Isham Jones
Isham Jones, 1922
Isham Jones, 1922
Background information
Birth nameIsham Edgar Jones
Born(1894-01-31)January 31, 1894
Coalton, Ohio, U.S.
OriginSaginaw, Michigan, U.S.
DiedOctober 19, 1956(1956-10-19) (aged 62)
Hollywood, Florida, U.S.
GenresDance band
  • Musician
  • bandleader
  • songwriter
  • Piano
  • saxophone
Years active1911–1938

Isham Edgar Jones (January 31, 1894 – October 19, 1956)[1] was an American bandleader, saxophonist, bassist and songwriter.[2]


Jones was born in Coalton, Ohio, United States,[1] to a musical and mining family. His father, Richard Isham Jones (1865–1945), was a violinist.[3][4] The family moved to Saginaw, Michigan, where Jones grew up and started his first ensemble for church concerts.[5] In 1911 one of Jones's earliest compositions "On the Alamo" was published by Tell Taylor Inc.[6]

In 1915, Jones moved to Chicago, Illinois. He performed at the Green Mill Gardens, then began playing at Fred Mann's Rainbo Gardens.[7] Chicago remained his home until 1932, when he settled in New York City. He also toured England with his orchestra in 1925.[8]

Isham Jones in 1922

In 1917, he composed the tune "We're In The Army Now" (also known as "You're In the Army Now") when the United States entered World War I. The same tune was popular during World War II and it is played by the U.S. Army Band.[9]

The Isham Jones band made a series of popular gramophone records for Brunswick throughout the 1920s. His first 26 sides, made at Rainbo Gardens, were credited to "Isham Jones' Rainbo Orchestra".[10] By the end of 1920, the name was simply "Isham Jones' Orchestra".[11]

He led one of the most popular dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s.[1] His first successful recording, "Wabash Blues" written by Dave Ringle and Fred Meinken, was recorded in 1921. This million-seller stayed for twelve weeks in the U.S. charts, six at No. 1.[12] It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.[13] Noted musicians who played in Jones's band included Louis Panico, Benny Goodman (although no records were made during the short time he was there), Woody Herman, Walt Yoder, and Roy Bargy. Reed virtuoso Al Gallodoro appeared briefly with Jones in 1933, taking part in a record date October 3.[14]

From the start, his Brunswick records were popular. There was a gap from October 1927 to June 1929 where Jones did not record due to disbanding and reorganization.[citation needed]

From 1929 to 1932, his Brunswick recordings became even more sophisticated with offbeat arrangements by Gordon Jenkins and others; Jones was his own arranger early on, but cultivated others.[1] During this period, Jones started featuring violinist Eddie Stone as one of his regular vocalists. Stone had an unusual, almost humorous tone to his voice. His other vocalists included Frank Sylvano, Billy Scott, and Arthur Jarrett. In 1932, he added Joe Martin, another of the band's violinists, as a frequent vocalist. In April that year, young Bing Crosby recorded two sessions with Jones's group which included "Sweet Georgia Brown". Crosby at this point in his career was still singing in a jazz idiom, transitioning to his better known "crooner" style.[citation needed]

In August 1932, Jones signed with Victor, and these records are considered among the best arranged and performed commercial dance band records of the Depression era. Victor's recording technique was suited to Jones' band. In October 1932, he teamed up with the Three X Sisters in New York who had just departed from CBS radio. They recorded "experimental" songs for RCA Victor in which Jones began to fuse jazz and early swing music. They recorded "Where? (I Wonder Where?)" and "What Would Happen to Me If Something Happened to You." His Victor releases had an almost symphonic sound, often with a strong use of tuba. During his Victor period, he recorded two long playing "Program Transcription" records as part of Victor's unsuccessful 33 1/3 RPM series. He stayed with Victor until July 1934, when he signed with Decca. Jones's recordings during this period rivaled Paul Whiteman, Waring's Pennsylvanians, Leo Reisman and other dance orchestras as examples of the most popular dance music of the era.[citation needed]

Jones' Decca recordings are often unfavorably compared to his Victor recordings, due to Decca's recording techniques, Decca's insisting that Jones re-record many of his Victor recordings, and the apparent smaller size of his orchestra. After he left Decca in 1936, he again retired and his orchestra was taken over by band member Woody Herman.[1] Jones started a new band in 1937–38 and recorded a handful of sessions under the ARC labels: Melotone, Perfect and Banner.[citation needed]

In the 1940s, Jones resided on his poultry farm in Colorado, which he occasionally left for short tours with pickup bands. He later resided in Los Angeles. He moved to Hollywood, Florida in 1955, and died there of cancer in 1956.[15]

His great-nephew was jazz drummer Rusty Jones.[16]


Isham Jones was the leader of one of America's most popular dance bands in the first half of the 20th century, between the two World Wars. His remarkable string of chart-topping compositions between 1922 and 1925, in collaboration with lyricist Gus Kahn, and later with Charles Newman, included eight number 1 records, an unequaled body of work for a full-time band leader. Each of the following selections peaked in the top ten, according to Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954.[17]

The following songs were composed by Jones:

Other Chart-topping recordings

This group were hits, but written by other composers:




  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1313. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Schneider, Wayne (2003). "Jones, Isham (1894 - 1956), bandleader, composer, pianist : Grove Music Online - oi". doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.j236000. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on May 15, 1932 · 28". 15 May 1932. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  4. ^ Jones (1945). "Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952". FamilySearch.
  5. ^ "Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on May 10, 1935 · 18". 10 May 1935. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  6. ^ "Isham Jones - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  7. ^ CD liner notes: Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides, 2014 Archeophone Records
  8. ^ "Isham Jones". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  9. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1917). Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1917 Music New Series Vol 12 Part 3. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  10. ^ "Isham Jones and his Rainbo Orchestra". Red Hot Jazz Archive. 16 November 2020. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Isham Jones and his Orchestra". Red Hot Jazz Archive. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  12. ^ CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
  13. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 12. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  14. ^ "Isham Jones Biography". Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Songwriters Hall of Fame - Alan Jay Lerner Biography". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Jazz drummer Rusty Jones dies at 73". Chicago Tribune. 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 135. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Isham Jones and his Orchestra". Red Hot Jazz Archive. 30 October 2020. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  19. ^ "Brunswick matrix 9142-9144. Broken hearted melody / Isham Jones Orchestra - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  20. ^ "Victor matrix BSHQ-73172. I Can't Believe It's True / Bert Lown Orchestra". Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  21. ^ "I'll Never Have to Dream Again". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  22. ^ "Brunswick matrix 12160-12164. The one I love belongs to somebody else / Isham Jones Orchestra - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  23. ^ "Brunswick matrix 28Ch-29Ch. The one I love belongs to somebody else / Isham Jones Orchestra ; Al Jolson - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  24. ^ "Victor matrix BS-74703. Why can't this night go on forever / Frank Hazzard ; Isham Jones Orchestra". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  25. ^ "You're in the Army Now". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Library of Congress, Copyright Office (1959). Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third series. Library of Congress. p. 763.
  27. ^ "You've Got Me Crying Again". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  28. ^ "Lockhart, Gene - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  29. ^ "Nobody's Sweetheart". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  30. ^ hennessey. "Isham Jones Rainbo Orchestra, Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides". Archeophone Records. Retrieved 2021-09-27.