Local rock legends Jonesin’, formerly the Schlitz-Betty Band, are finally getting their just dues from the state that helped cultivate them into one of the top regional acts of the mid ’70s and early ’80s.
The Iowa Rock ‘N’ Roll Association will induct them into their Hall of Fame over Labor Day weekend, and former Jonesin drummer/songwriter John Christensen could not be more thrilled.
“After all the years of work, it’s fantastic,” Christensen said.
Jonesin’ originally was formed in 1969 by graduates of Newton Senior High School. Christensen joined later on while still attending high school. The group, which at that time still went by Schlitz-Betty, didn’t change its name until the 1970s amidst fear of legal repercussions from the Schlitz Brewing Company. The group would remain Jonesin’ until they decided to “retire” in 1982.
Even though it has been almost three decades since the band retired, and the group has scattered across the country, they remain friends. They have reunions in Omaha, with the last one being in 2007, and will reunite to play a 25-minute set for the induction ceremony.
Despite never releasing a studio album, they had enough of a following to stay in the music scene for years with their brand of “Blue Ribbon Rock ‘N’ Roll Music.” A lot of those followers came to them from their hometown of Newton.
“Mostly Newton people that loved to watch the band would come down to Osceola because it was about the closest place (to see us),” Christensen said. “Especially when we were living in Omaha. We played Newton occasionally, and people would come to those gigs. How passionate were they? They were really dedicated. We always had enough people to keep us booked in bars. We never had to worry about if we would have a crowd or not.”
Although the group has roots in Newton, a majority of the group moved to Des Moines and then Omaha in the ’70s to set up their base of operations and expand their audience.
“We kinda moved to Omaha because the Des Moines scene in the late ’70s was a lot of glam type of stuff,” said Christensen on why the group had to leave. “You had to have the stretch pants and play the harder stuff. And we were trying to play Clapton and the Allman Brothers, Dave Mason and Little Feet, which wasn’t popular mainstream type of stuff to play. But we were more into the southern rock, and rhythm and blues and Lynyrd Skynrd type of stuff. We weren’t playing disco or Top 40 kind of music, but we still made a living.”
The group nicknamed their style of play Blue Ribbon Rock ‘N’ Roll Music. They really hated to label themselves one type of music or another and just enjoyed playing music of all kinds. Another reason for the diversity in the group is the various line up changes they went through. With so many different styles coming and going the group had to be adaptable.
Throughout the years the group had 14 different members, including John Christensen, drums; Tom Lenz, bass guitar; John Engstrom, lead guitar and vocals; Brent Warford, guitar and vocals; Dave Christensen, vocals, guitar and sax; Mark Nelson, keyboard and vocals; Steve Plotner, lead vocals; Bill Tompsen, keyboard; Dave Munger, guitar; Gary Wood, drums; John Paquette, keyboard; Rick Schaeffer, drums; Steve Boyce, guitar; and Steve Jensen, drums.
While their roster varied, the members of the band from Newton never forgot their hometown. Some of their original songs that are dedicated to the city are “Washer City Blues” and “Good Things about Iowa.”
“I went to my 25th class reunion in Newton,” said Christensen, who has lived in the Chicago area for awhile now. “And there was a gal that came up to me and said, ‘You know, our social life died when you guys broke up.’ I didn’t realize that we were such a sentimental part of peoples social lives. And I’m sure that there are other people that agree with that. When they wanted to go out and have a good time, they would get together and come out and see us play if we were in town.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.