Alamo Jones may have not been a chart topper. But he lived one of the most interesting lives within country music, and made country music a lot more interesting through his life. Over his diverse career, he worked as a songwriter, a DJ, a lighting specialist, and even a cue card holder. But none of these occupations speak to how important Alamo Jones was to country music. He was like a mascot for the genre for decades, and perhaps most importantly, was Johnny Cash’s right hand man for many years.
His given name was Chance Martin, but Alamo Jones is how he will mostly be remembered. Other nicknames he accrued over the years were “The Voice in Black” and “The Stoned Ranger.” A character-and-a-half to say the least, it was his personality and personable nature that made him so valuable to the country community no matter what capacity he was acting in.
It all started when he landed a job as the cue card holder on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969. During the three-year run of the show from the Ryman Auditorium, Cash took an immediate liking to Alamo Jones, and started taking him out on tour with him as a lighting technician. Over this time, Jones became Johnny Cash’s right hand man and close personal friend. It was Cash himself who gave Jones his other famous nickname, “The Voice in Back.” Cash also gifted Jones one of his famous D35 guitars that he was playing at the time.
Alamo Jones broke through as a songwriter with the song “Loser Til You Win,” and began working for Johnny Cash’s publishing company, House of Cash. But over this time he remained with Cash as his stage manager and lighting director due to his capacity to never buckle under pressure, and always pull through in difficult situations. When everyone else was worried, Alamo Jones was the cool hand. When Jones was not on tour with Cash, he would work locally in Nashville in multiple stage manager-like capacities, was always on-call, and was always in high demand.
In 1977, Alamo Jones left the Johnny Cash world. Though not particularly wealthy, he did save up enough cash to build a full production studio above the garage of his parents that came to be known as “The Dead End.” Eventually he recorded an album called In Search titled under the name “Chance” at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Cowboy Arms studio and the Music Mill in after hours sessions.
After being rejected by every label in Nashville, Alamo Jones released the album himself in 1981 in bootleg form. It ultimately became a cult classic, but it was difficult to impossible to find a copy of the album until the streaming era. With his hopes at having a solo career somewhat dashed, Jones went back to touring work to support himself. Along with country acts, Alamo Jones worked with rockers like Alice Cooper and David Lee Roth, which allowed the legacy of Alamo Jones to cross genres.
Where most modern audiences know Alamo Jones from is on SirusXM radio where he started working as a DJ with Cowboy Jack Clement in 2010 on the Outlaw channel. This is where the name “Alamo Jones” became codified. When Clement passed on, Alamo Jones continued with his own show, and became a listener favorite from the approach he brought, and the first-hand stories he told. Some artist who would never appear on other shows would appear with Alamo Jones, including Hank Williams III.
Both fans and artists respected Alamo Jones because they knew he’d been in the trenches of country music. He also returned to the studio and released a self-titled true country album in 2012. Though in more recent years Alamo was mostly behind-the-scenes and on-air personality, the mystique and stories still followed him around.
“I will miss his knowledge, good humor and the legendary set of pipes of “The Voice In Black.” It was an honor to work with him for these last 18 years,” said fellow SiriusXM DJ and performer Dallas Wayne at the word of his passing on September 27th.
There weren’t ever many like Alamo Jones in country music, and there won’t be anyone else like him now that he’s gone. He was one of the last great characters from country music’s greatest era, and he’s being fondly remembered, and sorely missed throughout the country music community.