JOHN HERBERT JONES, JR.
When born in Billings, Montana on October 24, 1929, John supposedly took a single breath of air and began singing…at least according to his mother. “And he was the only one in the family who could sing on pitch,” she added, comparing his voice to those of his four sisters: three older, Helen, Gladys and Marion; one younger, Janet.
His singing matured at the United Methodist Church in Polson during high school years, continuing to develop at the College of Puget Sound in Washington State where he earned a Bachelor’s of Music and his first Masters of Music degrees. His second Masters – majoring in voice – he earned at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He won auditions during summer breaks for a variety of summer stock companies’ musical productions, mostly performing second leads at the Texas State Fair Musicals, Dallas, a highly acclaimed company that attracted Hollywood and Broadway stars to their stage.
When his college years ended, another institution beckoned: the U.S. Army, where (as he jokingly put it) he fought “the battle of Camp Roberts” (California) as a Chaplin’s Assistant, playing piano or organ for all the denominations. His training served him well afterwards, including a solo on the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air.
More traveling musical company roles led to passage money allowing him to travel to the musical Mecca, New York City. Not really expecting much, but young and optimistic, he went to an Equity audition for the smash hit of the decade, My Fair Lady. His first New York audition, and he not only got into the show, he received a contract with a rider making him the understudy of the young romantic lead, “Freddy Eynsford-Hill,” having him perform opposite Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison – which he did more than 200 times during the years he remained with the show.
Applause, starring Lauren Bacall, Ann Baxter. and Arlene Dahl were among his many later Broadway musicals, including Carnival with Liza Minelli. Classical music was his primary focus of genre while in school and when he learned of an audition for the Metropolitan Opera National Company – operated by Rise Stevens – was about to be held, he rushed to attend. He was hired as a baritone with small but significant roles. He was only momentarily hesitant; the tour was to last a year, touring Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
But age had moved him into the bracket that made him realize he was too old for juvenile roles, but too young for character roles. He “compromised” by “playing office” as he put it, for a few years, only occasionally taking singing “gigs.” Bored, until he visited Mexico! A new world, a new life, a new beginning! They even had English language theatre there and weren’t strict about age-casting. He saw 14 houses in one weekend, and returned to New York to spend the entire first night convincing Allen to move to Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, for 17 years, later to Lakeside where he immersed himself in every Los Cantantes production.
John died early Saturday morning, January 7th. He is survived by his sister Janet, and his 62-year-long life partner, Allen McGill, another theatrical performer. The service was held at St. Andrew’s Church in Riberas.