Oral Histories

Interview of Regina Jones

Co-founder and publisher of SOUL magazine.
Topic:
African American History
Music
Interviewer:
Cline, Alex
Interviewee:
Jones, Regina
Persons Present:
Jones and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Jones's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, series coordinator, UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research; musician. Cline prepared for the interview by reviewing many issues of SOUL magazine and by researching many of the specific artists and topics frequently covered in SOUL during its sixteen-year period of publication.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Jones was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
Length:
12 hrs.
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Father, Leslie A. Nickerson’s, family background—Mother’s family background—Father’s condition after returning from combat in World War II—Jones’s South Central Los Angeles neighborhood growing up—Her childhood friends—More about her neighborhood—Elementary schools she attended—Entrepreneurial interests and ventures she devised from an early age—Her church experiences in her neighborhood as a child—House parties and socials she engaged in as she began to grow a bit older—Theories as to where Jones got her toughness—Music she enjoyed while growing up—Areas outside her neighborhood she visited as a youngster—Her first memory of real anger at white people as a child—Business owners and their employees in the neighborhood at the time—Cross-section of people who were customers at the beauty shop/barber shop where her mother worked—Conditions which led to Jones becoming pregnant and marrying in 1958 at age fifteen—Her husband, Ken Jones—She gives birth to their first child, Kenneth, in 1958—Her parents’ relationship with each other—As Jones has more children, her mother helps take care of the Joneses’ children—Difficult times during the period when Ken Jones is endeavoring to establish a career as a disc jockey while Jones is taking care of their four children—Crisis that provided the turning point in the Joneses’ relationship and led to Jones getting a job at Parker Center for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)—Now with five children, the Joneses’ life begins to stabilize as they purchase their first and then second homes—Racism Jones experienced while working at Parker Center—The L.A. neighborhood to where she and the family ultimately moved and where she still lives.
Jones is rejected as a potential employee at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company—Time spent at the beach as a child and as a mother—Going to the movies as a child—Smog—Jones loses her naivete regarding racism once she begins working at Parker Center—Her job responsibilities in communications at Parker Center—Her experience being at Parker Center when the 1965 Watts uprising broke out in her neighborhood—Her experience being in the middle of the unrest in her own neighborhood—Her neighborhood and life after the uprising—How the uprising inspired Ken Jones to start SOUL magazine—While most of the residents of the riot-affected area stayed there, the Jones family moved out—After a period being produced at Jones’s home, SOUL shares office space on Melrose Avenue—Jones’s feelings of frustration and sadness regarding the twenty-year anniversary of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles and the status of life in the city since 1992—How SOUL attempted to support and encourage the nation’s African American community—How Ken Jones became a radio news reporter and eventually TV reporter—More minority TV reporters appear after Ken Jones begins his TV career—The beginnings of SOUL—Jones begins her involvement with SOUL as its bookkeeper but soon winds up running its office—Her and Ken Jones’s respective roles at SOUL—SOUL’s first staff—The origin of SOUL’s name—Music and artists SOUL covered when it started—The non-black readership of SOUL—In the absence of black publicists at record companies at the time SOUL began, the magazine creates needed material on the artists themselves—The magazine’s relationship with publicists once they appeared—The struggle to attract advertising dollars to SOUL requires the magazine to educate prospective clients—James Brown’s prominence as an artist and savvy as a businessman—SOUL’s humble origins and lack of mentoring or training to do what it was trying to do—As a married black woman in the late sixties, “passion and need” drive Jones’s uphill efforts to generate advertising support for SOUL—The attitude toward woman in the entertainment business in the late sixties and the way in which many women elected to handle it—How SOUL, as a pioneering venture, had to create its own model—SOUL and changes in developments regarding civil rights in the late sixties—Jones’s memories of President John F. Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassinations—Subscriptions to SOUL in its early days—Jones’s thoughts about racial and economic issues in light of changes in present-day public transportation in L.A.—Her lack of optimism about improvement in people’s lives while the gap between wealthy and poor widens and grows stronger—Her feelings about L.A.’s lack of civic pride—Her reflections about the safety of black male children in the wake of the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The rise of black consciousness and hippie culture in the late sixties—Changes in record companies’ approach to presenting and promoting black artists in the late sixties—The emergence and popularity of the Afro hair style—SOUL’s idealistic and uncompromising stance regarding its content—Ken Jones’s presence and influence at SOUL—Writers at SOUL in the late sixties—An attempt to get advertising support from Universal Studios sheds light on African Americans’ level of accessibility to big companies in the late sixties and in the present day—Racism experienced in Ken Jones’s work as a newscaster—Jones’s personal sense of her racial identity—Entertainment industry elite with whom Ken Jones became able to interact—Inspiration behind Jones’s increased militancy by the late sixties—African American comedians and TV stars in the late sixties—The beginning and short run of the spinoff publication SOUL Illustrated—SOUL runs the comic series “The Brothers’ Love” in 1968—The impact of the Vietnam War on Jones and on SOUL’s staff—Federal law enforcement agents enter SOUL’s offices to investigate the source of their t-shirts being worn by soldiers in Vietnam—By 1969 Jones becomes more feminist on top of her racial militancy—Her demanding nature and its impact on SOUL’s staff—Her full and relentless schedule during SOUL’s prominence—Her father’s ongoing psychological condition—The dynamics of SOUL’s relationship with the artists it covered and their record companies—SOUL's quickly expanding parameters regarding the subjects it covered—The “Miss Soul” feature in SOUL—The impact on SOUL of Motown Records’ move from Detroit to L.A. in 1970—The magazine’s unavoidably L.A.-based focus—Jones’s long-term friendships with many of soul music’s biggest stars—Her disillusionment with the Catholic Church and other religious institutions when she was a teenage mother—The spiritual journey that brought her to the faith she feels she has at present—Her advocacy for continuing psychological therapy—Her encounter with Ammachi Anitanandamaya—Her openness during the sixties and seventies—Her lack of participation in the drug culture of the sixties and seventies.
Little Richard’s presence in early issues of SOUL—Black residents in L.A. move into white neighborhoods in the late sixties, as does their music—Black nightclub the Total Experience—Changes in demographics of Jones’s old neighborhood by the later seventies—The advantages and beauty of growing up in L.A.—Areas successful black entertainers moved to in Los Angeles—SOUL’s heavy early coverage of the Jackson 5 after the Joneses attend the group’s first L.A. showcase—The early days of the Jackson family in L.A.—Massive response the magazine received to its coverage of the Jackson 5—SOUL’s readership broadens—Relative accessibility of musical artists during the sixties and seventies—SOUL’s circulation by the early seventies—Changes in the music and in the music business in the seventies—How SOUL was printed—Stevie Wonder—SOUL’s avid and knowledgeable readership in London—Jones’s feelings about the term “soul” becoming a widespread and universal identifier for the music—“Soul” in present-day music—Categories of black music by the seventies—The difficulty of handling newfound celebrity—Ways entertainers may be able to stay grounded and keep their perspective—More on Stevie Wonder—Barry White—George Clinton and company—The extremes Jones often experienced in the course of one average day while at SOUL—Jones’s acceptance of the duality of people as both entertainers and everyday people—Her experience of conducting the interview with Michael Jackson for Vibe magazine in 2002—More on Jones’s lack of involvement in the drug use prevalent in the entertainment industry—Her sense of artists’ lack of awareness of the potential price of fame at the time—Motown’s methods of handling their artists and the media’s coverage of them—Other publications which covered black music in the seventies—Photographers and writers who worked for SOUL—Jones’s difficulty in looking back at the past while preparing for the next stage of her life—A difficult conversation with Marvin Gaye’s widow, Janis Gaye.
Artists with whom Jones maintained personal friendships—A memorable photo shoot with Donna Summer—Chaka Khan—The Wattstax Festival—How Jones’s children benefitted from their exposure to the entertainment industry—Racial and artistic changes in the music industry by the early eighties—The current impact of digital technology and online sources for publications and music—Personal and business difficulties which ultimately led to SOUL’s demise—Editorial decisions made in an effort to generate more advertising for the magazine—Intense personal strife for Jones combined with business mismanagement by others contributes to Jones ending the run of SOUL—Compromises at the magazine that Jones was uncomfortable with accepting—Her eventual reconciliation with former SOUL employee J. Randy Taraborrelli—Longtime SOUL employee Steve Kopstein—Notable SOUL employees with whom Jones still has friendships—The chaos of Jones’s personal life at the time SOUL ended—Among the subpoenas she was served during SOUL’s demise is one served to her at her mother’s funeral—How she found out that then estranged husband Ken Jones was indicted for bank fraud on the same day as her mother’s funeral—Jones’s innate ability to see things realistically and practically and act accordingly, despite how unpopular that often made her with others—The importance of SOUL’s non-entertainment pieces of journalism—Her tenacity and intensity as a person—Dick Griffey offers her a position as his publicist at Solar Records/Dick Griffey Productions, which she accepts—Artists she represented—Griffey’s racial integrity as an employer—Her involvement in Reverend Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign—Photographer Bruce Talamon—Ken Jones’s jail sentence—His relationship with Jones after their divorce and after serving his sentence—Ken Jones’s death—Her feelings about Prince and his music—Her feelings about rap music as a development in contemporary black music—John McClain—Jones’s ability to spot talent in people.