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May 15, 2014

Kenneth Jones to be inducted into western swing Hall of Fame

McALESTER — A well-know local Western Swing guitarist will soon be inducted in the Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame.

On July 12, Kenneth Jones, 76, of Kiowa, will be inducted into the WSMSS Hall of Fame on July 12 in Lawton.

“He is one of the top Western Swing musicians and he deserves it,” WSMSS Hall of Fame Coordinator Grady Thomas.

“We should have done this a long ago,” Thomas said.

“We had to wait until he was nominated; once we saw his name we jumped on it.”

Thomas said he was nominated for his longevity in the Western Swing genre and because “he’s a an excellent guitar player.”

More than 400 people are expected at the event at the Great Plains Convention Center in Lawton, according to WSMSS President Larry Lange.

“The WSMSS was formed in 1998 and our purpose is to perpetuate the Western Swing genre,” Lange said. “Each year we honor 12 to 15 people from across southwestern United States.”

Jones said he’s played Western Swing for most all of his life.

“I cut my teeth playing Western Swing,” he said.

Jones said he studied under famous musicians such as Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, Eldon Samblin, Bennie Garcia, Jack Rider and Pat Martino.

Jones said played with some of the best Western Swing musicians including, Speedy West, Johnny Gimble, Jack Rider, Johnnie Lee Wills, Hank Thompson and many others.

Jones said ‘s played music just about everywhere in Oklahoma, Arkansas and most of Louisiana. He’s also played at Western Swing festivals in Colorado.

Although he never got to play with the legendary Western Swing musician Bob Wills he played music with most of Will’s Texas Playboy’s band members.

In addition to playing standard guitar and steel guitar, Jones said he also played the drums.

“I played the drums since I was 5-years-old my dad taught me to play guitar by making chords bar-chord style,” Jones said. “I loved every minute of it.”

Jones said his family helped bring Western Swing to Pittsburg County when it opened the “Big Red Barn” 1953 in Kiowa.

“It was the center Western Swing Music in this area,” Jones said.

The building was converted from a foundry and his father’s band the “Oklahoma Playboys” played every Saturday night from 9 to midnight.

Famous Western Swing musicians such as Bob Wills, Merle Lindsay, Hank Thompson and others would come play at the Red Barn, according to Jones.

“Willie Nelson and his trio band were regulars on the first Wednesday night of every month,” Jones said. “Willie had a regular weekend show up north arranged with me to stop over and play at our place on the way home, so it worked out for Willie and for us.”

The July WSMSS Hall of Fame induction will include the ceremony and awards presentation on the Thursday July 10 followed by dancing and jam sessions and will continue all day Friday and Saturday with dancing and music, according to the induction letter.

Jones said he’s proud of his Western Swing heritage and he hopes the genre continues.

He said he has a motto: “It don’t mean a thing if isn’t Western Swing.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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