Bobby Jones, Last of the Blue Caps

Mar 16, 2024

We pulled it off! Today, we stopped in Greenville, South Carolina, to visit Bobby Jones, the last surviving member of the legendary 1950s rock ’n’ roll group Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps.

I got to know (and played with) several of the other Blue Caps, and at various times I met all the others that were still living. Dickie Harrell, the original drummer, was a very good friend and I feel honored that I got to play with him a number of times. I have an original eight-by-ten photograph of the 1957–58 lineup of the Blue Caps, autographed by all the guys I met: Johnny Meeks, Dickie Harrell, Paul Peek, and Tommy “Bubba” Facenda. But I’d never got the opportunity to get an autograph from Bobby Jones’s, the electric bass player.

A few months ago, when I realized we would be driving through Greenville on our way from Atlanta to Asheville, I realized I had better try to get Bobby‘s autograph on my photo and a couple of original Gene Vincent albums I had had autographed by the rest of the band.

Bobby Jones was one of three Blue Caps that were drafted out of a Greenville hillbilly group called Country Earl and the Circle E Ranch Gang. Paul Peek came from Country Earl’s band to join the Blue Caps in 1956 after “Wee” Willie Williams left the band. And when Cliff Gallup and Jack Neal left the original lineup, Paul Peek suggested two of his old bandmates from Greenville, Johnny Meeks and Bobby Jones, to take their places.

During Bobby’s tenure with the band, the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and in the movie Hot Rod Gang. Bobby wrote the group’s classic “Baby Blue,” and also plays the bass introduction to “Right Now,” both of which I myself have performed at least a thousand times. Gene and the Blue Caps also took one of the most iconic 1950s rock ’n’ roll photographs of all time, recording a session at Capitol Records Studio B in Hollywood. In fact, a huge blowup of that photo still hangs in the entryway to Capitol Studios.

Bobby Jones keeps a very low profile! He was quite hard to find. I tried several numbers I dug up for him, and never got through (the voice mail box was always full). I mailed a letter and never received a response. Finally it took Donna Harrell, Dickie‘s widow, putting a call through and vouching for me such that I was finally able to talk to Bobby on the phone a week or so ago.

Bobby really didn’t want to meet in person. His health is not great, which I understood, but I persisted, telling him I had been getting autographs on this photo one by one for thirty years and his was the only one I still needed. Reluctantly, he agreed to let me and the band stop by on our drive. I was really worried he might cancel on us. You just never know with ninety-year olds; things can really vary from day to day.

When we showed up, Bobby and his wife Jane couldn’t have been nicer. We had a nice sit-down for half an hour, talking about the old days, and I got him to sign my photo and albums. Yes, it’s a very geeky, obsessive thing, but I can’t tell you how great it was to finally see Bobby autograph that photo I had signed by the rest of the guys. It felt like completing a decathlon over a period of thirty years. It was immensely satisfying, especially as we are reaching the end of the line for so many of our 1950s rock ’n’ roll heroes. And Bobby Jones is the very last Blue Cap standing! The end of an era.

Thanks again for indulging me with a visit, Bobby. The boys in the band enjoyed it, too. We got back in the van and Clete said, “MAN, THAT WAS SO COOL!” Yes it was, man, yes it was. Mission accomplished!

See the original Facebook post for more photos!