Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones

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August 30, 1985 (Age 62) died

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July 15, 1923 Birthday

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. Birthplace

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Philly Joe Jones was an influential jazz drummer. He was the first call drummer for greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Tadd Dameron. Jones played in Tadd Dameron's big band before going on to become part of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet. Following his run with Davis, he put out several albums as leader and continued to be a highly sought after sideman, playing on recordings for Blue Note, Riverside and Prestige labels. After a teaching stint in Europe in the late 1960s, he returned to the states where he led a fusion group called Le Grand Prix and founded the group Dameronia, dedicated to the music of the composer Tadd Dameron. Jones died of a heart attack in 1985.


As a child, Jones appeared as a tap dancer on The Kiddie Show on the Philadelphia radio Station WIP. He used the name "Philly Joe” Jones in order to distinguish himself from Count Basie’s drummer, Jo Jones. Both Miles Davis and Bill Evans identified Philly Joe Jones as their favorite drummer.

Early Life

Joseph Rudolph Jones was born in Philadelphia in 1923. He started playing the drums as a child and was given some musical instruction by his mother, who was a piano teacher. At age 16 he joined the army and then returned to Philadelphia where he worked as a streetcar operator in order to save up money to buy his first set of drums. During this time he also played in clubs around Philadelphia, serving as the local drummer for artists like Dexter Gordon and Fats Navarro.