“‘What Do All the People Know’ was a fun song, and I still enjoy listening to it,” says Rusty Jones, whose San Diego band the Monroes toured with Rick Springfield, Toto, and Greg Kihn in the early ’80s. At their one-hit-wonder peak, the Monroes performed their best-known single on The Merv Griffin Show.
“Sometimes we were a really great band, too,” says Jones. “But, sadly, fighting through the fragile egos and drug problems, just to play my music, became too much…Bob [Davis, bassist] and Eric [Denton, keyboardist] are just not my friends, musically or otherwise.”
Referring to a Reader website feature on Denton, who later founded Guitar Trader, Jones says, “Nowhere does it mention that I wrote at least half of the songs the Monroes performed and recorded. I know that my songwriting and musicianship played a huge role in getting the band signed because people were constantly trying to lure me away. After I left, what happened? Where are all the memorable Denton-Monroe tunes? They’ve constantly bothered me through the years to do a reunion. Bob has asked me to write with him many times. If I was such a side player, why not just reunite with a different guitar player?”
Today, Jones often performs around North County with Monroes singer Jesus Ortiz, and he’s reconnected with Monroes drummer Jonnie Gilstrap.
“When I was really young, I wanted to be a stand-up comic like George Burns, Jack Benny, and Johnny Carson. Come out in a tuxedo and some prop like a cigar or a violin or a golf club and just tell jokes. Music came a little later for me.”
DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT MUSIC.…
“It’s roots music with a twist. I mash up the blues, pop, Motown, rock, and folk, processing it all through the blender of my heart and soul and forcing it out through voice and guitar.”
1. Steely Dan, Aja. “Every song is perfect! After all these years, the lyrics still send my imagination flying, and the musicianship is crystalline. Funny…back in the day I was such a hard-core rocker, I used to crumb on Steely Dan so much. I thought they were too slick.”
2. Louis Prima, The Call of the Wildest. “Prima is so underrated. He fused Dixieland jazz, Italian popular music, rhythm and blues, and ’50s pop music into these peppy three-minute songs. Keely Smith’s voice still gives me goose bumps.”
3. Anoushka Shankar, Breathing Under Water. “It’s sensual, hypnotic, and eclectic music; great for the car. She plays sitar like a demon and, well, she’s hot!”
FAVORITE LINE FROM SPINAL TAP?
“Pretty much every word the bass player says.”
ANY UNTOLD BACKSTAGE MONROES STORIES?
“Chip, the stage manager for the Rick Springfield tour, came to see us at the Spirit Club. He says, ‘This is my friend Neil — he came down with me to check you guys out.’ I shake hands with this tall, skinny guy who’s holding a longneck Bud as if it’s not his first of the evening. Neil says, ‘Hey, you guys were great, man. I really like the sound.’ So I say thanks very much, and I blow him off to go find my girlfriend. Later, our manager comes to me all in a tizzy, asking, ‘What did Neil say? What did you tell him? Did he like the band? Why is he here?’ That was Neil Young!”
WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE POWER TO READ MINDS?
“We all think we have these secrets nobody knows about — so many of us are so filled with this weird guilt and shame. I guess I would try to say to people, ‘Go ahead and share.’ The stuff you’re scared to reveal is what resonates for others. It shows you’re alive and aware.”
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW PREZ SO FAR?
“I like him a lot! He has a real, functioning, and healthy brain, and when he smiles, what I see is sincerity. I’m sure there’s the dangerous big ego in there too, and we always have to watch these guys very carefully, but I think we have a really good one this time.”