Swannanoa Gathering attracts rock ‘n’ roll legend
Former Led Zeppelin mandolin/bass player John Paul Jones was picking his borrowed banjo and sawing his fiddle around the Warren Wilson campus during the Swannanoa Gathering’s Old-Time Week July 20-26. Dressed in a khaki button-up shirt and Birkenstock sandals, Jones was enthused to pick with the large number of acoustic musicians at the Gathering.
Jones flew in from London with his wife and daughter to attend his first Swannanoa Gathering, on invitation from alumna Rayna Gellert ‘98, fiddler for the string band Uncle Earl, whose latest album Jones produced.
It is strange indeed to picture such a legendary musician eating Wilson burgers in Gladfelter, but as far as the majority of the Swannanoa Gathering population knew, he was just another picker. Despite his membership in one of the most popular rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, Jones is the humble, retired rock-star wanting to be treated like any other participant at the Gathering.
“Even when Zeppelin was in its heyday, I was never one who wanted to be recognized or harassed,” Jones said. “I much preferred to sneak out the back door of the hotel to find some hippies to hang out with. The first two days of my classes here, nobody recognized me. After a while it sort of leaks out (chuckling), and I’ll get the occasional person asking me for an autograph,” he adds in his thick London brogue.
Jones has become interested in old-time music and instruments like fiddle and banjo only in the past few years; not surprisingly, he has picked them up with great enthusiasm and skill. His interest in roots music can be traced to the influence shared by the other members of Led Zeppelin. One thing about old-time music that seems to particularly captivate Jones is the instrumentation. Unlike rock ‘n’ roll, amps and roadies, old-time music uses acoustic instruments that can be pulled out of a case and ready to play in seconds flat.
Over the course of Old-Time Week he attended fiddle and banjo classes. “I really enjoy the campus,” Jones says. “When I went to school in London, we had nothing even closely resembling Warren Wilson.”
In good humor and all seriousness, Jones shared some final words of wisdom for aspiring musicians: “I have never had a real job in my life. If you really love music, then you should get paid for it. You might start out small, but take anything you can get.”
By Chris Lininger ‘10
Swimming for a cause
Economics/business administration major Katie Spotz ’08 recently completed a 325-mile swim on the Allegheny River to raise awareness for the Blue Planet Run Foundation , which works throughout the world to help communities gain access to clean drinking water. You can read a story about Katie’s amazing effort in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Her next adventure? In December 2009, she plans to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, from Senegal to French Guiana, to raise money for Blue Planet.