Vagneur: Let me tell you about Bobby Jones |

Vagneur: Let me tell you about Bobby Jones

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

Bobby Jones — you know the name if you’ve been around Aspen for very long. OK, it’s been a few years since he left, and he’s sometimes listed in the Black Pearl credits as E. Rodney Jones (jokingly, after one of his early mentors). Wait, Black Pearl — that surely rings a bell with the longer-situated Aspen crowd and even some of the youngsters, too.

But, before we go there, let me say that for the very first time, I met Bobby Jones in person at the Woody Creek Tavern on Monday. He and his lovely wife Sylvia invited me for lunch and some three hours later, we decided maybe we should continue the conversation at a later date.

Bobby and I have a few things in common: We lived in Aspen during the ’70s and survived; we’re musicians and like similar music; we know some of the same people and we’ve both recently written books. Nowadays, Bobby lives in Michigan and I’m committed here ’til the end of temporal time.

The book I mentioned, Bobby’s, sits right here on my coffee table, a tome detailing an unseen world we mortals generally look past in our day-to-day rush to get through our lives. Immaculate photographs grace our vision with sharp, clear snapshots in time and the written narrative gives us just enough information to say, “Wow!”

If you’re a bird watcher, the glossy pages will thrill you with rare, hard-to-capture shots, but don’t stop there; mushroom hunters will get a view of intricate, rare fungi, poisonous and edible, with names such as bridal veil stinkhorn, morel and poisonous amanita. There are wondrous, up-close pictures of flowers such as mullein pink, hoary pucoon and candy tuft.

But my favorites are the bugs and bees, spiders, crawly and airborne creatures that live in a universe all their own, making a living in ways that seem almost as heavenly as they are brutal. And don’t forget the wild animals, creatures we often see here, and some we don’t, seemingly posing for the photographer’s quick trigger finger.

“Nature’s Unseen World: Leelanau County’s Backyard” is more than a book of rare and unusual photographs — it is a work of art. Words don’t do it justice. Photographed and written under Bobby’s nom de plume, Bob Jones, it is truly a labor of love.

The 1970s and Black Pearl. Some of you were here back then — a defining time in Aspen’s history — down in the basement of The Center, better known as Little Nell’s, or the best damned apres ski and live entertainment combo joint to ever grace the town. There are some folks who claim not to remember the ’60s or ’70s, they had so much fun, but I think they’re full of crap. The only ones who could really make a claim like that are dead, tragically gone too soon from this world.

Carbondale had the Black Nugget, but starting sometime around 1969, Aspen had Black Pearl, a California (or maybe Boston, or probably both) rock band that could blow your ears out with their sound, unusual with three guitars and forerunner of heavy metal, although the term didn’t exist back then.

If you know the territory, you’ll remember some of the Black Pearl musicians, guys who played the Aspen scene with some regularity, artists like Bobby Mason (Aspen’s “top dog” musician and singer), T. Ray “Dead Body” Becker (RIP), Geoffrey Morris (Geezus, how does he do his magic? — still playing around the valley), Oak O’Connor (drummer extraordinaire, currently a Hollywood producer and director), Bobby Jones (guitar and bass, bluesman, photographer and writer), and some other local musicians from time-to-time. Cranked up, Black Pearl could pluck your soul out, reconfigure it and put it back in a different state of being before you knew what happened.

It’s hard to figure that Bobby Jones, putting his heart into a group like that in his early days, a loud and ground-breaking group on the fringes of new artistry, is a cool, mild-mannered, soft spoken and introspective intellectual with an enviable education in botany, ecology and landscape design.

But, you can’t box a guy like that in — he and Sylvia have traversed the U.S. several times on his Harley, they live independently in the woods in a log cabin strategically placed between two big lakes, Bobby still cranks out a few blues CDs with his trio and, like the rest of us, he’s not ready to downshift — he’s still gaining altitude.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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