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Buford Jones is a veteran live sound mixer and Front of House engineer. Over his decades-long career, Jones worked with legendary artists including David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, ZZ Top, and many more. Jones sat down via Zoom call with SoundPro’s VP of Sales and Marketing Ryan Mauer to reminisce about his experiences and elaborate on his mixing philosophy. Here are some highlights!
FROM SHOWCO TO SOLO IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF AUDIO
After graduating with a degree in electronics, Jones started his career in Dallas, working an 8-5 job repairing stereos, amplifiers, and turntables. He enjoyed the work and had been there about a year when someone recommended that he check out Showco, which at the time was looking for audio professionals to mix live shows.
In his interview with Showco, they asked about his education, whether he played an instrument, whether he had a studio, whether was familiar with gear…and whether he was single. “I found out what that meant later,” recalls Jones. “That meant that I was on the road for months at a time…and there was no one to complain about it.” In his first year traveling with Showco, he was on the road for 11 months straight. When he came home it was only for a few days at a time. He would often finish a show, call the office, and get reassigned to travel straight from one gig to another.
As unrelentingly busy as this line of work was, at the time he was also building a huge network of connections in the industry. He was meeting tons of people who were getting to know him and value his talents. Certain artists started calling Showco asking for Buford Jones by name.
Jones was a first-hand witness (and participant) to an era of monumental shifts in the audio industry. “Woodstock pretty much made a stamp on the entire industry,” a change that was glaringly apparent in the early 70s when Jones was with Showco. “Woodstock made the whole ‘festival scene’—with a large number of people going to concerts--and these companies saw that opening.” A band or artist would arrive at a city, and their promoters would need audio gear. Showco would get many of these calls for one-off performances. Touring became the norm—and with it, the challenge to get consistently quality gear…and audio professionals who knew how to run that gear properly.
In 1980 he was one of the first FOH engineers in the industry to go independent, taking out the “middleman” and becoming employed directly by the bands. This was where his prior industry relationships came in. “When I look back on my entire resume…I never sent anybody an application for work. It just followed. I was at the right place at the right time for this sort of work.”
MIXING AS A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
A major part of what drew Buford Jones into the world of audio mixing was his love of music. He played guitar, and would have liked to play professionally, but noted “I had too many friends that were starving that played.” Once he began working with Showco, however, he realized that a mixing console was also a sort of instrument, like a guitar or keyboard. Although he wasn’t on stage, this was his way of jamming with the band and expressing his musical creativity. “Jackson Browne was the first to call me one of the band. I said, ‘Well, would you mind paying me like that?’” Jones quips. “But that was really nice of him to say, ‘You’re part of the band.’ And that’s how it felt to me.”
While his personal creativity fueled his passion for mixing, Jones also took pride in being able to do his part to make these legendary artists’ individuality shine through. “I’ll never give myself credit for the way ZZ Top or Pink Floyd sound. You know it’s them. I’m just getting it out there. It’s all their credit.”
To illustrate this philosophy of mixing, Jones recalls a story when he was on his way to a gig in New York City. He was taking a cab to his hotel, and the driver was making small talk, asking him what he was doing in town, and so on. Jones explained that he was mixing a live concert for Linda Ronstadt.
“He goes, ‘Ah. Mama bakes the cake, and you serve it.’” This analogy sums up how Jones looks at live sound. “At your best, you’re producing what’s already there. The cake has been baked. Now let’s deliver it.”
A special thanks to Buford Jones for setting aside time to sit down and chat with SoundPro!
Over its 50 years in business, Sound Productions has nurtured many long-lived relationships with industry professionals including Jones. In October 2023, we’re inviting all of them, along with our team members, valued customers, and vendor partners to an Anniversary Event at our headquarters in Irving, TX.
Interview conducted by Ryan Mauer – VP of Sales & Marketing
An experienced, dynamic sales leader with broad and deep industry relationships, Ryan has been leading teams in the Pro AVL industry since 2015. Passionate about live music, he also gigs on the weekends, giving him real-life pro sound experience and expertise.
Edited by Laura Strommen – Content Writer
Laura has been honing her craft with the written word since 2016. She joined the SoundPro team in 2021, creating content for the website, thought leadership articles, news releases, and anything else they’ll let her write!