"Papa" Jo Jones was born as Jonathan Jones on October 7, 1911 in Chicago, IL. he moved to Alabama where he learned to play several instruments, including saxophone, piano, and drums. He worked as a drummer and tap-dancer at carnival shows until joining Walter Page's band, the Blue Devils in Oklahoma City in the late 1920s.
Later "Papa" Jo Jones was member of Count Basie band's rhythm section for many years. The section featured Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Walter Page on bass. Later Sonny Payne would play drums too.
If Max Roach and Kenny Clarke are considered the fathers of modern drumming, than Jonathan "Jo" Jones has to be the godfather. By way of his work with Count Basie's band from 1936 to 1944 and 1946 to 1948, Jones redefined the concept of a drummer. He lightened up on the four-beats-to-the-bar standard of bass drum playing, was possibly the first to use the ride cymbal as the main timekeeping accessory, and did things with the hi-hats that are still being studied today. Jones' ability as a melodic and humorous soloist reminds one of a virtuoso tap dancer who makes everything look easy.
Papa Jo Jones had an incalculable influence on major drummers such as Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, and Louie Bellson.
He also starred in several films, most notably Jammin' the Blues in 1944. In 1985 Jones was the recipient of an American Jazz Masters fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
"Papa" Jo Jones died on Sep 3, 1985 in New York, NY.