RIP Tim Jones, aka Preacherman, T.J Hustler Metaphysical Synthesized Orchestra and Ironing Board Band (March 6, 1946 – March 17, 2019)
We at Luaka Bop are saddened to share the news of the death of Tim Jones, aka Preacherman. He passed away on March 17 while on vacation in the Philippines. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to his granddaughter Joslyn Matier. Prior to leaving for the Philippines, he had been living with his 103-year-old mother, the oldest person in Oakland, also recently deceased.
Over the course of his 73 years, Jones wore many hats—though it’s through his music that we, and the world, got to know him.
Jones grew up in Fresno, CA and played in bands throughout high school and college, touring Northern California. In 1970, he moved to Oakland, which was his main residence for the rest of his life. He continued to play organ in jazz bands until the sound of the day changed more to funk and R&B. At that point, he started playing with bands such as Dawn and Sunset and Mystic Moods. In the late '70s he would record music at home in live-takes with no overdubbing, mixing or special effects. This led to a handmade 2 LP album titled “Age of Individualism” of which one LP was 33 rpm and the other 45 rpm. He pressed 500 copies, made 30 to 40 special handmade editions and distributed them to record stores.
In the 1980s Jones was a technician for IBM in both Las Vegas and San Jose, where he repaired electric typewriters and word processors. Jones would play in hotel lounges in the evening, using a Hammond B3 organ that he had modified so that some of the keys and additional foot pedals could play Moog synthesizers. He would intersperse his sets with philosophical musings and biographical anecdotes, though he found that what he really needed was a sidekick. He decided to reach out to a European puppet maker who worked in San Francisco, and that’s where T.J. Hustler was born. The puppet maker constructed the head out of wood, and Jones took care of the rest, outfitting the new puppet in a pinstriped crimson suit, white tie, floppy hat and aviator sunglasses.
In 2017, Companion Records re-released Age of Individualism, original pressings of which were going for $2,000. With the help of Companion, through speaking to Jones we discovered that there was a trove of CD-Rs which he had made himself. We made a compilation of tracks from those CD-Rs and released it in October 2018 under the title “Universal Philosophy: Preacherman Plays T.J. Hustler’s Greatest Hits.” This album presented to the world the homespun, otherworldly folk art funk of this singular artist.