Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Lifestyle

October 25, 2010

Jonesie: Still cruisin'

LOCKPORT — There is only one logical starting point for a running feature about music in Lockport. It starts with Gary Jones, known in musical circles as “Jonesie.”

The local legend whose music career in Western New York began in 1968 is still active with his band Jonesie and the Cruisers. In fact, Jonesie and company are getting ready to celebrate the release of their first album of all original material, “Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” on November 24 at Finnan’s on Lincoln Avenue in Lockport.

The album features themes reminiscent of an era before political correctness, with titles like “Liquor and Poker,” and “Jack Daniels, Harley Davidson and You.” The back cover shows the band sitting at a poker table littered with money, playing cards, poker chips, liquor and beer.

The music is mostly what you would expect out of a band like Jonesie and the Cruisers — hard-driving rockers — but there are a few surprises, like the ballad “How Many Times can a Heart be Broken” and the country-tinged instrumental, “Southern 727.” The production is solid and the sound quality is as good as many national recording artists, quite a feat for a band of guys holding down day jobs.

Gary Jones is a manager and sales rep for Strate Welding Supplies in Lockport. Keyboardist Gary Withey owns Fischers Newstand in Albion. The rest of the band, guitarist George Litz, drummer Ray Fournier and bassist Dennis Beausoliel all hold down day jobs as well.

That made making the album more of a challenge, but the biggest challenge involved the bass player. “If you’ve seen the movie “Spinal Tap” you know how the drummers have tragic endings, (that's what) it has been like with the bass players in this band.” Withey joked. Of course, the band did not have a bass player spontaneously combust, but two of them did leave during the recording phase of the album.

“The album was half done and we lost another bass player so it sat around for another year or two until we could get around to completing it. We went through three different bass players recording this thing.” Withey said. In spite of the lineup changes, Dennis Beausoliel is the only bass player that appears on the album — he recorded over the old bass players' original tracks.

So why would a band that had built its reputation as one of the premier rock cover bands decide to make an album of all original material? Jones noted simply that “people had been asking us to do it for quite awhile.” So the band obliged and three years in the making (and a little over a year after it has been available), the group will finally have a release party the night before Thanksgiving.

The event will also be a celebration of Jonesie’s long local music career, a career that has touched many generations, so long that some people are surprised that Jonesie is still playing. Gary Withey shared a funny story about a repairman who saw Withey wearing a Jonesie t-shirt at his newsstand in Albion, “The guy saw my shirt and asked if Jonsie was still alive, he told me that he had seen Jonsie at the Summer Sizzler back in the 1980s and he was old then.” Jonesie took the comment in stride and had a good laugh with the rest of the band.

As far as why he keeps playing shows, Jonesie humbly noted, “Fortunately we are still drawing large crowds in Lockport, whether or not they are coming to see if I am alive or not I don’t know, but I appreciate the support we get from the Lockport community. We enjoy doing this and I think the reason it works is that we aren’t a bunch of guys who are full of themselves, we are out there having a good time.”

The band agrees that some of their fondest memories date back to the Summer Sizzler at Terry’s Corners in Gasport. “For years they had the Summer Sizzler at Terry’s Corners and our job was to get the crowd going. In our contract we would get a few cases of beer and throw beer into the crowd,” Jonesie said.

That was when the band opened for legendary acts like Kim Mitchell, The Outlaws, Quiet Riot and Rik Emmett. Those days may be gone but the band still has their favorite places to play like Finnan’s and The Wilson Boat House.

“One of our favorite places to play is the Wilson Boat House. We get great crowds and we always play over,” Jonesie said, and drummer Ray Fournier agreed and also noted, “We’re beat at the end of the night but we really enjoy it.”

There were other stories that band members seemed to have a hard time remembering.

“You caught us when we have all aged, our memories just aren’t what they used to be.” Fournier joked. Even though Jonesie and the Cruisers may have aged, they continue to please crowds.

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