The Rev. Johnny L. "Hurricane" Jones makes a spirited comeback

Thirty-one years after his last LP, Dust-to-Digital releases Jesus Christ from A to Z

TWIST AND SHOUT: Jones' sermons at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church were the stuff of local legend in the '60s and '70s.
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Before the Rev. Johnny L. Jones earned the nickname "Hurricane" for whipping sermons into a frenzy, before he recorded a string of gospel LPs for Jewel Records, before his church in Atlanta's West End burned in 1973, and long before his records started showing up again in thrift stores to be discovered and bought by a younger generation, Johnny Jones was just a young boy sitting at a tent revival in Marion, Ala. The year was 1949.

"I can't think of the man's name, but he played piano and sang," Jones says. "I guess the audience went wild along with me and I sat back there watching him. At 13 my prayer was, 'Lord, let me play a piano just like he's playing it.'"

Later that day, Jones told his mother that he could learn to play the piano if she would buy one for him.

"She said, 'John, you know we don't have the money to buy a piano. We don't know how well the crops are going to be this year. But if we can raise 21 bales of cotton, the 21st bale will go toward purchasing your piano.' And the Lord blessed us to make 25 bales of cotton. So she bought me a piano and put it in the house. I basically taught myself how to play."

Called to preach at the young age of 19, Jones preached at country revivals and around LaGrange before settling in as pastor at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church in Atlanta. At the small church on Maple Street in the late '50s, Jones started recording the songs and sermon of each Sunday service on reel-to-reel tape. Jones says that Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. lived in the neighborhood at the time.

"Martin and I used to be young enough that we could sit on the hood of a car, cross our legs and talk. My Lord, if I had known he would grow into such a star, I would've had him making tapes back then."

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(Photo Courtesy Count Jackson)

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