April 3, 2017 – Brenda Jones was born on December 7, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Frazier Jones, she was raised in a gospel singing family. The Jones Girls Valorie, Brenda and Shirley spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis, between Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the ’60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the latter part of the decade, but sales of those records weren’t much more encouraging.
It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities — the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists’ singles. Aretha Frankling, Lou Rawls, Betty Everett, Peabo Bryson and dozens of other charting soul acts. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson’s activities as a producer and arranger.
But the big break came while serving as Diana Ross’s backing group during a mid-70s tour, when Ross recognized their talent and gave them their own portion in her show. Now the girls were “discovered” by Kenny Gamble and were signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. They came out smoking on PIR with their eponymous debut album ‘The Jones Girls’ and the infectious dance single “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else,” which stormed the pop, soul and dance charts. They followed with the beautiful ballad, “We’re A Melody,” a prototypical Philly song with sophisticated arrangements wrapped around their wonderful harmonies.
During a half decade between 1979 and 1984, Shirley, Valorie and Brenda Jones created some of the most glorious Soul music around. The group’s self-titled 1979 debut album landed in the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B charts, resulting in the hit “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” and its B-side, “Who Can I Run To,” which was covered by Xscape in 1995.
Both drop dead gorgeous and talented, the Jones Girls were individually accomplished singers; but together, their voices were absolutely heavenly. And in Philadelphia they found the perfect match in the melodic writing and lush production that Gamble & Huff and Dexter Wansel/Cynthia Biggs provided them. Their second album 1980’s “At Peace With Woman” boasts some of the sisters’ best work. At Peace With Woman and Get As Much Love As You Can featured a number of now classic cuts, including the club favorite “Nights Over Egypt,” the sassy “I Just Love the Man” and a timeless cover of the Stylistics’ “Children of the Night.” The playful “I Just Love the Man” and the perky 12″ single “Dance Turned Into a Romance,” were major hits.
The sister’s final album for Philadelphia International Records contains eight dressy urban soul tracks that work well. 1982’s “Get As Much Love As You Can” features their jazzy-smooth rendition of Cynthia Biggs and Dexter Wansel’s “Nights Over Egypt,” (featuring Grover Washington), which is arguably the best song they’ve ever recorded. However sales were marginal and the label decided not to renew their contract. Quickly moving over to RCA Records, The Jones Girls released “On Target” in 1983. Once again their voices were in splendid form, but once again chart success eluded them. Despite a spirited remake of “Baby I’m Yours” and contemporary pop items “Let’s Hit It” and “Win U Back” the album failed and once again the sisters were without a label.
In a combination of early retirement and solo careers, they retired the group in 1985 as lead singer Shirley Jones went solo, returning to PIR in 1986 for Always In The Mood and its #1 hit, “Do You Get Enough Love.” She continued to record sporadically over the next decade, and the group reunited from time to time for special concerts and issued a 1992 reunion album, Coming Back, in Europe (reissued in 2014). The sisters spent much of the next decade raising their children, occasionally reuniting for shows (particularly in Europe) and providing guest vocal help to other artists.
The sisters reunited for 1992’s “Coming Back” album, but the trio never recaptured the success they once enjoyed, even with the late ’90s resurgence of interest in the Philly soul sound, during which time they released Best of the Jones Girls in 2000, a great sampler of their work on PIR and an essential purchase for lovers of sophisticated, well orchestrated soul music.
Sadly, sister Valorie died the next year at age 45, effectively ending the original Jones Girls. (Shirley still tours with family under the name). As the quiet Jones’ Girl she had been suffering from depression and alcoholism ultimately did her in.
Brenda Jones had first moved to Atlanta, where she sang frequently with her four-piece band, performing both Jazz and R&B numbers, including several Jones Girls tunes. She later moved to New York after her children were grown, to have a more active performing and recording schedule.
According to her sister Shirley, who has kept recording and performing over the years, Brenda was thinking of returning to music as well.
“She did put out a record over in London a couple of years ago and I think it went to the top 10 on a couple of the soul charts there, but as far as performing she was trying to decide if that was something that she wanted to do again,” Shirley Jones said.
According to her sister, Brenda spent most of her time with her daughter while she was a traveling nurse, taking care of her granddaughter because “she absolutely adored her.” Shirley Jones said Brenda’s dedication to her family was constant, and her impact on the music world will forever be felt.
“She was probably one of the most talented women, her voice was like silk,” Shirley Jones said. “She loved people and she loved music.”
Brenda Jones was struck on Monday, April 3, 2017 by several cars while attempting to cross the street while visiting her daughter in Wilmington, Delaware. Police are still investigating the incident, but her sister Shirley called Brenda’s death a heartbreaking loss. She was 62.