Playing till his final moments: Peterborough musician Stephen Jones dies at 70

  • Peterborough musician Stephen Jones, right, and Tim Mowry, play a recent live show in Dublin. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Elaina Delrossi, left, Tim Mowry, an unknown customer, David Delrossi and Stephen Jones at Del  Rossi’s Trattoria.  Courtesy photo

  • Peterborough musician Stephen Jones died of cardiac complications at 70. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Peterborough musician, Stephen Jones, left, has died at age 70. Courtesy photo

  • Stephen Jones of Peterborough, with his daughter, Gwen.  Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/6/2019 6:29:37 PM

Stephen Jones of Peterborough, whose guitar and banjo were a bastion of the live music scene in the Monadnock Region, has died at the age of 70.

Jones, half of the duo the Grumbling Rustics, suffered a cardiac arrest on Feb. 9, during an annual music jam session in Amherst. He died of cardiac complications on Friday, according to his brother, Tom Jones of Essex Junction, Vermont.

It’s fitting, Tom Jones said, that his brother was playing music when he had his heart attack.

“He was doing what he liked to do best when he was stricken,” he said. “Playing music.”

Music is deeply embedded within the Jones family, said Tom Jones, who is also a musician who performs under the stage name “Jazzou” Jones. Musicians were common in their family, and Steve grew up playing music.

While they played very different styles, Tom Jones said, they were always able to share a musical bond.

He started with the guitar, but was also attracted to the banjo early on, much to her chagrin, noted his sister, Casey Jones of Temple.

“There were times when he’d be learning a piece and play it over and over again, and he would be trying all our patience learning these songs,” Casey Jones said. “It was bad enough on the guitar, but when he got into the banjo, it was painful. But he got good fast, and it was definitely his preferred instrument.”

In his most recent musical group, the Grumbling Rustics, with musical partner Tim Mowry on guitar, Steve Jones specialized in the clawhammer banjo, which uses a “strumming” style that differentiates it from the fingerpicking bluegrass banjo. He and Mowry specialized in Irish and Celtic tunes and Appalachian fiddle tunes they adapted for the guitar, mandolin and banjo.

While the duo has performed live at venues all over the Monadnock Region – including local inns, pubs, and restaurants such as Sunflowers Cafe and DelRossi’s Trattoria, and collaborated on a recording project in 2010 – Mowry said they were always mostly focused on their music, and the performing was secondary.

“The focus was always on our own satisfaction,” Mowry, of Harrisville said. “Playing out was secondary for both of us. It was a different experience, playing for playing’s sake. It certainly enriched my life. It’s going to be a big loss for me.”

His family and friends described Steve Jones as a “Renaissance man” who had a variety of interests, though music was his first and best love.

“You were always finding out about some new thing he’d done,” Mowry said. “He was so much fun. He was always in a good mood, quick with a joke or a good line, who enjoyed his food and always had a great new joke.”

He was a voracious reader, lover of science fiction, pool shark and chess player, Casey Jones said.

He was quick with a joke but also knew how to buckle down when it came to work, David DelRossi, owner of DelRossi’s Trattoria said. Steve Jones worked as an assistant cook at DelRossi’s for several years in the 1990s, and was a frequent performer and participant in weekly jamming sessions at the restaurant.

“It’s a big loss,” DelRossi said. “He was always learning new songs and teaching people new songs. He was a great teacher. He would come to jam sessions and always had a new song he was working on, and he’d come into a jam session and teach it to you, and he’d always say, ‘We’re not going to fault you if you can’t keep up.’”

He shared his love of music with students, as a private guitar teacher and as a teacher at Mountain Shadows School in Dublin, where he taught music and math.

“He loved all the kids and he would always be the one to report the things they said that he thought were amusing,” Casey Jones said.

“He was a really excellent teacher of music and had a lot of students that admired him,” Tom Jones said. “He’s going to be missed, for sure.”

DelRossi’s Trattoria dedicated their Wednesday night jam session on March 6 to Stephen Jones. The Jones family will be holding a private memorial service, with a public celebration of his life to be held in the spring.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.




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