July 8, 2009 – by Jerry Fink for The Las Vegas Sun

An ad in an old Las Vegas newspaper, turning yellow with age, bears witness to the beginning of the long, illustrious singing career of Jack Jones.
Jones was 19 years old when the ad ran in 1957, announcing that he would appear for a week with his father, Allan Jones, at the Thunderbird. Also in the show were the Thunderbird Dancers and comedian Don Tannen.
Allan Jones was a well-known actor and singer, perhaps best remembered as the romantic straight man to the Marx Brothers in “A Night at the Opera” and “A Day at the Races.” His big hit song was “The Donkey Serenade,” recorded on the day Jack was born – Jan. 14, 1938.
He invited his teenage son – who had just signed with Capitol Records – to join him for the Las Vegas engagement.
“That was my first professional gig,” the 71-year-old two-time Grammy winner said from his home in La Quinta, Calif.
The newspaper was found by his former drummer John Nasshan, a disc jockey on KUNV 91.5-FM.
“John and a friend of his were remodeling a house and they went down underneath the floorboards and found a whole bunch of junk down there, including an old newspaper with the ad in it,” Jones said.
He keeps the ad framed on a wall at his home but doesn’t need it to remind him of his debut.
“We had special material written for it,” Jones said. “We did a parody of ‘Que Sera,’ the Doris Day hit. Then I did a solo and Dad would sit and read a paper while I was singing. It was fun. Then we would do another duet, ‘The Donkey Serenade.’
“It gave me enough of a taste of what it must be like to be a star in Las Vegas. It was a good experience.” Jones – who was influenced by Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett, among others – grew up in a house full of music.
“My father was more of a classical singer than anything else. He did light opera,” Jones said. “He wasn’t thrilled that I was doing Sinatra all the time.”
After Vegas he appeared in small clubs across the country while Capitol tried to find a niche for the young man who was a natural for pop and jazz at a time when rock’n’ roll was taking off.
“Capitol wanted me to be a rock singer,” Jones says. “They were trying to push me in that direction. They’d give me songs and I did some of them, but they were terrible, not even good rock ‘n’ roll songs. They fired me. I couldn’t sell rock ‘n’ roll.”
Shortly after that he was drafted and spent a couple of years in the Air Force. After his discharge he was performing at small club in San Francisco when Pete King of Kapp Records heard him and signed him.
“Kapp was a very proactive label,” Jones said. “They were very adventurous and signed me to do what I could do best, which was quality material.”
The first song the label gave him was “Lollipops and Roses” (1962), which earned him a Grammy for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance. It also earned him an engagement at the famed Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
“That was my real debut,” says Jones, who has recorded more than 50 albums, with 17 charting on Billboard’s Top 20 list.
There was a rapid succession of hits, including “Wives and Lovers,” “Dear Heart” and “Call Me Irresponsible.” Jones was selling millions of pop records in the ’60s and ’70s when the world was obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll.
“I survived,” he says modestly.
One of his most well-known recordings is the theme from “The Love Boat,” a TV series that ran from 1977 to 1986. He did some acting, but not a lot. With his movie-star good looks he could have been a natural for film.
“I wanted to do that, but I happened to get a hit record right off the bat,” he says. “At the time I was going to acting class and I was trying out for roles. But I got successful as a singer and it kind of swept me away. I kept saying, ‘I’m going to get back to it,’ but once they get hold of you and see a lot of money being made on the road, they don’t want to support your full agenda. So you’re busy and not exposed to what’s going on …
“Martin Scorsese wanted me to be in one of his hit movies, ‘Casino’ or ‘Goodfellas,’ I think, but I wasn’t able to get out of something I was committed to. That was extremely frustrating.”
Jones keeps up a heavy work schedule, with an upcoming tour of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He’ll be back in Vegas in September for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon at South Point. He’s working on remastering some of his hits. He plans to have an album out this year paying tribute to songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman. He’s working on a DVD taped at an earlier performance at South Point.
And he may take up golf again, after laying off for years because of back problems.
“I just had a wonderful operation,” Jones says. “Laser surgery cleaned up the discs in my back. I wasn’t able to do anything. Now I’m totally free … My back is back to where it was 35 years ago … I may go back to golf. I used to say to my doctor, ‘Just make me a bad golfer again.'”