We weren't accomplished enough to copy the songs that we heard on the radio, so we had no choice but to make up our own”, says Jono Manson of his first band which he formed in 1968, at the age of seven. So began the career of this prolific singer/songwriter and veteran performer.
Manson began playing professionally in his early teens, in the dirty 1970's dive bars of his native NYC. He has since performed everywhere from Max's Kansas City to Madison Square Garden, from house concerts to festival stages and has amassed an impressive recorded catalog which includes major-label releases as both recording artist and producer. His songs have been recorded by Grammy-winners and have been featured in major motion pictures, on network television and in national advertising campaigns.
Jono continues to collaborate with a wide range of artists as a co-writer and producer, and as a member of an array of side projects, such as Brothers Keeper, Manstein (with songwriter/composer Donald Rubinstein), The Whateverly Bros. (with UK singer/songwriter George Breakfast), his duo project with percussionist Wally Ingram, and The Duskray Troubadours (with John Popper). He also owns and operates The Kitchen Sink recording studio in his adopted home of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he has twice been named “Producer of the Year” by the New Mexico Music Awards.
Jono was born into from a family full of creative people, so it's not surprising that he cannot remember a time when he wanted to be anything other than an artist. His mother was a principle member in the Martha Graham dance company, who also worked alongside the likes of Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Leonard Bernstein, his great uncle was a vaudevillian who later wrote for radio and film and Jono’s cousins are filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.
In 1980, along with legendary NYC guitarist Simon Chardiet, Jono founded “Joey Miserable and the Worms” (which later became just “The Worms”). The six piece band played it’s own infectious blend of jump blues, funk, rockabilly, country and R&B. To this day, Manson’s songwriting reflects a wide range of styles, and defies easy classification, as is evidenced on his newest album The Slight Variations (2016). During his ten years with the Worms, Jono played repeatedly in virtually every live music club on the New York scene, including Max’s Kansas City, Dan Lynch’s, CBGB, The Ritz, Peppermint Lounge, the Lone Star Cafe and, of course, the now legendary Nightingales.
"The Worms helped turn Nightingales into a hangout for local musicians and scenesters and wound up becoming local heroes, influencing countless local bands.” The New York Times
"If it wasn’t for Jono Manson, then Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and Joan Osborne and the New York jam-band scene may never have happened. It was Manson who showed these young whippersnappers how to turn a blasé bar crowd into true believers at now legendary hole in the wall, Nightingales” High Times Magazine
"Any PR man worth his weight in hyperbole would be all over Manson’s story–how he befriended and granted crucial opening slots to future platinum recording acts that, a decade later, would sell out hundreds of arenas nationwide as co-headliners of the groundbreaking H.O.R.D.E. jam-band festival tours. In addition, Manson’s acoustic ensemble, the Les Ismore Orchestra, provided the public’s first glimse of Joan “One of Us” Osborne.” The Phoenix New Times
While playing with the Worms, Manson also found time to participate in numerous side bands such as “The Mighty Sweetones” and “The Dogs” , and the “Les Ismore Orchestra”, to name just a few. These Manson side-bands also included members of other infamous NYC bar bands such as “The Blue Chieftans”, “God Street Wine”, “The Five Chinese Brothers”, “Mumbo Gumbo”, Blues Traveler and “The Surreal McCoys”. Jono recalls several years in the mid-1980’s when he played over 365 gigs a year, without ever leaving New York City.
“Anyone who lived in New York in the Eighties and stepped out of their house for firewater on a weekend knows Jono on a first-name basis. His bands Joey Miserable and the Worms and the Mighty Sweetones ruled Saturday nights, achieving legendary Big Apple status without a record deal but with a following that people with a two-figure record deal would kill for.” The Phoenix New Times
Towards the late 1980’s Manson did, however, begin touring outside of New York. The Worms’ two independently released albums had become favorites on college radio playlists across the midwestern USA and the group followed the trail. The band had a short-lived “development deal” with CBS/Epic Records and in 1990 they played their last show.
Also during this period (in 1986) Jono opened his first recording studio in Brooklyn, NY (“back when Brooklyn was Brooklyn” quips Manson), and began recording and and producing bands.
In 1992, feeling that he needed a change of scenery, Manson moved from his hometown and resettled in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where he quickly set up a new home base. In no time he was up to his old tricks, playing locally, touring nationally, writing and recording solo projects and producing music for local musicians.
In December of 1995 Jono's album “Almost Home” was released on A&M Records. The project featured, among others, members of Blues Traveler, The Rolling Thunder Review, along with Warren Haynes on guitar. In the summers of 1995, 1996 and 1997, The Jono Manson Band, was a featured act on the national H.O.R.D.E tour alongside Sheryl Crow, Dave Mathews, Taj Mahal, Lenny Kravitz, Neil Young, Ziggy Marley, Wilco, and many others. When not on the road with his own band, or as the lead singer for “High Plains Drifter", he could (not surprisingly!) be found working the clubs in and around Santa Fe. In 1996, Jono's music was featured in the Farrelly Brothers' film "Kingpin", and in 1997 actor/director Kevin Costner called on Manson to write and produce music for his post-apocalyptic epic "The Postman".
In 1998 “Little Big Man”, produced by Manson’s old pal from his NYC days, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Del Lords, Steve Earle, Yayhoos), was released on Paradigm Records. That same year, the Italian label “Club de Musique” released Manson’s independently produced “One Horse Town”, marking the beginning of Jono's European career. Jono has toured in Europe every year since, particularly in Italy where, to date, nine of his albums have been released. These titles include Under the Stone, Summertime, Live Your Love, Gamblers (with Paolo Bonfanti), and November.
Though his travels, Jono began to collaborate heavily with numerous Italian artists and developed a growing career as a producer in Italy. He worked on a range of projects including two albums for singer/songwriter Stefano Barotti and Italian pop phenomenon Momo (Sony/BMG). Manson became so intensely connected to the Italian music scene that he decided to pull up stakes and relocate. He made his home base in Italy from 2003-2006. He has since produced albums for legendary Italian rockers, The Gang (Sony), Italy's longest-running “Americana” band, Mandolin' Brothers, and The Barnetti Bros (Universal), to name just a few.
Upon his return to Santa Fe in 2006 Jono opened The Kitchen Sink recording studio and quickly resumed recording and producing other artists. In 2008 he was tapped to produce an album for folk/rocker Tao Seeger. Jono's collaboration with Tao led to his participation in the epic 90th birthday concert for Tao's grandfather, Pete Seeger, at Madison Square Garden. In 2010 he recorded and produced John Popper and the Duskray Troubadours (a solo project for the Blues Traveler frontman), for which he also co-wrote much of the material. Manson toured extensively with this project for much of 2011.
In 2012 he was drafted into service with Colorado roots-rockers Brothers Keeper. He co-wrote and co-produced their album "Todd Meadows" (recorded at the infamous Ardent Studios in Memphis), becoming an "adjunct member" of the band, in the studio and on the road. During this period, Jono became so busy, joyfully working on albums for everyone else, from American Idol's Crystal Bowersox to bluegrass banjo maestro Jeff Scroggins to Pakistani sufi/rockers The Sketches (and just about all shades in-between!), that he did not release an album of his own for seven years. Its also worth mentioning that 2010 saw the birth of Manson's daughter, Natanya so, in addition, Jono was a first-time father at age 50. Finally in 2014 he gave the world “Angels on the Other Side”
"With the recent release of Angels on the Other Side (his first solo release in seven years), Manson has not only showcased a stellar selection of songs from years worth of travel, experience and collaboration, he has also solidified his position as a beloved and iconic member of the local music community.” Santa Fe Reporter
Upon the release of "Angels", Manson found himself feeling newly energized about his own career as a recording artist. While continuing to become increasingly busy with all manner of musical projects, he vowed not to let his own music take the backseat. Jono's new album, The Slight Variations, was released on October 14th, 2016.
Copyright 2016 Jono Manson. All rights reserved.