and anger teachers with his behavior. Despite this, he remained very popular and well-liked with the students.

All this came to an end, however, when in 1958 Jones impregnated his 14-year-old girlfriend, named Valerie. The child was given to an infertile couple upon its birth and Brian left home, travelling throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia for the summer. During this time he lived something of a bohemian lifestyle, playing guitar on the streets for money and eating and sleeping wherever anyone would let him.

Upon his return, Jones became much more interested in various types of music - he was taught classical music at a young age, and he always preferred blues, however he soon took an interest in country, jazz and rock 'n roll. He began playing at local blues and jazz clubs in addition working various odd jobs, and used the money he earned to buy more instruments. He was also known to steal small amounts of money to pay for cigarettes, a habit that got him fired from jobs on several occasions.

Despite the unwanted attention he received from impregnating his girlfriend at a young age, Jones showed no signs of changing his lifestyle. A second child, named Julian Mark Andrews by his father (his mother being Jones' then girlfriend Pat Andrews) was born in 1961.

Forming the Rolling Stones

Jones eventually left home completely and moved to London, where he met and befriended fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and pianist Ian Stewart, among others. He became a proficient blues musician and was the first well-known musician in the UK to play slide guitar.

Jones formed the Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards after the two saw him perform covers of blues songs in a club in London. Jones came up with the name of the band, taken from a Muddy Waters song that he liked. Jones personally selected the musicians one by one, adding Stewart, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts to the lineup.

The group played at local blues and jazz clubs around London, eventually forming a solid fan base. While Mick Jagger was the lead singer, Jones was the de facto leader, promoting the band, getting them shows around London, selecting the music they played and negotiating with venue owners. Jones would often play several instruments in the course of a night, including lead guitar, slide guitar and harmonica. While acting as business manager Jones arranged to have himself paid 5 pounds sterling more than the other members of the group, a practice which did not sit well with Jagger and Richards.

While Jagger would later become known for his stage antics and dance movements, initially he was considered a rather stiff and unengaging lead singer. Jones, by contrast, was much more animated, frequently moving to all parts of the stage and openly flirting with female members of the audience. Before long Jagger would emulate this practice.

Throughout much of 1963 Jones, Jagger and Richards shared an apartment in Chelsea, London at 102 Edith Grove with James Phelge, a future photographer whose last name would later be used in some of the band's writing credits. While they lived there Jones would give Richards guitar lessons and showed Jagger how to play the harmonica properly.

Fame and fortune

Jones' intention was to bring the "authentic" rhythm and blues sound to audiences in the UK. Meanwhile, Jagger and Richards had their sights set on stardom. The band eventually found a manager in Andrew Loog Oldham, who was very fond of the Anthony Burgess book A Clockwork Orange, visualized the band as becoming the "rebellious" response to The Beatles, and indeed wanted them to be similar to the book's protagonist and his gang. Ian Stewart was fired and instead became the band's road manager, because of his appearance and the claim that six musicians were too many to have in a band at the time. Oldham and Jones did not get along well, and Oldham preferred that Jagger and Richards become the band's songwriters and leaders. Jones gave in to them and gradually ceded control of the group. His role was downplayed, while Jagger and Richards' was emphasised.

In 1964 Jones fathered yet another child out of wedlock, this time to girlfriend Linda Lawrence. Jones also named this child Julian Mark Lawrence, and Julian would adopt the surname Leitch after Lawrence later married the folk singer Donovan.

Throughout his career Jones showed incredible musical aptitude, having the ability to turn his hand to a myriad of instruments. Throughout his years with the band he played guitar, slide guitar, piano, sitar, tamboura, organ, dulcimer, mellotron, xylophone, marimba, recorder, clarinet and several others instruments. In total he is known to have played at least 30 instruments with the Stones. It is rumoured that, upon being given his first sitar, Jones went into his room and mastered the complicated instrument within 30 minutes. Brian's signature guitar, seen pictured, is a teardrop-shaped prototype Vox Phantom Mark III, though he used many others throughout his career, being fond of Gibson models as well.

Brian contributed significantly to many of the Rolling Stones' more popular songs - he played slide guitar on "Little Red Rooster", "No Expectations" and "Jig-Saw Puzzle", sitar on "Paint It Black" and "Street Fighting Man", and lead guitar on many of the Stones' early songs, such as "Get Off Of My Cloud" and "It's All Over Now". "2000 Light Years From Home", originally a piece of filler, was single-handedly turned into a huge hit by Jones playing the mellotron. When he wasn't playing guitar, he was almost always playing something else, often several instruments on one track.

He, along with Keith Richards, created the guitar weaving technique that has become a signature part of the sound of the Rolling Stones. It involves both guitarists switching frequently between rhythm and lead parts. As a consequence many fans remain unsure who plays many of the Stones' early guitar solos. This can usually be determined from Jones' and Richards' respective playing styles - Richards is heavily influenced by Chuck Berry and as a result his guitar work is based mostly from rock 'n roll (with some exceptions), whereas Jones frequently dabbles into country, blues and jazz.

The 1966 album Aftermath and the 1967 albums Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request showcase Jones's multi-instrumental talents throughout.

Around this time Jones purchased Cotchford Farm in Essex, formerly home of Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne.

Estrangement from the Rolling Stones

Missing image
Brian Jones playing a Vox electric mandolin in 1967.

During this time Jones became increasingly fond of drugs and alcohol. He frequently smoked marijuana, used LSD and cocaine, and was known to drink large amounts of beer and hard liquor. Despite Richards' heroin use Jones was known to avoid it. A man who claims to have been one of Jones's dealers reports that he snorted an almost deadly amount of cocaine in the time it took for the dealer to go to the bathroom and was completely unfazed.

He had a lengthy conversation with a News Of The World reporter in 1967, in which he openly discussed his own drug use and invited the reporter to partake with him. The reporter, mistaking Jones for Mick Jagger, promptly told the authorities, which resulted in the famous Redlands drug bust of 1967, in which Jagger, Keith Richards and a guest were arrested.

Jones himself was also arrested for drug use, first in May 1967 shortly after the Redlands incident. Authorities found marijuana, cocaine and Methedrine in his possession. He confessed to marijuana use but claimed he did not use hard drugs. Like his bandmates, protesters appeared outside court demanding he be freed, and he was not kept in jail for long, managing to convince authorities he was a suicide risk. He was therefore fined, given probation and made to see a counselor.

In 1967, Jones attended the Monterey Pop Festival. Although he did not play, his appearance earned him the title "king of the festival". He attended the festival with singer Nico of the Velvet Underground, with whom he had a brief romantic relationship. Here he met Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper. Upon meeting Zappa for the first time (who praised Jones for his contribution to the Stones album Between The Buttons), a drunken Jones burped in his face. He later used LSD in a tent with Hopper and started a long friendship with Hendrix.

Jagger and Richards, for their part, gradually became more and more hostile towards Jones, though it is uncertain what exactly caused this rift. By some reports they were abusive to and unappreciative of Jones throughout the Stones' career, and by other accounts, tensions rose because Jones was too intoxicated to contribute anything meaningful in his later years. In the summer of 1967 Jones's girlfriend Anita Pallenberg ran off with Richards while he was in hospital, worsening the rift. It is rumored that the guilt Richards felt from betraying Jones contributed greatly to his famous heroin habit in the 1970s. On one occasion Jones arrived at the studio in the middle of a session, asking "What can I play?". Jagger replied "I don't know, Brian, what can you play?".

The 1968 album Beggars' Banquet is often referred to as Jones' last real effort with the Stones, and while he plays acoustic guitar, slide guitar, sitar, mellotron, tamboura, electric keyboard and harmonica on various tracks (and even contributes backing vocals on one), on their 1969 album Let It Bleed he contributed comparatively very little.

His last formal appearance with the Stones was in the December 1968 The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a part-concert, part-circus act film organized by the band. It went unreleased for 25 years due to Mick Jagger being unhappy with the band's performance when compared to other bands in the film, such as Jethro Tull, The Who and Taj Mahal. In the film the effects of Jones' heavy drug and alcohol use are evident.

Other contributions

While Jones was moving further away from the Rolling Stones, he was also collaborating with other musicians and embarking on his own projects. He befriended Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Pete Townshend, among others, and played with a myriad of bands and musicians as early as 1964.

In 1966 Jones produced, played on, and wrote part of the soundtrack for the film "Mort und Totschlag" (aka "A Degree Of Murder"), an avant-garde German film his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg had been working on. He hired various musicians to play on the soundtrack, among them guitarist Jimmy Page.

Jones also recorded a handful of songs with Hendrix and Dave Mason of Traffic in early 1968, in addition to playing the alto saxophone on a Beatles song, "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)".

In 1968, Jones recorded the Morocco-based ensemble, the Master Musicians Of Jajouka. In 1971, Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Jajouka was posthumously released; it remains a World Music landmark. Jagger returned to Jajouka in 1989 to record the musicians for the Stones album Steel Wheels.


A second arrest occurred in 1968, this time for marijuana possession. Jones claimed the marijuana was left behind by previous owners of his home, and was facing a long jail sentence if found guilty, due to his probation. The jury found him guilty, yet the judge had sympathy for Jones, instead giving him a fine and warning him "For goodness sake, don't get into trouble again or it really will be serious."

In early June 1969, Jones was sacked from the group he had formed. He was replaced by virtuoso guitarist Mick Taylor (who, it was rumoured, had already started working with the band weeks before Brian was sacked under the guise of an "amicable split"). Towards the end of his life, he stopped most of his drug use and was on the verge of recording with producer Jimmy Miller and other blues musicians, but Brian nevertheless drowned almost a month later in his swimming pool, seemingly under the influence of alcohol and sedatives. The coroner's report stated "Death by misadventure." However, his then-girlfriend Anna Wohlin claimed in 2000 that he had been murdered by a builder who had been staying with them renovating the house the couple shared. The builder, Frank Thorogood, reputedly confessed to the murder on his deathbed but passed away before a confession could be recorded by the authorities.

Upon his death, Pete Townshend composed an unreleased song titled "A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day." Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on US television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors wrote a published poem entitled "Ode To L.A. While Thinking Of Brian Jones, Deceased".

The Rolling Stones performed a free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969, two days after his death. Critics accused them of being callous and uncaring about their former bandmate, and supporters pointed to the fact that they dedicated the entire concert to him. In between songs Jagger read a poem by Percy Shelley and released a flock of white doves, in addition to the Stones playing a Johnny Winter song that was one of Brian's favorites, "I'm Yours And I'm Hers".

Jones was buried in a lavish silver and bronze casket sent for his funeral in Cheltenham, England by friend Bob Dylan. The Stones asked fans to stay away and only Watts and Wyman attended the funeral.

Writing credits

A handful of early Stones recordings were credited to "Nanker Phelge", a pseudonym indicating that all members of the group (including Jones) authored the song. Nanker was a strange face Jones and Richards would often make, and Phelge came from their former roommate James Phelge.

According to many sources, he authored the song "Ruby Tuesday" (on which he played piano, recorder and sang backing vocals) and the guitar riff on "Honky Tonk Women", however both songs were ultimately credited to Jagger and Richards. "Honky Tonk Women" was the last song to feature Brian, and the only Rolling Stones song to feature both Brian's and Mick Taylor's guitar work (although Jagger and Richards attempted to edit out Jones' work).

Despite this, Jones remains officially credited with only a few obscure songs (including a song the band performed incognito for a commercial in 1964 endorsing Rice Krispies), while Jagger and Richards have frequently commented throughout the years that Jones was incapable of writing complete songs.

Public image

As well as a rock star, Jones was a popular fashion icon. As the most photogenic member of the Rolling Stones, his style of dress did more to influence the fashion scene of swinging 1960s London than perhaps any other musician. He was also known for deliberately walking around crowded streets until girls would recognize him and start chasing him, at which point he would run away as fast as he could (a la The Beatles in the film A Hard Day's Night). He was possibly the inspiration for the opening scene of the movie Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, in which a similar thing happens to the title character. He was of small stature at 5'6", with blue-green eyes and blond hair.

He, along with Jagger, was one of the most politically-inclined members of the Stones - he stated in an interview that abortion and recreational drug use should be legal, and expressed his support for the gay rights movement.

He is one of the members of the 27 Club, an informal term given to rock musicians (or in some cases, musicians in general) who die at the young age of 27. Other "members" include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison (who died 2 years to the day after Jones) and Kurt Cobain.

Steven Davis' novel, Joujouka Rolling Stone is a fictionalised account of Jones' last years.


fr:Brian Jones nl:Brian Jones ja:ブライアン・ジョーンズ no:Brian Jones sv:Brian Jones


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools