Before Rock Hall inductee Booker T. Jones took the stage last night at the Music Box Supper Club, former Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart and Dr. Lauren Onkey, the current Vice President of Education and Public Programs, opened with a set during which they spoke about Jones’ music and played snippets of songs from his back catalog. At one point, Onkey said that she often receives calls from fans who dispute the merits of inductees. But not Jones. “He’s someone that everyone agrees should have been inducted,” she said. During his 90-minute headlining set, Jones certainly lived up to the billing as he provided a terrific career retrospective.
Dressed in a sharp suit and top hat, Jones had an air of class about him. And he quickly endeared himself to the near capacity crowd as he introduced each song and said a little about its history. He explained how he wrote “Green Onions,” one of his most famous songs, when he was only 17. With its easily recognizable opening organ riff, the song was one of the set’s many highlights. Before playing the Hendrix tune “Hey Joe,” he spoke about meeting the guitarist at the Monterey Pop Festival, where he was escorted to the venue by members of Hells Angels motorcycle gang. His rendition of the song was somber and featured a snarling guitar solo at the tune’s end.
Jones’ cover of “Purple Rain” also had a real intensity to it as Jones re-interpreted the song as a quiet ballad and let his son Ted, who sat in with the band on several occasions, handle the intricate guitar work. “Everything is Everything,” a song he recorded last year with the Roots for the collaborative album, The Road from Memphis, started slow as Jones explained it began with an E chord before shifting to C and back to E, but finished with a strong, funk-inspired groove. Before the set’s closing tune, a cover of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” Jones confessed that he was a big Beatles fan and still is. That enthusiasm for all kinds of music – rock, pop and blues — came across clearly in last night’s show, showing just how capably Jones can shift between genres and what a true American treasure he is.