Local musician Trevor Jones knows how to get the crowd going. He’s famous around these parts for his warmth, charisma, sea-faring shanties and raucous call-and-response parodies. He talked to me just in time for his St. Patrick’s Day shows at Mulligan’s, which are always loads of fun, even if it’s at your expense.
In Catalina, I worked on James Cagney’s old boat. I’d say it’s about 90 foot, a gaff topsail schooner called The Swift of Ipswich. It’s a replica of a Baltimore Clipper—very fast. In 1984, I went from Maui to Catalina for the summer and worked for the Olympics; we were in the tall ships parade, which was nice. So I like to do shanties but in an authentic way.
A shanty is from the French “chanter,” or “to sing.” There’s a lot of different definitions but a lot of people say that a shanty is a work song, it’s an economic thing. In navies of the world, they didn’t have shanties because they had enough men to do a job. But in merchant navies or private ships, doing trading ships, they’d have all the guys pull together at a certain beat or call.
I like those songs. There’s several different kinds; there’s halyard shanties, pump, stomp-and-go shanties. Then there’s fo’c’s’le songs, which are basically just, well, songs that tell a story. I learned them because it was my hobby, you know, like a lot of guys have their cars and that.
I was born in Wales 63 years ago. I grew up in Holyhead, Anglesey—it’s an island. It’s the main port to Dublin, actually. My father was the engineer for a big fleet of ships—British Rail. He was on convoys during the war. When I was growing up, it was a very simple life. I went to a boarding school in Wales, a Catholic school. Yeah, you know, the nuns they gave it to me.
I went to college in Manchester and my main thing was rugby—I loved rugby. And then I got my knee screwed up and went on a couple rigs in Africa—on the oil rigs, because it was really good money… well, this was in the ‘60s, you know—and at the end of my contract, the company offered me a job and a choice of different places to go, like the South China Sea or Libya.
Then I came to America, ended up in New Orleans—I was 26. I played this set and they paid me $15 and all the beer I could drink. And then I went to California, married the mother of my children and moved to Catalina Island. I bought a house there for 40 grand, in Avalon. Bill Wrigley owned the island—he was a nice guy. I used to play for their private parties.
In the winters, I played everywhere—Montana, Colorado, Key West, New York, Chicago—all over America, really. I’ve met some great people. When I was in Tahoe, Duane Eddy—he was one of my heroes when I was a kid, you know, in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, he was the head guy of twangin’ guitar. But he used to play with me in Lake Tahoe as long as I wouldn’t tell anybody that it was him, ‘cause you know, we liked to have a few beers together. I’ve opened for a lot of people, like the Pointer Sisters, Taj Mahal, The Beach Boys, Charlie Musselwhite…
About 27 years ago, I got divorced, sold the house in Avalon, moved here with my kids. I was the house band at the Pioneer Inn for about 16 years. It was a wild bar in those days. Times have changed but in those days, there’d be holes in the floor, half the slats were missing. That was a great time on Maui ‘cause all these great players would come and just sit in, Princess Caroline would be sitting in the bar, a guy from the bloody National Enquirer taking pictures…
I consider myself more or less an entertainer. If I start a show, I’m almost a bit nervous, you know. I’ll always try and build a bridge if I can, with somebody in the audience and try to get them going. I’ve been very lucky doing that. I love people, and I want them to have a great time. MTW