Local one-time rocker to receive hall of fame honor
GENEVA - People might know John Christensen for his involvement in the Geneva Lions Club or his work at State Street Jewelers in downtown Geneva.
But few people, he said, are as likely know that decades ago he belonged to a band that opened for such musicians as Santana, Marshall Tucker Band, U2, Head East and Savoy Brown.
Labor Day weekend, that band, Jonesin', will be inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in Arnolds Park, Iowa.
Christensen, 56, a resident of St. Charles, said the recognition has been a long time coming, and the group is looking forward to the event. Members readily agreed to play a 25-minute set that weekend, he said.
Jonesin' – which initially went by the name the Schlitz-Betty Band – was based in Des Moines, Iowa, and later moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where it opened for Santana and Marshall Tucker at the Rosenblatt Stadium in 1979.
The members nicknamed their sound as Blue Ribbon Rock and Roll, Christensen said, adding their style was difficult to define.
"Nobody could really label us," said Christensen, who played drums in the band from 1975 to 1982.
Christensen joined the band as a high school senior, he said. After school in Newton, Iowa, he would drive the 35 miles to Des Moines and would return home on the $2 in gas his bandmates chipped in, he said.
Jonesin' was a full-time job for the members, who would perform from 9 p.m. to 1 or 2 a.m., wake up between 10 a.m. and noon, have coffee and eat, rehearse from 1 to 4 p.m., and clean up and eat before their next show, Christensen said.
To keep expenses low, he said, they shared a house and consisted on such foods as Hamburger Helper.
"It was a starving artist thing," Christensen said.
Not having jobs enabled the band to be on the road for three to nine weeks at a time, Christensen said, noting Jonesin' traveled to more than a half dozen states and Canada.
In 1981, the group opened for U2 at the Filmore in Ames, Iowa. A poster at the national Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, includes a poster billing Jonesin' as a special guest at the U2 show, Christensen said, noting the band's name is slightly misspelled.
The band retired in 1982.
Christensen, a graduate gemologist through Gemological Institute of America, has worked as a jeweler for the last three decades, the last 10 of which at State Street Jewelers, where he does a lot of design and repair work, he said.
"It's still creative," he said of the contrast between his current occupation and past musical experiences.
He and his wife, Cindy, have lived in St. Charles since 2000, he said, and have a 26-year-old son.
Christensen has been involved with the Geneva Lions Club for the last five years and volunteers with the St. Charles East High School auto club when time permits, he said.
Though Christensen plays the drums at the band's reunions, he said his drums are usually stored away. He does, however, occasionally get them out.
"It's a great stress reliever," he said.