Singer, actor, songwriter, musician and Radio 2 DJ Paul Jones has a long list of credits to his name. In the 1960’s he had million selling records alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and starred in 2 films, including the cult classic ‘Privilege’. Paul has also starred in numerous TV and the theatre productions. He is currently best known as a Radio 2 DJ and as the lead singer for both The Manfreds (the re-formed Manfred Mann) and The Blues Band.
Paul was friends with Brian Jones in the early 1960‘s. Both were students and used to meet up at blues clubs. They both played in blues bands before they became successful. Brian Jones formed the Rolling Stones and asked his friend to be the lead singer, but Paul had other plans at the time and turned down the offer. He soon realised that this was a mistake because after securing Mick Jagger the Rolling Stones began to take off in a big way. Paul auditioned with Manfred Mann and was given the job of fronting the band, singing on their best known number one hits ‘Do Wah Diddy’ and ‘Pretty Flamingo’.
In 1966 he moved on. Continuing to perform as a singer, he had two top five solo hit singles with ‘Bad Bad Boy’ and ‘High Time’. He had a brief spell with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood in the blues supergroup Powerhouse, but Paul’s real ambition was now acting. His films Privilege and The Committee did well at the box office. On TV he starred in Thank Your Lucky Stars, Top of the Pops, Z Cars, Space 1999, The Sweeney, Granada Weekend, A Plus 4, Play it Again and Uncle Jack. In the theatre, Paul starred in Kiss Me Kate, The Beggar’s Opera, Guys and Dolls, Pump Boys and Dinettes. He has returned to music at times over the years and his original recording of Evita went gold. In 1979 he founded The Blues Band, who have become the best known dedicated blued group in the world. Paul still hosts a Monday evening blues programme on Radio 2.
So, after such a successful career and the acclaim of so many dedicated fans, what more could a man ask for?
Well, Paul admits that for all of his fame and success he was still empty inside. In the 1980’s he was still very much in demand as a performer, but a broken marriage and the deaths of close friends at a relatively young age left Paul wondering what life was all about. The tragic list included the death of his friend Brian Jones in 1969 at the age of just 27. Paul says,
”Sex, drugs and rock-‘n’roll? I’ve done it all. I thought that was the best life can offer, but it only leads to death and many of my contemporaries have paid the price. Many of those I admired are now dead, victims of that lifestyle.”
Paul had been put off Christianity by the appalling behaviour of a ‘Christian’ in his neighbourhood when he was a teenager. But seeing the emptiness of the celebrity lifestyle, Paul was now searching again. 1984 was to be his year. By then he was living with actress Fiona Hendley and beginning to find some happiness. Cliff Richard invited them to hear Billy Graham speak in London with the ‘bribe’ of a meal afterwards in a top restaurant. Paul says, “I had to apologise to Cliff for the way I treated him on TV many years before. I was horrible!” He realised afterwards that he had been in a state of denial. He had argued with his mouth that Christianity wasn’t true, but in his heart he knew it was. Fiona was also a ‘spiritual seeker’ but although she had tried a few mediums and spiritualists (who persuaded her that she was a Christian even though she knew she wasn’t) she neither had inner peace nor real happiness. Like Paul, she had thrown herself into her career, but was still empty inside.
Cliff’s invitation made the difference. With the combined effects of Cliff’s prayers and friendship, and Billy Graham’s message, Paul and Fiona both realised that God was speaking to them. They put their faith in Jesus Christ. They also realised that they should be married if they were going to continue living together, so they got married too!
Since that time, in addition to their professional work, Paul and Fiona now spend much of their time sharing their faith, alongside their music, at Christian events and churches. They have also found that God uses them to help heal broken marriages. After the events, they always stay around as long as necessary to talk and pray with people.
Both Paul and Fiona continue their professional careers, but they no longer work to try to find fulfilment. In that Billy Graham event back in 1984, they both found that God can refresh the part of a human being that no-one and nothing else can reach – the human spirit. Decades since then have proved that it was not a short-term emotional response, and they both conclude that they are far happier than they could have imagined before that special event that changed their lives forever.
Story by Ralph Burden
feature photo 1: Paul Jones at a Oasis Church, Chippenham, UK with youth group members Hannah & Katie
photo 2: Paul & Fiona Hendley-Jones with Ralph & Heather Burden – attribution: both photos owned by Real Life Stories