Jeanette Jones-What Might Have Been?

The history of soul music is littered with artists who could’ve and should’ve gone on to greater things, but for whatever reason, commercial success and critical acclaim passed them by. That, sadly, was the case with Jeanette Jones.

She had talent in abundance, and a voice that was a mixture of power, passion, emotion and sheer soulfulness. Sadly, Jeanette Jones’ recording career was all too brief, and amounts to just one single, Darling, I’m Standing By You which was released on the Golden Soul label in 1969, and the two years later, was reissued by Kent Records in 1971. Sadly, nothing came of the single. 

Jeanette Jones’ last recording session was in 1974, when she recorded a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg. Sadly, that was the last time she entered a recording studio. It was also the end of Jeanette Jones’ musical career. For Jeanette Jones, the dream was over.

Since then, Jeanette Jones has remained an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Very little is known of her life pre and post music. Nowadays, it is thought that Jeanette Jones lives quietly in San Francisco,

Details of Jeanette Jones’ early life are somewhat sketchy. It’s thought that she was born and brought up in San Francisco. That was certainly where Jeanette Jones first discovered music. 

Just like many future soul singers, Jeanette Jones first started singing in church. That proved to be Jeanette Jones’ gateway into music. However, it was with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir that Jeanette Jones’ first came to prominence.

Cora Wilson had formed The Voices Of Victory gospel choir in 1962. Hers was no ordinary choir though. The Voices of Victory gospel choir featured sixty singers, who travelled the West Coast in their own bus. They sang in churches and at gospel conventions and The Voices of Victory in full flight was  an impressive sight and sound. Especially when the soloists enjoyed their moment in the spotlight. By 1965, one of the soloists was Jeanette Jones.

She was the owner of an impressive and powerful voice. When  Jeanette Jones stepped into the spotlight, she combined, power, passion and emotion. Given the her vocal prowess, it was no surprise that Jeanette Jones was one of the stars of The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Everyone who heard them realised this, including Leo Kulka at Golden State Recorders.

Leo Kulka first encountered Jeanette Jones in November 1965. Cara Wilson had booked Golden State Recorders to record an album by The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Given the size of the choir, Leo Kulka decided to use Golden State Recorders’ larger studio in Harrison Street. After the recording session, Cara Wilson planned to have a limited number of albums pressed which  would be sold after concerts. In a way, Cara Wilson was just testing the water, to see if there was a market for albums featuring her choir. Soon, Leo Kulka realised that Cara Wilson was underselling her choir.

As the recording session got underway, Leo Kulka immediately realised just how good The Voices Of Victory gospel choir were. Cara Wilson’s choir wasn’t just one of the best in San Francisco or even California, but one of the best on the West Coast. Leo Kulka realised this as the session progressed, and Jeanette Jones prepared to record the lead vocal on Why.

When Leo Kulka heard Jeanette Jones’ lead vocal on Why, her voice stopped Leo Kulka in his tracks. It was a cut above the rest of the soloists as Jeanette Jones was capable of singing with power, but was always in control as she delivered the lyrics with emotion and sincerity. From the moment Leo Kulka heard Jeanette Jones sing, he promised himself he was going to sign her. As soon as the recording session was over, Leo Kulka approached Jeanette Jones, with a view to signing her.

Jeanette Jones wasn’t interested in signing a recording contract. She had no intention in crossing over, and instead, wanted to continue to do what she saw as the “Lord’s work” with The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. This must have  come as a surprise to Leo Kulka.

Back in 1965, the majority of singers, including gospel singers, dreamt of signing a recording contract. Even if this meant crossing over from gospel to secular music. Jeanette Jones it appeared was the exception. That was until late 1967.

It wasn’t until late 1967 that  Leo Kulka next encountered Jeanette Jones. By then, things had changed for Jeanette Jones. Not only had she crossed over, and was singing secular music, but she also had acquired a manager, Jay Barrett. 

Jay Barrett explained to Leo Kulka that he wasn’t  from a musical background, and instead, was a banker who was based in Palo Alto. He was a relative newcomer to the music industry, and hope that as well as managing artists, that he could forge a career as a songwriter.Jeanette Jones he hoped, would go on to record some of the songs he had written in the future. With that, Jay Barrett went away to work on a proposal for Jeanette Jones and Leo Kulka.

By then, Jeanette Jones had signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label. This was a smart move by Jeanette Jones, as Leo Kulka had a lifetime of experience within the music industry, and  the knowledge and skill-set  to guide the talented singer through the early stages of her recording career.

 Soon, Jay Barrett came up with a proposal which  stated that if Jeanette Jones was willing to record his songs, then he was willing to part-finance the recording of a demo. This would be recorded Leo Kulka’s Golden State Recorders. Leo Kulka agreed to this, and began preparing for his first session with Jeanette Jones.

The recording session was scheduled to take place in the February of 1968. No expense was spared, and Leo Kulka began to put together an extensive backing band. There was a problem though. The songs that Jay Barrett had written were totally unsuited to Jeanette Jones in their present form.

They were poppy and sounded like a remnant from earlier in the sixties. This was the wrong type of songs for Jeanette Jones and Leo Kulka was faced with a problem. Jay Barrett had agreed to part-finance the demo on the condition that Jeanette Jones recorded some of his songs. It was time for Leo Kulka to put his years of experience to good use and come up with a solution. After some thought, Leo Kulka had worked out a solution,..backing vocalist and  put in a call to Ramona King and her brother Cleo. 

Ramona King’s career began in 1962, when she signed to Eden Records. Since then, she had spent time at Warner Bros. Records, Amy and most recently, Action Records. Leo Kulka explained that he needed backing vocalists to accompany Jeanette Jones and help her add some much-needed soulfulness to Jay Barrett’s songs. The Kings agreed and when they arrived at Golden State Recorders  the recording sessions began.

At that first recording session, Jeanette Jones recorded a couple of Jay Barrett songs, Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues. With the large ensemble accompanying her, the two songs were soon recorded with Leo Kulka taking charge of production, Despite that, Jay Barrett received a co-production credit. The next step, was to try to interest another label in the songs.

Leo Kulka began shopping Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues to various labels where he had  a contact in the hope that they would release them as a single. However, none of the labels expressed an interest in releasing the songs. For Leo Kulka, this was a huge disappointment. He believed that Jeanette Jones had the potential to forge a career as a singer, and decided to dig deep into  his contact book.

The man he decided to consult was Larry Goldberg, an independent producer who was based in Los Angeles. Although Larry Goldberg was a producer, he was also a talent scout, and spent much of his time finding and developing artists. Sometimes, after discovering and developing these artists, Larry Goldberg shopped them to major labels, where they embarked upon the next stage of their career. Larry Goldberg had set a number of artists on the road to stardom and just like Leo Kulka, Larry Goldberg had a wealth of experience. He also thought he might have the answer to Leo Kulka’s problem.

The answer Larry Goldberg thought were three backing tracks that he wanted to play Leo Kulka.This included the Ben Raleigh composition Break Someone Else’s Heart. Another possibility was Andy Badale and Albert Elias’ I Want Action, which had recently given Ruby Winters a hit. The third and final song was Sam Russell’s Cut Loose, which had been arranged by H.B. Barnum. Having listened to the three pop soul cuts, Leo Kulka agreed that they had the potential to solve his problem and gave Jeanette Jones a call. She agreed to make her way to Golden State Recorders.

Although Jeanette Jones was signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label, she had continued to sing with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Maybe she was keeping her options open, given the life of a professional singer could sometimes, be perilous? The ccareers of soul singers were often short, and could be unpredictable and unprofitable. Jeanette Jones must have realised this after her first recording session. Despite that, she was prepared to return to the studio to record the triumvirate of tracks with Leo Kulka.

Having listened to the trio of backing tracks, Jeanette Jones set about laying down vocals. She combined power and emotion, delivering an almost defiant vocal on Break Someone Else’s Heart. Then on Cut Loose, Jeanette Jones delivers a vocal tour de force, as horns and harmonies  accompany her vocal. On the final song, I Want Action Jeanette Jones again combines power and emotion as she delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. With the vocals recorded, Jeanette Jones had done her part and now it was over to Leo Kulka.

His job was to shop the songs to various labels. Given the quality of the songs, Leo Kulka must have been confident of securing a deal for Jeanette Jones. Despite his best efforts, none of the labels he approached were interested in releasing the songs, and  llightning had struck twice for Jeanette Jones.This must have been a huge disappointment for Jeanette Jones who returned to the Voices Of Victory gospel choir.

By the spring of 1969, Jeanette Jones was now fronting the Voices Of Victory gospel choir who were still one of the biggest and most successful gospel choirs on the West Coast. Despite this, Jeanette Jones returned to Golden State Recorder for an another recording session.

Still Jeanette Jones hadn’t given up on her dream of making a career out soul music and again, made the journey to Golden State Recorders. That was where she first encountered singer-songwriter Wally Cox. Leo Kulka had asked him to write a song that would showcase Jeanette Jones’ conferable vocal talents. He delivered a trio of songs, including Darling, I’m Standing By You which was tailor-made for Jeanette Jones.

At Golden State Recorders, Jeanette Jones prepared to record  Darling, I’m Standing By You. With Leo Kulka producing, Jeanette Jones delivered a spine-tingling, soul-baring, testifying vocal. Backing vocalists accompany her every step of the way, as Jeanette Jones combines gospel and soul, on what was a career defining moment. 

Meanwhile, Wally Cox went away and wrote two new songs including the beautiful mid-tempo ballad The Thought Of You which. Just like Darling, I’m Standing By You it seemed tailor-made for Jeanette Jones. She was  in a reflective mood on The Thought Of You, as she gives thanks for the love she’s found. Unlike some of the soul being released in 1969, it had a much more modern, contemporary sound. It was a similar case with the recording of  Wally Cox’s other composition was I’m Glad I Got Over You, which features a defiant Jeanette Jones as she delivers another vocal powerhouse against an urgent, driving arrangement. It’s another song that could’ve and should’ve transformed Jeanette Jones’ career. Leo Kulka realised this and decided to back Jeanette Jones with his own money.

Realising the potential of Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You Leo Kulka decided to release the single on his own Golden Soul record label. Leo Kulka hoped that the local R&B and gospel and radio stations would pickup on the single. This Leo Kulka hoped, would result in him being able to cut a distribution deal with a major label. That was the plan.

Leo Kulka had 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You pressed. These copies he hoped would sell out, and the single would be picked up radio stations in the San Francisco area. However, the 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You failed to sell, and Leo Kulka was back to square one.

While many people would’ve called it a day, Leo Kulka decided to use the single to shop Darling, I’m Standing By You to major labels. He took the single to Atlantic, but they turned the song down. When Motown then passed on Darling, I’m Standing By You, things weren’t looking good for Darling, I’m Standing By You, and Jeanette Jones’ career.

She had been trying to make a breakthrough since 1967, and was no nearer to doing so. Things however changed in 1971, when the Bihari brother agreed to release some of Leo Kulka’s releases on their Kent Records and Modern Records’ labels. One of the singles they chose to release was Jeanette Jones’ Darling, I’m Standing By You. Maybe, Jeanette Jones’ luck was changing?

Alas it wasn’t to be and when  Darling, I’m Standing By You was released in 1971, the single failed to find an audience, and soon it had  disappeared without trace. For Leo Kulka and Jeanette Jones this was hugely  frustrating and disappointing.  Leo Kulka felt the single hadn’t received sufficient promotion by Modern Records. It was no surprise when it failed for commercially and Leo Kulka and Jeanette Jones were left to rue the Bihari brothers’ short-sightedness. However, by then, Jeanette Jones was beginning to rethink her future.

Following the commercial failure of Darling, I’m Standing By You, Jeanette Jones started to work as a session singer. She also began working with Mike Bloomfield on his Mill Valley Bunch project. Jeanette Jones sung the lead vocal  What Would I Do Without My Baby and  Ooh Ooh Ooh, La, La, La which featured on the Mill Valley Bunch’s one and only album, Casting Pearls, which was released by Verve Records in 1972. Soon, though, Jeanette Jones began to look beyond music.

Jeanette Jones began to do some voiceover work, and was chosen as the voice of the Swiss Colony Wine radio campaign. It was also around this time, that Jeanette Jones began to do some modelling. This kept her busy, and gradually, Jeanette Jones seemed to lose interest in music. Indeed, she only returned to Golden State Recorders one more time.

This was in 1974, when Jeanette Jones headed to Golden State Recorders to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, who was a friend of both Mike Bloomfield and Leo Kulka. During that last session, Jeanette Jones cut two tracks penned by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg. The first was You’d Be Good For Me, which was followed by the beautiful, heart wrenching ballad What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? Sadly, after recording the publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Jeanette Jones turned her back on music.

Since then, nothing has been heard of Jeanette Jones, and her story is a case of what might have been? That is a great shame as Jeanette Jones’ could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Jeanette Jones was a hugely talented singer, who had the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. She could combine power and passion, and seamlessly switch between ballads and uptempo tracks. Despite her undoubted talent, sadly, Jeanette Jones never made a breakthrough. 

That was despite Leo Kulka championing Jeanette Jones throughout her short career. He produced her, and then shopped the songs to bigger labels. Sadly, only once did a single get picked up by a bigger record, Darling, I’m Standing By You. Even when that happened in 1971, Modern Records didn’t promote the single sufficiently. Maybe this led to Jones considering her future?

After four years struggling to make a breakthrough, maybe reality kicked in and Jeanette Jones realised that not all dreams come true? It was certainly around this time that Jeanette Jones began to work as a session singer which. Sadly, after this, the only time Jeanette Jones returned to a recording studio was to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Ironically, during that session, Jeanette Jones recorded one of her finest songs What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? It’s a poignant reminder of Jeanette Jones, whose career is a case of what ifs?

What if Jeanette Jones has signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden State in 1965, when he recorded The Voices Of Victory gospel choir? Maybe she would’ve gone on to enjoy a successful career as a soul singer? However, Jeanette Jones wanted to continue doing the “Lord’s work.” 

Maybe by the time she changed her mind in 1967, it was too late? Music was changing, and changing fast. Suddenly the musical landscape was totally different. By 1967, pop and rock dominated the musical landscape, and the psychedelic revolution was well underway. While soul was still popular, it was nowhere near as popular as pop or rock which dominated the charts and the radio airwaves. Some soul labels, including Stax and Motown were still releasing hit singles by 1967 and would continue to do so over the next four years. Meanwhile, Atlantic Records’ soul years had finished in 1967, but the label had just released Aretha Franklin’s Atlantic Records’ debut I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You in 1967. This was the start of Aretha Franklin’s Atlantic Records years, which was the most successful period of her career. Sadly, many other talented soul singers struggled to make a breakthrough during this period. This included Jeanette Jones.

Despite her undeniable talent, and her ability to breath life and meaning into a song, commercial success eluded Jeanette Jones.The question is why? Maybe if Leo Kulka had managed to interest a major label in Jeanette Jones, things would’ve been very different? However, there is also the possibility that Jeanette Jones was neither driven nor determined enough to make a career out of music. It could be that Jeanette Jones wasn’t comfortable singing secular music, given her background in gospel music? There’s any number of reasons why commercial success eluded Jeanette Jones.

Deep down, maybe Jeanette Jones knew that enjoying a successful career as a soul singer was a long shot, and very few succeeded? That is doubtful, and if it that was the case, it would be ironic, as Jeanette Jones had what the talent and voice to enjoy a long and successful career in music.  The music she recorded with Leo Kulka at Golden State Records is proof of that. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim passed Jeanette Jones by who is proof that not All Dreams All Come True.

Over forty years later, and Jeanette Jones still remains an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Very little is known about her life before she embarked upon a musical career, and similarly, very little known  about Jeanette Jones career after music. It’s thought that she lives quietly in San Francisco, where her career began over fifty years ago. 

Since then, Jeanette Jones has never been tempted to make a comeback, despite her music somewhat belatedly finding the audience it deserves. Both Ace Records and Playback Records have released compilations of Jeanette Jones’ music which showcases a truly talented soul singer who should’ve enjoyed a long and illustrious career. Sadly, Jeanette Jones’ amounts to just one single and is a case of what might have been.

Jeanette Jones-What Might Have Been.

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