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Robbie Stokes

Robbie Stokes

Do you remember where you were the night of Dec. 8, 1980? A momentous event in the annals of musical history occurred that fateful evening.

As well, if you've made enough orbits around the sun to have been alive in November of 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy looms large in memory. That dark news found us over the intercom in the afternoon while in class at Carbondale's University High School at Pulliam Hall. But for musicians, the night of Dec. 8, 1980, was marked forever by the loss in New York City of The Beatles' John Lennon.

The ascendance of The Beatles in 1964 was much-needed good juju after the dark business of the Kennedy assassination.

On that night in the winter of 1980, I was on stage at the old Hangar 9, at the time a one-story pole barn that had opened just two years prior. The event was the SIU School of Music recital for my friend and bandmate Angus Thomas, bassist extraordinaire and the pride of Chicago. I was assisting on guitar and sound.

We had earlier formed a band with some like-minded friends, rehearsing and recording in a rented house on Old Route 51 South. Pooling talent from this group and others at the SIU School of Music, Angus put together his recital.

Notably, Carbondale's proud and long music history has seen many great string and electric bass teachers at the SIU School of Music: London Branch, Harold Miller, Lex Valk, Phil Brown — all great players that walked the hallowed corridors of Altgeld Hall. Guys like that helped draw bass students like Angus and his student, Darryl Jones, also from Chicago, to SIU Carbondale. Angus was an early mentor to Darryl, and they remain great friends to this day.

Delivered that night in 1980 over a TV set on the Hangar 9 wall, the sad news of Dec. 8 hung over the festivities at the recital. Somehow we got through it.

Angus "Bangus" Thomas and Darryl "Munch" Jones are brothers in the bass guitar. Angus went on to get a record deal on EMI with Combo Audio out of Champaign, and played with jazz legend and Alton, Illinois-native Miles Davis and the UK's John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the cradle band for Eric Clapton, early Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Cream’s Jack Bruce and many other great British blues and rock guitarists and bassists. (Side note: Frequent Carbondale visitor Carolyn Wonderland is now with the Bluesbreakers! We have mixed her sound here many times.) I also had the pleasure of jamming with Mayall at a show at the famous Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco during future Rolling Stones' guitarist Mick Taylor's tenure with the band (1967-1969).

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While the story of Angus and Darryl, these two great bassists, is well-known by many longtime Carbondale scene-makers, newer arrivals may not realize that these incredibly accomplished and famous musicians strode our city sidewalks. There were — and are — many others.

Twenty-six years ago, after the retirement of the Stones' original bassist and founding member Bill Wyman, Darryl won that position in The Rolling Stones.

Prior to the Stones gig, Darryl also worked with Miles Davis, and also Sting and Madonna (Darryl can be glimpsed in the "Truth or Dare" movie and dancing across the stage with Madonna and company in the "Express Yourself" video. He also appears in the Sting "Bring on the Night" concert video. You can locate those on YouTube or Fandango movie clips).

Darryl also worked with The Beatles’ George Harrison, and has recently started his eponymous instrument design, manufacture and sales company Jones Musical instruments. The Rolling Stones just wound up their rescheduled 2019 "No Filter" tour.

Angus spends much time in Europe nowadays, often touring with the Philip Fankhauser Band, an award-winning Swiss blues group.

Darryl lives in Los Angeles, but is rarely home. My esposa and I visited his domicile with Angus in 2005. That was a good trip ... Angus took us to Open Mic Night at The Joint on Pico (Avenue), where the Eagles’ drummer Joe Vitale, Neil Young bassist Rick Rojas, Linda Ronstadt guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (and now Fleetwood Mac) were the talent! Ah, L.A., baby!

Angus and Darryl visited me one night during a St. Stephen’s Blues’ gig in Carbondale at the old Sidetrax beer garden, around 2009. To say it was a surprise is an understatement! These two excellent musicians are part of an esteemed history in this storied mid-size college burg.

Until next time!

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Robbie Stokes is a longtime musician in the Carbondale music scene and the owner of Robco Audio.

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