The long-awaited memoir of the legendary drummer's life and times in the bands Small Faces, Faces, and The Who.
From the Mod revolution and the British Invasion of the 1960s, through the psychedelic era of the 1970s, and into the exuberance and excesses of stadium rock in the 1980s, Kenney Jones helped to build rock and roll as we know it. He was the beat behind three of the world's most enduring and significant bands.
He wasn't just in the right place at the right time. Along with Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Charlie Watts, Jones is regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time, sought after by a wide variety of the best-known and best-selling artists to bring his unique skill into the studio for the recording of classic albums and songs—including, of course, the Rolling Stones's "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)."
And Jones is no shallow rock star. He may play polo with royalty from across the globe now, but this is the story of a ragamuffin from the East End of London, a boy who watched his bandmates, friends since his teens, die early, combated dyslexia to find a medium in which he could uniquely excel, and later found a way through the wilderness years when the good times seemed to have gone and he had little to fall back on.
Kenney Jones has seen it all, played with everyone, and partied with all of them. He's enjoyed the highs, battled the lows, and emerged in one piece. Let the Good Times Roll is a breathtaking immersion into music past that leaves readers feeling as if they lived it too.
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About the Author
Kenney Jones shot to fame at age sixteen as the drummer for Small Faces, later reorganized as Faces. He joined The Who after the death of Keith Moon. Currently a member of The Jones Gang, he has also appeared on albums by The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Art Garfunkel, and many more.
Let the Good Times Roll: My Life in Small Faces, Faces, and The Who is Kenney's autobiography.
Read an Excerpt
A RIGHT LITTLE HERBERT
"Nah. Never heard of him."
That would have been the response to anyone in the 1950s walking down Havering Street in London's East End, where I grew up, asking where Kenny Jones lived. Back then I was known to my mates and everyone on the street as Kenny Ward.
I was the only child of Violet Elizabeth Jones and Samuel Thomas Jones, born on 16 September 1948. We lived at number 34 with my mum's parents, Jane and William Ward. That terraced house in Stepney had been the Ward family home for, well it seemed like forever, and although Kenneth Thomas Jones was my real name, no one ever thought of me as that. My grand-parents were part of the furniture of Stepney, and very nearly ended up as part of the street itself.
My grandfather used to tell the story of a bomb dropping at the bottom of Havering Street during the Blitz, down by Commercial Road, while he and my nan were in bed. I don't know why there wasn't an air-raid siren, but obviously they woke up with the explosion. It was a very near miss. Not only did all the windows of their house shatter, but the blast was sufficiently strong also to blow in the bedroom window frame, which ended up hanging around their necks as they were sitting up, probably thinking this was it for them.
I saw something similar happen many years later to a very angry man in a hotel lobby in Honolulu, although with a picture rather than window frame. I thought it was a laugh; I'm sure my grandparents didn't find their experience at all amusing.
Our house in Havering Street was the centre of the whole family, the Joneses and the Wards. A happy home, full of love and affection. My dad's parents also lived close by, across the road, near Arbour Square nick, where I made my first public appearance. I'll get on to that in a moment.
Mum always told me that it was Nan and Granddad who brought me up because she was too ill. She was always telling me she was ill, and while it's true she didn't always keep the best of health, she lived to the age of 89. I think I'm right in saying that she was among the first women in England to undergo a pioneering colostomy procedure, a big deal back then. I was 16 at the time, and remember visiting her in hospital, telling her all about my hit record that had just come out. She was in the London Jewish Hospital, on Stepney Green, not that we are Jewish, but that, of course, didn't matter at all; people of all religions were cared for there. Mum was very well looked after.
The hospital had originally been built to help meet the needs of the large Jewish community who were very much part of the fabric of the East End, many working in the garment industry, known as the "rag trade", and contributing to the vivid character of the streets on which I played and sometimes ran riot.
One Jewish lady in particularly stands out in my memory – or more precisely what she sold stands out. She ran a delicatessen on Cable Street, around the corner from us, where you could buy bread and dripping for a farthing. To serve you, she would tuck the loaf under her arm, dip her knife into the jar of dripping, slather it over the end of the bread, then slice off a massive doorstep. Brilliant.
Right opposite that deli was another source of wonderful treats – the local fish and chip shop. Not that we could afford the fish, but that didn't matter. For a penny you could walk out of that place with a bag of crackling – the scraps of batter that had fallen off the fish or saveloys of whatever was being cooked in the fryer. Better than boring old cod any day.
Before illness restricted Mum's working life, she was an engraver and cutter for T. & W. Ide, a glass factory just off Cable Street, very near my school. The section where she worked was fronted by a large, frosted window, embedded with wire mesh for security. This being the East End though, nothing was entirely safe. Some urchin had shot at it with an air rifle, leaving a convenient peep hole about the size of a sixpence, or a tanner as we knew it, for me to eyeball Mum and attract her attention with a shout of, "Can I have half a crown?"
If she had anything in her purse she would quickly duck round to the side door and slip the coin to me. She was good like that. Then I'd trot off to school, deciding what to spend it on. I don't think it would have been cigarettes then, this was in Primary days, but I can't be sure.
Dad was a lorry driver. He'd learned to drive trucks in the army during the war, and after being demobbed he joined the firm J. Packers and Sons, based in Canning Town. In those days it was a motor and trailer, not an artic as is common now. Dad drove and his mate looked after the trailer. The lorry cab housed a big engine covering, which I loved to sit on because it was warm and exciting. They used to take me on trips, long distance sometimes, and even then, long before I'd ever thought of becoming a drummer, I had the best seat in the house, sitting between the two of them pretending to drive.
I got on well with Dad, I loved him to bits. He was quiet, loving and unassuming, but there was also a roguish element to him. I used to wonder what the hell was going on when, every now and again, he would come home, almost certainly after enjoying a few pints at the local, walk into the kitchen and throw a wad of cash into the air. It was such a sight. Notes back then were the size of a newspaper, and they used to float slowly and gently to the ground. I'm sure he was up to no good. That's probably how he managed to afford the various cars he bought over the years, including a fantastic Austin convertible which he loved. I loved it too, even though I once suffered a burn on my leg in that car. Mum and Dad were both smokers and one of them flicked a butt out when the top was down and it flew back in, landing on me, squeezed in the back. There were only ever a handful of cars parked on Havering Street while I was growing up, and one of them would be Dad's. Ask no questions, that was the neighborhood motto. Everyone understood that.
Flamboyant gestures were unusual for my father, who was by nature a shy man. Unless he'd been to the pub. Then a more theatrical side of his personality would nudge itself to the surface. I recall arriving home from school to find Dad a little worse for wear after an afternoon with his mates, during which he'd concocted a plan to play a trick on Mum. He was clearly very pleased with himself, sitting there with a smile as wide as the Thames.
"On you go, son," he said, gesturing towards the kitchen. "Take a look in the sink."
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Staring back at me was a pig's head. Wearing a flat cap – or a cheese-cutter as they were called in the East End.
This is going to be great.
Just after five o'clock, Mum arrived home from her work at the glass factory. "Cup of tea, Sam?"
Off she went to the kitchen, while Dad and I sat in the front room, desperately trying to suppress giggles as we waited for the big moment. Nothing. We could hear her putting groceries into the cupboard, taking out the biscuit tin, setting cups and saucers on the table, tidying up. Then at last, she went to fill the kettle. Crash! It clattered to the floor as Mum started screaming like mad. She thought it was a human; we thought it was hilarious.
Dad and I had a very similar sense of humour. We had a television at home (again, ask no questions), a massive thing with a tiny picture, it looked like an eyeball, and once when a cowboy show came on, Dad said to me, "Have you noticed son, how the horses never shit?" "Yeah Dad. I have." "Ah, but have you ever looked behind the set?" That made me laugh for ages.
Argentinean beef was a regular delivery for Dad, and sometimes (fairly often, in fact) during his round he would call in to home for a cup of tea and drop off some 'goods' for Mum. My father's brother, Uncle Jim, was a lorry driver as well. He delivered tea in big wooden chests. That was handy.
Although we didn't have much money, we didn't want for much. Growing up I lived off tea, Argentinean beef ... and bananas when available on the markets. That's what it was like in the East End. Most people either worked as drivers, on the docks, or on stalls; bartering was a way of life.
The Kray twins, the gangsters, were distant cousins on Dad's side and I am sure I must have come across them as a kid, but I wouldn't have paid them any special attention; everyone around me was a rogue. Dad's driving mate, for instance, was father to Roy James, who went on to become one of the Great Train Robbers. My cousin Billy Boy, eldest son of my dad's sister Nel, and Uncle Bill, worked with the Krays. Billy Boy was a bit of a villain. I felt I was forever being dragged on busses and trains to Wormwood Scrubs to visit him when he was in the nick. It would never have occurred to Mum and Dad not to go see him; they were Billy Boy's favourite aunt and uncle after all. Nor did they hesitate for a second about whether to take me along, even if it was intimidating for a small lad to walk through those massive prison gates. We lived in a close-knit community, where family mattered. Values were different from those of today.
When I was in my early teens, Billy Boy met this woman and broke out of prison to marry her. We all attended the wedding in a church just off Cable Street. Of course we did, we wouldn't have dreamt of missing such a happy event.
Dad's family was Welsh, not that he spoke the language or anything. He was an East End boy through and through, but his father was born in Wales and all the family had Welsh names. As for me, I was named after my dad's best mate in the army, Kenneth. I always preferred Kenny. I only added the extra 'e' when I was 16 and starting out in the Small Faces. I'd just become a member of the Performing Rights Society (PRS), which looks after the interests of musicians and songwriters. I thought joining the PRS was great, like I'd really made it. Then I began to receive letters and royalty cheques for other people with similar names – turned out there were about five Ken Joneses, a few Kenneth Joneses, and number of Kenny Joneses. I contacted the PRS and suggested adding an 'e' in my name to make the difference. It stuck.
Our house on Havering Street is still there; the area hasn't suffered "development" because the street is listed. I don't think it's because of me; it's classic architecture. Although they were talking about putting up one of those plaques, saying "Kenney Jones lived here". Underneath it they'd probably have added, "So what?" Actually, there's now one in Carnaby Street for the Small Faces. It's green. That's important. It means I'm alive; it's blue if you're dead. For the Carnaby Street plaque, I suggested either turquoise or half-and-half blue and green, because at the time two of the band were dead. They didn't go for it.
I must confess, I like having that plaque. When they told me about it, I thought, "Oh, good, just like Nelson".
Havering Street felt like our own little village, with its own identity, a good identity. A lot of East End streets were like that. The people there supported each other, looked out for each other and occasionally knew a little more about each other than they might have liked.
We all had outside toilets, and everyone knew when old man Bainham, the grandfather of our next-door neighbours, had to go. Early morning you'd hear him in there, coughing his guts up, waking half the street.
I loved living in Havering Street with my parents. I felt comfortable and happy. I remained there well after I started enjoying success with the Small Faces, but once I did buy a place of my own, I didn't for a second miss that outside loo. The cold in winter made it a tortuous experience. Your bum would stick to the seat. Man, that was painful.
Strange to think that by the end of the 1960s, millions of people watching Top of the Pops and other music shows had seen Steve Marriott step into that same khazi, which featured in the "Lazy Sunday" video we made. So much for privacy. Still, mustn't grumble.
Mum and Dad shared my huge affection for Havering Street. To the extent that it ended up costing me money. In the 1970s while I was with the Faces, I was living near the Robin Hood Gate, Richmond Park, in an area called Kingston Hill. Whenever Mum and Dad came to stay they would comment that it felt like having a house in the countryside, something they'd always dreamed of. For them, anything outside of the East End was rural.
"Well why don't you come and live with me, then? There's plenty of room."
No. They said they wanted their own house. So, when I began to make decent money from touring, I bought them one close by – a terrace house at the bottom of Kingston Hill costing £11,500. It was right next to the shops, with a lovely garden and shed. Perfect. Not dissimilar to their place in Stepney, but within a minute's walk of Richmond Park and its open spaces. I decided to spring a surprise. I told them I'd bought it as an investment, and wanted them to come over and take a look, so I could talk them through the plans I had to renovate. They were enthusiastic and seemed to really like it. Time for the big reveal. I had a whole speech prepared. This was going to be great.
"The two of you have supported me all my life, made sacrifices and worked hard to give me every opportunity and chance you possibly could. Well now is the time when I give you something back, with my eternal gratitude and love. The house is yours." Ta-da!
Their faces fell. "You haven't, have you?" I wasn't sure how to take that. I think it was the sudden realisation that they would actually have to do something drastic in their lives, rather than just talk about it.
Back at my place they were quiet all afternoon. Eventually I asked, "What's wrong? Don't you like the house?"
"Yes, but we don't know anyone up here."
"You know me. And there's a pub opposite. What more could you want?"
A proper home, that was the answer. And they already had that. I hadn't thought it through. Sure, they liked talking about moving, a place in the country and all that, it was fun, but they didn't really want to do it. They were happy where they lived (we'd installed an inside toilet by then). I understood that.
I sold the house for ten grand, a loss of fifteen hundred quid.
We decided to look at buying their place. It was owned by a housing association, with Mum and Dad as sitting tenants, and when an opportunity arose to make the purchase I jumped at it. I knew we had to move fast if it was going to happen, but again I underestimated my parents' deep connection to the street. It wasn't merely the house they loved, it was the whole community. They weren't prepared to go it alone, they wanted to be part of a neighbours' group that was going to put forward a collective case for home ownership. That's the East End way, sticking together. Unfortunately, it all took too long to organise and the chance was lost. I was very sorry about that. It would have meant a lot to me for Mum and Dad to own their home. To this day I retain deep affection and close ties with Havering Street, visiting regularly. Mum and Dad would like that.
* * *
I enjoyed the first school I attended, Marion Richardson Primary, located just off Commercial Road. I first went there for nursery, where I used to fall asleep in the sandpit, before moving on to 'big' school, Primary 1. I stayed at Marion Richardson for a few years, and for a period I was quite happy, mainly because of the guy who taught maths, sums basically. I thought he was great, because for the first time in my life I found I was learning something. With his guidance and patience, I could add up. I remember him setting the class a question and me raising my hand, giving the correct answer. Unheard of. Maybe the only time it happened in my school life. Amazing.
With all the other subjects though, I struggled. I spent most classes standing in the corner of the room, with a dunce's hat on. Really, that did happen. Regularly. You can imagine how the other kids loved that – I had the piss taken out of me constantly. It doesn't take long for that to wear thin. Eventually Mum was called into a meeting with the headmistress, who declared, "Mrs Jones, your son has a lazy brain." How is that going to help any child?
Years later I learned that my problems at school resulted from dyslexia, not that we knew the word then, or anything about it. I think maths – and music – might be things I am okay at because I visualise numbers and notes in a different way from how I see letters. In many ways, I now view dyslexia as a gift, if you know how to handle it. Seeing the world differently can be a real advantage. You find ways around problems. You don't accept the first thing that's put in front of you. But it comes at a price, obviously.
As for learning to write, my mum taught me, by having me copy out swirly patterns she drew on a page, until I became accustomed to forming letters. If you look at my signature now, you can see where it comes from – Mum's patterns.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Let The Good Times Roll"
Copyright © 2018 Kenney Jones.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A Right Little Herbert,
Chapter 2: Blinkin' Heck,
Chapter 3: Just a Noise,
Chapter 4: Caviar and Brown Sauce,
Chapter 5: All in the Mind's Eye,
Chapter 6: That's What We Did There,
Chapter 7: Nuts Gone Flakey,
Chapter 8: Fancy a Drink?,
Chapter 9: Men of the World,
Chapter 10: Not High, Not Happy,
Chapter 11: Trading Places,
Chapter 12: Knowing My Luck,
Chapter 13: Testing Times,
Chapter 14: Band of Brothers,
Chapter 15: A Stork's Tale,
About the Author,