He was a legend at P.S. Jones HS

Published 4:46 pm Monday, September 18, 2023

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How many times have you sung ‘I feel good, like I knew I would’ by the great James Brown? Great song, right? Did you know it was musically arranged by Washington’s PS Jones High School Band teacher Nat Jones when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1966.

When James Brown And The Fabulous Flames introduced ‘I Feel Good’ on Sullivan’s sensational variety show, Mr. Jones played that amazing saxophone solo, that to me, really made that song. However, in the first original recording of the song in 1964, Mr. Jones played the Hammond organ.

Nat Jones was the band teacher at P S Jones from 1961-1964. He auditioned for Brown in the spring of 1964 and became Brown’s music director and music arranger from 1964-1967. He wrote 34 songs in that time with Brown and recorded songs like, ‘This Is A Man’s-Woman’s World’ part 1 and 2 in 1966 featuring singer Irma Thomas. ‘Money Won’t Change You’ (the record pictured below) which was a hit in 1966 and ‘Do You Really want To Rescue Me?’ in 1966. Mr. Jones and Brown also had a music company briefly named ‘Najam’, using the first few letters in their first names to give a name to the company. Mr. Jones was one of the founding members of James Brown And The Fabulous Flames.

Nathaniel “Nat” Jones was one of the first Kinston musicians Brown hired. Jones studied with the Atkin High School teacher, Geneva Perry, who had been a professional saxophonist touring with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm before she settled in Kinston. Perry was a life-changing figure for Jones and many other musicians from Lenoir County.

Nat Jones graduated from Adkin High in 1955, the class valedictorian. He went on to receive a degree in music with cum laude distinction from North Carolina Central University in Durham and then served as band director at several eastern North Carolina high schools, including Adkin. When school was not in session, Jones played professionally up and down the East Coast. Jones led the way for other young musicians from eastern North Carolina to tour and record with James Brown. Jones’s student, the trombonist Levi Raspberry, followed, as did the trumpet-playing Florida native and Kinston resident Dick Knight, the drummer Sam Lathan from Wilson, and Kinston’s own Parker brothers, the drummer Melvin and Maceo, a saxophonist.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, James Brown revamped his band under the leadership of Nat Jones.

Nat Jones passed in Kinston in 2014 leaving forever generations of music lovers with his legendary ‘I Feel Good’ saxophone solo.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.