Profile: Buford Jones, Tour Liaison Manager
High-level sound reinforcement got its start in the 1970s, and Buford Jones was there to play a key role as it grew up. For the next 35 years, Jones rode the wave as the touring sound industry grew from home-brewed loudspeakers and consoles to the huge, manufactured systems that fill stadiums today.
Jones’s career in sound reinforcement was established during his nine-year tenure at Showco, Inc. Rusty Brutsche, Jack Calmes, and Jack Maxson started Showco in 1970, and the 23-year-old Jones arrived in ’71 with an A.S. degree in electronics and two years experience as a bench technician. Jones was brought on at Showco to continue in his bench technician role, but that lasted exactly one day. On his second day, Maxson went on the road to mix Three Dog Night, taking Jones along as part of his technical crew.After about a year on the road, Jones learned enough to move behind the board himself, mixing ZZ Top on their “Tres Hombres” tour. Things moved quickly from there. “It was a booming time in the sound reinforcement business,” Jones recalls. “The amount of growth was amazing. Showco and Clair Brothers (the major — and nearly only — touring sound companies at the time) couldn’t grow fast enough to meet the demands of the heavy touring schedules in the ‘70s. It was a great time for me to get into the business and learn, and my learning was done on the road. We were so busy, we stayed on the road constantly, and that’s how I was educated to set up sound systems and use them.”
By 1980, Jones was getting road-weary and decided to leave Showco and go freelance in the hopes of reducing the amount of travel he was doing. It didn’t work. His first freelance client was Linda Ronstadt, whom he had been mixing with Showco. Peter Asher, Ronstadt’s manager, also managed James Taylor, and Jones was soon mixing him, as well.
Over the next 10 years, Jones averaged seven months a year on the road with a whole barrage of different artists, including Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, Prince, Jackson Browne, David Bowie, Faith Hill, and The Kinks, in addition to Ronstadt and Taylor. "I'm always game to try something new," says Jones, "so I went where the work was. When I look back, I'm thrilled that I had the chance to work with that many different people. It was interesting to me to move around as much as I could."
Jones’s hard roadwork earned him a nomination for a TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement, Sound Reinforcement Engineer in 1986, and another in ’88, before he finally won the award in 1989.
A major milestone for Jones was helming the console for Pink Floyd’s 1987 “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour, which gave him considerable experience in live surround sound mixing. A few years later, he was making history behind the board again on George Harrison’s famed 1991 tour of Japan with Clapton on lead guitar.
Jones’s career has not been entirely limited to the road; he has also had considerable recording experience, engineering Pink Floyd’s live Delicate Sound of Thunder album, as well as engineering and mixing virtuoso violinist Mark O’Connor’s 1985 “Meanings Of” at his home studio. Jones has also mixed for release live recordings by a number of artists, including Randy Meisner of The Eagles, Pat Benatar, Linda Ronstadt, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop. Jones mixed two 1980s specials Faith Hill did in the studio for CBS.
By 2001, Jones was looking for a new challenge and, that September, joined Meyer Sound as Tour Liaison Manager. Jones founded the company’s office in Nashville’s renowned Soundcheck rehearsal facility in 2004. As recently as this year, he was still manning the console, mixing dates for Clint Black and Counting Crows, but his expanding role at Meyer Sound, the increasing level of activity at the Nashville office, and a desire to spend more time with his family led Jones to decide in mid-2006 to devote all his professional energies to Meyer Sound.
One of Jones’s new directions has been education, as he has joined in Meyer Sound’s ongoing worldwide series of professional training seminars to pass on the lessons of all those years behind the board. The experience has been rewarding for him. “I am enjoying this phase of my career: helping to educate young engineers and sharing some of my experience."
Buford Jones is a legendary figure in sound reinforcement and contributes to Meyer Sound in a variety of ways: advising on product development, bringing the company’s products to the attention of today’s touring engineers, and teaching the next generation of sound reinforcement engineers. His is an invaluable voice of experience in a world where few can speak with the authority he has earned through countless dates in theatres, arenas, and stadiums.