The L'homme de Renaissance of indie rock. The prolific Welshman-cum-Chicagoan has done it all in his time.
Founded the Ground Zero UK art/punk collective The Mekons (who, many suggest, went on to inadvertently turn a bunch of punk rock snots like Bloodshot Rob into country fans with their seminal albums Fear and Whiskey and Honky Tonkin') , noise rock progenitors The Three Johns and countless collaborations with greats, near-greats and unheard of cult figures.
For Bloodshot, he's been an indefatigueable presence in our shoddy offices since day one. In addition to all his musical contributions as a solo artist, he's created lots of cover art, produced lots of records, lent his ham-fisted guitar stylings to recordings by the Old 97's, Roger Knox, Rosie Flores, Kelly Hogan, Andre Williams, Sadies, Sally Timms, Danbert Nobacon, Alejandro Escovedo, among others, draws a comic strip, writes books, appeared as the backing band on This American Lifeand acts as a reeling papa bear figure to many of Chicago's musicians looking for direction and reassurance in this vicious racket we call the music industry.
Since the man creates more music than any one band could possibly hold, he's also the guiding force in the Waco Brothers, the rarely convened collective of the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, the Skull Orchard and Wee Hairy Beasties. At any given time, he might have a few other irons in the fire, or plates in the air, or pies in the oven, or cubes in the tray. It tires us just trying to keep up.
The revelatory aspect of Jon's prolific body of work is that he's always treated punk rock as folk music and folk music, when it stays true to its roots, can be awful damn punk. Woody Guthrie pissed off as many, if not more, people than Johnny Rotten. Also, country music, REAL country music tells a story and lays bare the truth as honestly and directly as anything the Clash ever did. For Jon, the line between Acuff-Rose and Strummer-Jones is a direct one. He also never lets a firm stance or a strong opinion get in the way of a hearty laugh or a ripping good yarn, preferably told in the company of friends with a frothy pint glass within reach.
We've learned a lot from him over the years. First and foremost, doing everything honestly and honorably is its own reward. Just keep moving. Keep your head down and perform your job. Don't look back. Let the rest of the world sort it out. Don't get bogged down by the misses. It's helped us survive in this racket, and it helps us in our daily lives.
As nice as he is prolific--rather unheard of in the hyper-rarified environment of notoriety.