Johnny "Yard Dog" Jones, a multi-instrumentalist (harmonica, guitar, vocals) has been a vital force in the Detroit music scene since he moved there from Chicago in 1971. His voice is expressive and soulful and he has a versatile instrumental technique that can range from suave uptown blues to backstreet grit.
Born John Junior Jones on June 21, 1941 on a plantation in Crawfordsville, Arkansas, his family soon moved to East St. Louis, Illinois where he grew up listening to records of Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, and Sonny Boy Williamson. At the age of thirteen, he was heard by Little Walter Jacobs, who encouraged him and gave him pointers on playing harmonica. Johnny frequently hung around the blues clubs, where he also met Albert King and Little Milton.
The stirring sounds of gospel vocalists, however, inspired him the most. Jones heard O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor, and the Spirit of Memphis when he was only six years old, and remembers the impact their music had on him. When Jones was a teenager he moved to Chicago, where he spent the next twelve years as a guitarist for various gospel groups.
After picking up skills as a welder, Johnny moved to Detroit, where he quickly became a key figure in the Detroit blues scene. After years of playing Detroit area clubs he recorded his first track on a 1991 Blues Factory anthology that also introduced Detroit’s Butler Twins. Shortly after this he moved back to the Chicago area, where he caught the attention of Earwig Music’s Michael Frank, who would later record Jones’ critically acclaimed debut album, "Ain’t Gonna Worry," which gained him recognition in Living Blues Critics Poll for Best New Blues Album (Contemporary) in 1996, and a W.C. Handy Award for best new male blues artist in 1997.