Grandpa Jones was very supportive and good to me. I will be forever grateful. He really liked the fact that I was a young fellow making a living playing old-time music. He had been making a living playing mountain music since the 1930s and knew it was swimming against the current. He called me and others the Flower of the Flock.
Pa (as everybody called him) had a wicked sense of humor. He wasn’t a joke teller. His best jokes were ad libs, usually provoked by something that made him mad. He could be cranky and grouchy but those of us who knew him loved him more for it..cause he was always honest. Here are a few stories he told me and funny incidents I either witnessed or heard about.
How He was Named Grandpa
Grandpa was only 22 working on WBZ in Boston with Bradley Kincaid. Some nights he had to drive to Maine to play and be back at the station for a morning show. Pa was sleepy and grouchy. One morning Bradley said, “Get up to the microphone. You’re just like an old grandpa.” The way Pa talked made him sound older than he was. People started writing in saying, “How old is that fellow? He sounds about 80 years old.”
They decided to play it up. He bought a false mustache and drew lines on his face to look like old man. He talked in an old whiny voice. Bradley gave him leather boots that were already 50 years old. He’s been Grandpa ever since. Wore the same boots his entire career. (Listen to Pa tell about his life in the video section)
While working with Bradley in Maine they checked into hotel. Pa was young and had never really traveled much so when he went to bed he just pulled his pants off and hung then on chair and left door wide open. Bradley walked by the room and decided to teach Pa to be more careful. Bradley sneaked in and just took pants off the chair. When Pa awoke, he didn’t know what to do. He had no pants and worst of all, Pa had $7.50 in the pocket of those pants…all the money he had. Finally Bradley appeared, “How’d you sleep”. He listened to Pa straight faced and finally said, You are not home now, you can’t trust everybody, you must not only close doors but lock them too. Another lesson from Bradley Kincaid.
Once Grandpa was traveling by car with fiddler Lenny Abshire. Lenny had only one finger but could play all over the fiddle. Somebody asked Pa how Lenny lost his finger. Pa said, “He lost a fight with a circular saw.”
Anyhow Lenny had all kinds of stuff on the floor of his car…just a little bit of everything. Pa picked up an old newspaper and said, “Well, I see here where Lincoln was assassinated.”
Tennessee Ernie Ford was host of his own television show in Hollywood. Ernie came to Nashville and just followed Pa around to get material, writing down every funny thing he said…such as: “Nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
“The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show” was a huge success. Joe Allison saw Pa and said, “Have they had you out to California yet?” Pa said, “No, but I understand my act is doing quite well.”
Pa was hard of hearing and once with photographer Libby Cruse- -Pa yelled out, “What you’d say?” Libby said, “I didn’t say anything.” Pa said, “ I just say that once in awhile in case somebody said something I missed.”
From Ramona Jones:
Pa used to wear a diamond ring that he would turn around so that you couldn’t see the stone when he would perform. It looked more like an old-timer. They were playing a job in rural North Carolina and not many people showed up for the concert. Grandpa looked from behind the curtain and seeing the small audience said to Ramona, “I don’t think there are enough people here to turn my ring around.”
It was raining one night and Pa had his Cadillac behind the Opry. He jumped in the car and tried to turned on the windshield wipers and the trunk opened instead. He got out and closed it, then the hood went up, he got out and closed it, then the lights went on then off. Then the hood and trunk both opened and he got out and closed them. Goes back and sits in the car. Then the interior lights came on. Finally Pa got out and grabbed the windshield wipers and pulled them back and forth and said, “Like this, damn it, like this.”
Sam Lovullo, producer of Hee Haw, told me this: Pa was taking a break outside once when he was taping Hee Haw. A lady came up and said, “I know you.” And Pa just looked at her. He wasn’t very friendly with fans. She said it two more times and Pa finally said, “Well, who am I?” She said, “Why, you are Grandpa Moses.”
Pa, as I mentioned, was not very easy going and actually rather prickly but before he blew up in anger he’d usually let it out with an off-the-cuff joke. We were at Fan Fest one time together and every time someone passed Pa they yell out, “What’s for supper, Grandpa?” And if he was in a good mood he’d yell back:
“Cornbread, turnip greens, candied yams, butter beans
Blackberry cobbler and all things rare,
The more to eat the more to spare.”
On this occasion he was grouchy and fed up with folks yelling at him.
A kid yelled out, “What’s for supper Grandpa?” He turned around and said, “Fried motorcycles you little s#!* roost.”
When Pa had the stroke at the Opry for the last time, even in those dire circumstances he was able to get off a wise crack. As he slumped against the wall lots of folks ran up to him. He said, “You all tell Jerry Strobel that the old man can still draw a crowd.”