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Decatur Jones - Destined for Musical Greatness

In 1970 Chapel Hill seemed to be at the epicenter of the music world as James Taylor's chart topping album Sweet Baby James brought national attention to our little town. While our village was certainly the incubator for many great singer-songwriter talents in those days, including Bland Simpson, Don Dixon, and Mike Cross, the one person everyone knew was destined for stardom was Decatur Jones. He reeked of charisma and talent, yet for some inexplicable reason the stars did not align themselves for Decatur, and his flame has largely faded from our collective memory. Former band mate, and long time Chapel Hill musician, Skip Via recounts for us the recording of Jones’ album that sadly was never released. If any of you have photos or additional memories of Decatur please contact us at chmemories@gmail.com.

Decatur Jones, Chapel Hill singer, Coconut Grove, Florida 1982

Decatur Jones (center with orange t-shirt) and friends Coconut Grove, Florida circa 1982. (photo is by Wayne Sloop)

by Skip Via

In the summer of 1970, Chapel Hill native Decatur Jones assembled a group of local musicians and brought them to New York to record an album. Over the course of a week or so, we recorded 12 tracks in a small studio called Blue Rock Studios in Greenwich Village. All of the tracks were recorded as live takes with Decatur playing and singing in real time along with the other musicians. All of the songs were written by Decatur and arranged by the musicians that played them.

Decatur passed away several years ago at age 44. The album we recorded was never released.

Included here are two of the tracks we recorded with notes on the musicians.

Where Will You Be

Harlan Collins (known during high school as Paul) was living and performing in NYC at the time this recording was made and stopped in to record backing vocals on this track.

Decatur Jones: vocals, acoustic guitar
Jack Becker: double bass
Harlan (Paul) Collins: backing vocals
Corodon (Don) Fuller: piano
Jay Norem: drums
Skip Via: mandolin

Ode to Uncle Sam

The album's producer (name not remembered) brought in a "hot" bass player who was new on the NYC scene. He was a tall, thin, African-American who played excellent bass. Given the time of this recording and my memories of what he looked like, I like to think it was Stanley Clark. I have no proof at all--just my rock and roll fantasy, probably.

Decatur Jones: vocals, acoustic guitar
Unknown: electric bass
Corodon (Don) Fuller: exquisite blues piano
Jay Norem: drums
Skip Via: electric guitar

(Editor's note): Via claims that Corodon (Don) Fuller was possibly the finest musician ever to come out of Chapel Hill

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Comments:

John "Bubba" Moore      12:47 PM Mon 8/11/2014

I was a manager at Tony Roma's in Cutler Ridge in the early 1980s and Decatur played there often. We became friends and I attended his Master's recital at the University of Miami. There was a homeless man who lived under a bridge by a canal behind the restaurant and one night he was somehow burned badly enough to be whisked away in an ambulance. I remember Decatur wrote a song about it, it went something like this: "down in Cutler Ridge, under the 200th Street bridge, a man they called a "bum' lived on boxes. I'm not saying who is lying but someone set him on fire and" (sorry that's all I remember). I had lost contact with Decatur since the 1980s and for some reason thought of him today and "googled" his name and was saddened to see that he past away at a very young age. I wish we would have stayed connected but our paths went in different directions. RIP Decatur Jones, my friend....
 

Debbe Simmons      12:02 AM Tue 8/5/2014

Please if anyone needs to contact me my # is 786-205-7044 Christopher Taylor Please call me if you see this Decatur you would be so proud to see all of those who loved you Hold me a spot & we can sing together as always
 

Debbe Simmons      11:57 PM Mon 8/4/2014

I am saddened to have found this out much too late , 10 years too late He was a dear friend of my husband John Simmons who played in Fantasy, Wild Life &amp; Pegasus we were great neighbors on 79 we all lived in Hidden Gardens we stayed in touch with him for years Last I saw or heard from him he was living with Dallas He will sorely be missed we love you Decatur And I am sure you are in the Heavens still playing !! Christopher Taylor I left my E-mail Please contact me Ty Go with Peace &amp; Love <br \>
 

skipvia      10:45 AM Wed 2/19/2014

Decatur&#39;s siblings gave me permission to publish the tracks from Decatur&#39;s NYC Sessions and his unreleased Jones&#39; Crossing album. They can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/decaturjonesrecordings
 

Fatih Tilev      8:29 AM Tue 4/16/2013

I knew Decatur briefly while attending college in Western Carolina Univercity 1972. I first saw him while he was performing in the school theatre. He was so good, I was amazed. A year after, I met a lovely girl named Phllis whom I had seen her with Decatur as his girl friend. Well, Phllis and I hit it off and became lovers. She was a singer and played the guitar. I assume she learned a lot from Decatur. I learned a few songs from her. ongs Decatur probably tought her. One being &quot;Black bird&quot; which I still play well; considering it has some pretty funny chords.<br \><br \>I think Phllis continued to see him time to time and they remained friends. I was very sick one day laying in my living room in Cullowee, NC. Phlll and DJ came to visit. It was a little strange but, he was very<br \>nice gave me a morale boost. Played some songs for me while I lay there in fever.<br \>. <br \>I can&#39;t believe that he passed away so young! Today as I was playing my guitar in Barcelona I suddenly thought about him and decided to google him and came upon this site. But I am saddened to hear about hid pre mature death.<br \><br \>I wamted write my small story about him. God bless his sole.<br \><br \>
 

wiliam m. patterson      11:32 AM Sat 3/16/2013

you will never know how much you are missed........i love you Decatur.....
 

Dave Kistler      8:30 PM Fri 12/9/2011

My memories of Decatur were before he achieved musical fame. He was a couple years younger than us at Phillips. But, he hung out with us a bit. He was a special guy, with a great deal of charisma. Everybody knew him, and that booming voice of his.
 

Martin Winfree      8:53 AM Wed 12/7/2011

I don&#39;t know about the unrecorded album that you are talking about that was made in 1970, but I have an album called Downtown Decatur on Gopher Creek Records that I imagine was recorded in the mid to late 1970&#39;s. It went through Katrina, so it is not in great condition; but if no one else has a copy, let me know and I will run off a CD disk.
 

Bonnie Heacock      11:13 AM Mon 12/5/2011

I knew Decator when He was living with Dalles Heyser in Miami in the 80&#39;s. I spent a lot of time with the both of them, and their friends. I had the pleasure of listening to Decator play and sing on many occasions. I took several photographs during that time, and if anyone would like a copy, just drop me a note at my email address bonnieh07@hotmail.com. R.I.P. Decator.
 

christopher taylor      8:59 AM Mon 11/21/2011

i met decatur in south miami. i lived right next door to him at hidden gardens. i used to wake up to him playing &quot;MR. SKULL AND CROSSBONES&quot; and numerous other decatur jones songs. he even wrote a jingle for the local beer store next door called &quot;FOOD SPOT&quot;. i went to his masters recital at the u of m and it was excellent. i remember him and john simmons jamming together and i used to go to tony romas rib joint to hear him play. i knew all of his songs and thought for sure he was destined for greatness. it is so sad that he has left us to go play the great gig in the sky. i googled his name and found this cite. he deserves so much more. &quot;moma dont like no guitar picking momma, momma dont like no guitar picking momma. momma dont like no guitar picking she dont think its to finger licking&quot;. i can still hear him jamming that tune, god bless you decatur.
 

Judy Rochlin Larson      11:46 PM Wed 7/13/2011

I was looking up Decatur on Facebook to find this website, have to say, I&#39;m in shock. I read through all the posts, no surprise of the love everyone had for him, he was truly one of a kind. His love for life was addicting.I met him in the Grove in Miami , he was singing at Monty Trainers, I knew I had to meet this guy and sing with him. What a trip he was, we sang together on the album, Downtown Decatur. In a <br \>Previous post, someone mentioned the song, Where will you be. That was the song we sang together, also, Never ending night. His classical guitar was amazing, nothing I had heard before, such passion. I do have a copy of the album, so glad!!! We would stay up and he would pick his, git pick for hours.<br \><br \> He had a passion for my moms chili dogs and southern cooking. He lived with his girlfriend later, Dallas, who helped him achieve his record dream. I was and still am a closet singer, he had more confidence in me, than me, that was Decatur. I think some of the people that wrote on this sight might have been active participants on the album. Regardless, it was so much fun being his friend and fulfilling my passion with him for <br \>music.<br \><br \> He used to make me laugh. He would drive around in this clunker, Peugeot car, falling <br \>apart, sounded like it wouldn&#39;t make it down the street to the stop sign.<br \><br \>I hate to see him go, I miss him!! Love you Decatur Jones----
 

Pam Collins      3:07 AM Thu 5/19/2011

I am Lee Ann Collins&#39; sister, and also a friend of Decatur&#39;s. I am now living in San Rafael, California. A friend of mine and LeeAnn&#39;s from San Francisco told me about this site. I am glad to have an opportunity to share some things about Lee Ann and Decatur. <br \><br \>I&#39;ve heard many stories about Lee Ann and Decatur, and the deaths, and unfortunately, the majority of them were just a bit fuzzy and certainly not first hand. I was with Decatur in Durango the night before he died, so I was pretty in touch with him and what was happening.<br \><br \>Lee Ann died early Friday morning, November 12, 1999. Decatur called me in Chapel Hill that Friday morning with the bad news. By the next evening, Saturday, November 13, I was in Durango, as I flew out to Colorado immediately. My brother and sister, Decatur, and I spent that Saturday evening together. The next day, Sunday, November 14, we had lunch and gathered together to go to the mortuary for Lee Ann&#39;s viewing. I remember being with him as we were getting ready to leave. He was in an absolute daze and I was helping him dress. He was having trouble getting his shirt and jacket on as he had a lot of pain in his left arm. I remember he said to me, &quot;feel my arm, it hurts, do you feel a knot or see a bump or anything?&quot; I didn&#39;t pay much attention to it, as I was pretty much in a state of shock. Anyway, we finally left and made that very sad trip to see Lee Ann. Afterwards, we went back to the apartment and started sorting through some of her things, mostly haphazardly, as people were stopping by with their condolences. It was a very difficult afternoon and evening. At about 8:30 p.m., my brother and sister went back to the hotel. I stayed on with Decatur. He asked me if I thought he should try to go to class Monday morning as he was getting his teaching certificate from Ft. Lewis College in Durango. I told him I thought he might feel better to be there with friends if he was up to it at all. We made a plan to meet the next morning, Monday, November 15. We agreed that if he went to class, he would leave an apartment key under the mat so I could get in. I last saw him a little after nine. He was basically making plans for school on Monday and then meeting up with me afterwards.<br \><br \>On Monday morning, I arrived back at their apartment along with my brother and sister. I saw Decatur&#39;s car so I thought he probably decided not to go to class. I checked under the mat for a key, but it wasn&#39;t there. I knocked and called for him, but there was no answer. I decided to walk around and peek through the front window to see if he was there and just didn&#39;t hear us. He was sitting in the middle of the floor, Indian style, with his head falling forward. I just blanked and the world stopped for me. I yelled for my brother and sister. Thank God they were with me. My brother got the apartment manager and he unlocked the door. We went inside and Decatur was quiet and still. The telephone was beside him and when I looked closer, he was slumped over an empty carton of Haagen-Daz with the spoon cradled in his limp hand. At that point, I was too distraught to stay there and was taken next door by a neighbor while my brother handled things.<br \><br \>So, to anyone who mentions or thinks suicide, I have to say several things. Decatur&#39;s death certificate indicated &quot;heart attack&quot; as cause of death. Earlier Sunday, he had complained about pain in his left arm (classic myocardial infarction symptomatology). He was absolutely devastated over Lee Ann&#39;s death. I think his heart was broken, literally. I don&#39;t believe Decatur intended to die. I believe he was sitting on the floor eating ice cream while talking to anyone and everyone on the phone that night, and he simply just had a heart attack. Period. He was absolutely traumatized and bewildered over Lee Ann, but he would not intentionally take his own life. I KNOW THIS.<br \><br \>Decatur left Chapel Hill for Durango in the early 1990&#39;s. I was driving out to meet up with Lee Ann and he came long. It was a road trip I will never forget. After we arrived in Durango, I lived with Lee Ann and Decatur for about a year or so before getting my own place. They initially became caretakers for an elderly gentleman named Archie Ball. They all lived together in a farm house on Florida Road (what a synchronicity). I lived about a mile or so away. We had some awesome times together and those were truly &quot;some good old days&quot;. I have some amazing photos. I have some great pics of Decatur on skiis. I also have a tape recording of Decatur and Lee Ann interviewing Archie Ball (quite a character). One of a kind material. I have so many great memories of the three of us from Durango and Chapel Hill. I have a million stories and if I were to tell them, people would swear I made it all up. But if they knew Lee Ann and Decatur well enough they would find the stories amazing and absolutely true and beautiful. Lee Ann and Decatur were my very best friends and they will always be with me wherever I am and wherever I go. <br \><br \>Regards and Peace, Friends ...<br \><br \>Pamela J. Collins (Pam)
 

Nancy W. Jones      7:28 PM Mon 5/16/2011

Hi Everyone, I abolutely love this site as Decatur, along with his personality and talent deserves so much more than this but these posts from all the people he met and touched along the way are amazing. Look at the demographics, if you will. From those of you, on the Hill who grew up with , partied and watched him evolve. Then the University of Miami days, same thing, incredible loving stories all the way to the end in Durango, Co. still aweing people with his talent and personality. A Al,m Decatur;s brother and I were married from the mid 90s until 1999-2000. I believe in being forthwright and when we split, it was not pretty(I was and have been his only wife and and we were married when he was in his 40s. The day we ended our marriage , Al was headed for Asheville,NC and I was headed for Greensboro, near where I had grown up(a small town about 25 miles north of G&#39;Boro called Stoneville. It is ironic how when Al and I met in Wilmington and he had pulled his life together so well and was a big cheese counselor for Tri-County Mental Health. Al was about 100 mile ahead of me and as I am travelling up I-40, I saw a white Beamer on the side of the road and knew it was ours(his after the split) Thinking he had car trouble, I pulled in behind him and he was on his cell with his sister, Harriet. I wated until the call was over only to discover the devastating new about Lee Ann and Decatur. My heart went out to him a Al is as unique in his way as Decatur was. Al has a wit that is amazing and during a mariatl split, we lose ight of what attracted us in the beginning. One of the firt things Al said when he approached me for the first time was, &quot;You have GOT to be a Chapel Hill girl&quot; When I told him that I wasn&#39;t, I found him extremely witty, charming and, well, ended up marrying him. I could not in good conscience allow Al to go through this alone as he keep things so bottled up and having been the &quot;little brother&quot; to Decatur, had a lasting effect on Al. As his father and mother, &quot;Dutchess&quot; was from Chapel Hill and his father, Thomas Decatur Jones from Durham and a member of a prominent old tobacco family, they had to wait until they were both students at Yale to meet. Mr. Jones was studying drama I think I have been told that women were only admitted to Yale at the time as music majors/at least something in the arts, related. She was studying opera. The rest is their own family lore as they met, fell in love , married and had Harriet, Decatur and Al. Mr Jones wrote an amazing book of poetry in the late 1940s that was so ahead of it&#39;s time, that it did not ell as well a expected even with a major push ny The Algonquin(sic). By the time I got ahold of a copy, I was amazed and my beautiful daughter Brooke read a poem at our wedding. One of the poems tha stand out in my mind is one that wen something like this, &quot;Little girl, Oh dear little broken winged girl, what is heaven...and why is hell?&quot; I received a call from someone at the Grand Prairie Press which had folded and wa based in Kansas in it&#39;s heyday. Obviouly, they were known for publishing the poetry of many of the avante&#39; guarde a They had a list of authors and Mr. Jones was on the list and they were contacting families and were asking for copies to be donated to the University of Kansas. I think I contacted Harriet but do not believe she was interested. <br \><br \>Al and I recently reconnected as friends and it was such a pleasure to hear that wit and voice again as I had trashed him terribly after the marriage ended. Guys, he is back in Chapel Hill and seems to be so happy. Has been trying to get me to move there , as well as he feels my mind will be stimulated there and he says it would be the perfect place for me . We are now great friends and Al is just now beginning to open up with his feelings and really grieve Decatur. He has connected with someone who was setting up a website to put more of Decatur&#39;s music I was asked to wrie a bio, etc for the site and somehow he has been able to acquire some of Decatur&#39; original songs and has sent me a few in MPC and WAV format and I am just amazed ,even moreo, at Decatur&#39;s talent. personally , as I am a major Roy Buchanan fan, and have a documentary called &quot;The Best Unknown Guitar Player in The World&quot;. I can see sometthing being done like this in Decatur&#39; s honor as there are enough pics and music. There could be interview from people who have poed here who knew him best. As Al was surrounded by such amazing talent in his family, Drama, Art, Music and with his father, mother and brother being so talented in those areas, I truly believe he suffered greatly from feeling of inadequacy. Al is really a sweet and spiritual guy and as we have all had our demons(speaking for myself and Al) to contend with, we are both very grateful to be clean and sober today. I sense a major change in him a he has mellowed and although, till a work in progres, as we all are till we die, I feel that Al needs to have the mbiotic arms of the people who knew his brother around him a I know from peronal experience that Decatur loved Al dearly. All the phone calls made to Al and later on, me , as Al had not begun to work through his feelings from childhood. When we reach out 50s. life ha a way of dealing with u and I truly believe this move is one of the best Al has made in awhile. As the old family home of hi Grandmother Poe is(I undertand it was quite beautiful) gone, and o many thing have changed in Chapel Hill in the name of progress, I am sure he is still having to deal with many of ghosts in Chapel Hill. I hope that any of you who loved Decatur, will take the time to reach out to Al and thoe from Chapel Hill, will make him welcome.<br \><br \>Thank you,<br \><br \>Nancy W. Jones
 

L.J. Slavin      8:46 PM Wed 3/9/2011

I knew Decatur well when I lived in Miami in the late 70&#39;s-mid 80&#39;s. We jammed often and his musicianship and technique always blew me away. We did a few joint concerts together, I remember we both hung out and did shows at the Banjo Shoppe in Hollywood ran by the Stype Brothers, as well as other folk venues. We were buds and supported eachother&#39;s gigs. And the boy could party....but that&#39;s another story. We always meant to record together but that never happened. I remember jamming one night at his apartrment in South Miami when the lights went out....he couldn&#39;t pay the electric bill. We just laughed, had another hit and kept playing. I was certain he was destined for greatness. I left Miami in &#39;85 and we lost touch. This is the first I heard of his passing. I&#39;m saddened, and regret I didn&#39;t make more of an effort to stay connected. He will always remain in my heart, memories and music.<br \>
 

Jimi Abraham      4:32 PM Wed 1/5/2011

Decatur and I were best friends. My picture was above his bed on the wall put there by a thumbtack when he died. We had many bands together and<br \>gigged all over Miami with Miles and Mary Croom, Dan Adams, and Brett Riegal.<br \><br \>There are so many nights we spent together and a lot of the stories I have<br \>will have to go to the grave with me. I flew him here to Miami from Durango and we spend 2 weeks at my place in the keys playing music, drinking, partying and mostly laughing at the world! We were supposed to get together New Years 2000 but he died. When I found out Lee Ann died I had<br \>to bring him to Miami and set him up in an apartment but it was too late. Not a day goes by without me thinking of him. I would like to find out about the work he did in the studio with Gary Schmidt. It was some of his best work.<br \><br \>We would spend hours on the phone and my phone bill sometimes exceeded $500 for a month (before the cheap rates went in to effect). We loved to chase girls and drink and play, then crash wake up and continue. We would go out for burgers and smoked fish, my and his favorite. Dallas Heyser was a sweetheart and was his benefactor during the 80&#39;s and sponsored his production of Downtown Decatur, as well as our band Eclipse. It was the most fun of my life. I still cry sometimes, but as Shakespeare said I guess &quot;it&#39;s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved&quot;. I&#39;ll follow up with some more tid bits as I truly can say I knew him better than anyone. We loved each other very much.<br \><br \>Jimi Abraham<br \>Miami, Fl
 

Al Jones      5:13 PM Wed 11/17/2010

FAT BOY was one of Decatur&#39;s alises and I still talk to him in my mind all the time I am still telling some of his NC State jokes that he told me years ago. Their are so many GREAT memories of FAT BOY and Jay Norm, Bill Patterson, Ronnie Taylor, Johnny Klice, Owen Quinn and all of the women he wrote about in his many songs. I never thought in a million years Decatur would die like he did. He was always chasing me around keeping me out of trouble. I don&#39;t to this day have a clear picture of what happened. As I talk to his old friends that stayed in touch with him before he died the story becomes a bit sad. Fat Boy wrote a song called (The Endless Ride) that reminds a lot of why he died. When Decatur fell in love he truly fell in love. I Thank everyone who written something on this page. (Decatur&#39;s little Brother) Al Jones
 

Drew Donnelly      11:39 AM Wed 11/17/2010

A quote from Decatur Jones: You don&#39;t need an educated set of ears<br \>to scope out a hot guitarist and theres plenty of em out there worth<br \>pickin up a few licks from, but if you love music to the point where<br \>when you hear a tune that slays you, no matter how difficult it is, and you<br \>find yourself working at it for hours, days, weeks or years, what ever<br \>it takes to figure out an arraingment that really works for the guitar, whatever else happens, you will have arrived at a vantage point where<br \>you can recognize the incarnation when you hear it, that is you will be able spot the truly gifted guitarists, get their albums in your collection<br \>and thus be able to access a better resource pool than you&#39;re gonna<br \>get from just the mainstream stuff out there, and you&#39;ll just get better<br \>and better. <br \> Today some 40 years later after that first jam with Decatur in Key<br \>Largo I have never forgotton this advice and I lay it on the line to every<br \>kid I run into who thinks I&#39;m hot, and is struggling to learn the guitar or any other instrument for that matter.<br \> As you can probably surmise, all I wanted to know at this point<br \>was: Decatur, who are you listening to? <br \><br \> STAND BY TORPEDO TUBES !<br \><br \>Merle Travis, John Fayhee, Doc Watson, Wane Henderson, Jerry Reed, Kenny Rankin, people I never heard of, on and on, into the night, and the next morning, busting pencils as I try to write them all down down, while<br \>Decatur plays sample licks he&#39;s picked up from listening to them,<br \> while everybody else at the party is sleeping off their acid or stareing <br \>at the walls, and now I got Decatur freekin when I pick up the Guitar<br \>and play some of Segovias Classical guitar licks that I&#39;d been trying to<br \>figure out a way to get them to sound rite on a 1928 CF Martin 00018 !<br \>We&#39;re still going at it in spite of the blistering sunburn Decatur picked up the day before while we were tripping and scuba diving in the John Pennakamp Under Water State Park !<br \>This maddness continues on all day long, and proceeds to slay everybody there, and the hundereds of other people starting to filter in<br \>when I patch us into my big Altec Lansing Voice of the Theatre Speakers<br \>The guy nextdoor brings over some of his best cabs when he sees me and Decatur are drinking red wine, while every one else is drinking beer,<br \>and we suck that down with the baby back ribs I brought from Miami, and everyone around is starting to ask: Who are these guys? and can&#39;t believe we just met and never jammed togeather before!<br \> HAPPY FREEKIN LABOR DAY !<br \>What you don&#39;t know is that when I got there Decatur was sitting alone on the dock totally devistated because the airlines had lost his guitar in transit. Sandy took me over there hoping to cheer him up by introducing him to another musician. I said I want you to see something. I opened the door to the station wagon to reveal enough music gear to run the entire Cultural Exchange Division of the freekin U.S. State Department, and enough high end audio gear to pipe it the length of a football field.<br \> As you can imagine, I got invited to a lot of parties in those days but this time it was my reward. I left there with enough musical resources to<br \>last a lifetime and I still study them to this day !<br \> The only problem was I don&#39;t have any guitar picks since I was growing<br \>my fingernails in order to try and capture the kind of resonance that chassical players rely on since the gut strings they play have a very soft<br \>midrange and sometimes bassy sound. The nails help you to deliver<br \>more treble when you need to increase the bandwidth on the &quot;bright&quot;<br \>passages. You use em on an acoustic guitar, which is already bright because of it&#39;s steel or bronze strings, and a bit more if it is aged, and it can be even more penetrating, very important, when you&#39;re playing unplugged, or if you don&#39;t have a condenser mike handy, like you should<br \>if you&#39;re playing an acoustic live or recording. You fingernail into a condenser and you&#39;re gonna find out real fast, if it&#39;s live or if it&#39;s Memorex<br \>when it shatters your reading glasses!<br \> Some 20 years later I ran into Decatur in Coconut Grove, after he<br \>had gotten his degree in music and was really into the Classical guitar.<br \> It floored me when he said that It was that classical stuff he heard me<br \>play on my acoustic that got him into growing nails and giving classical music a whirl, and then he said,&quot; you saved me a hell of a lot of money<br \>I used to spend on gitar pics!, and look at you! you&#39;re still sportin nails<br \>even though you&#39;re playing jazz! That&#39;s just awesome and you bring it off so beautifully even when you&#39;re just funnin around, and flying by the seat of your pants! I said Decatur, if I could bring off the classical literature like you do, I might begin to belive that I&#39;m the Incarnation,<br \>Christ, I&#39;d be having delusions of grandjure. He says, &quot;hold your horses&quot;<br \>Drew, I&#39;m ok at what I do and so are you and we&#39;re both still gettin better.<br \>How many people can say that as they approach their declining years?<br \>Segovia played well into his eighties, Leo Kotkee ain&#39;t slowin down, not<br \>for a minute. It would take one hell of a lot of lifetimes, and then some,<br \>before we should die of boredom! There&#39;s always so much more to discover in music, an endless turn on for us, what more could there<br \>possibly be! Drew, I don&#39;t even know how many other ways to say it,<br \>I don&#39;t even know how many endless arrangements there could be of <br \>the music we already know, hold that thought! I think I&#39;ve finally got it,<br \> Fasten you&#39;re seat belt! I got this from Rodger Miller, I think he<br \>said it best when he said <br \><br \> SOMETIMES I DON&#39;T THINK I&#39;M HALF AS GOOD AS I REALLY AM.<br \><br \>And that for me is the STILL ALIVE AND BREATHING, humble, not wishing to take credit for anything Decator Jones.<br \><br \>I still see him, and I shure as hell still hear em !<br \><br \>You can sleep on that !<br \><br \>Any frind of his is a friend of mine. I live in the little country towne of<br \>Lyons Oregon in my trailer trash studios! Feel free to drop me a line<br \>or visit anytime. There will always be red wine, ribs with Key Lime<br \>barbeque sauce, like we had at the labor day last supper, and plenty<br \>of live music, and awesome stories to share !<br \><br \>Best Regards: drew730c@yahoo.com<br \><br \><br \><br \><br \><br \><br \><br \><br \>
 

karen worden lancaster      9:03 AM Thu 8/12/2010

I woke up this morning thinking of Decatur. I knew him thru a friend at UNC johnny klise. I have fab memories of listening to Decatur at Town Hall and his at his mom&#39;s apt. singing &quot;Rocky Top&quot;. Anyone know where is mom is? Love you Decatur<br \><br \>Karen
 

Sam Shetley      8:23 PM Sat 7/24/2010

Decator played his Guitar for us at my wedding in 1991. He was quite a charictor. I think of him often. <br \> Al, I have been looking for you, I am on Facebook.
 

Sam Shetley      8:22 PM Sat 7/24/2010

Decator played his Guitar for us at my wedding in 1991. He was quite a charictor. I think of him often. <br \> Al, I have been looking for you, I am on Facebook.
 

Gary Henson      8:27 PM Sat 7/10/2010

In the fall of 1973, I attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. I met Decatur, who was on the same floor of my dorm. We instantly became friends. He used to hang out in my dorm room and jam. I was amazed by his exceptional talent and charisma. I, like so many others felt he was destined for greatness. I eventually lost touch with him and have wondered over the years what had become of him. Today, I picked up my old guitar from my brother who had borrowed it a couple of years ago and began reminiscing about some great times I had shared with it. I recalled that Decatur liked the guitar and played it on several occasions. It prompted me to google his name and I discovered this posting. I was shocked and deeply saddened to discover that he had passed at such an early age. It&#39;s such a shame that his music couldn&#39;t be shared by the multitudes.
 

luis martinez      5:11 PM Sat 5/8/2010

I remember Decatur very well. We were both at the UM studying classical guitar with Juan Mercadal. He was a talented musician and fun to be around, I enjoyed his singing and guitar playing. RIP Decatur.
 

choco      6:49 PM Wed 4/21/2010

I grew up w/Decatur, and was pleased to find this site! I have pics of Decatur at an early age playing drums, fr/the Chapel Hill Herald...my mother wrote for them, and due to our always being in the same neighborhoods, she semi-mentored him when he was kind of searching for some direction in life. I will always remember him, as both he and his brother, Al, were like my own blood brothers. <br \> <br \>harriet: I will try to find you on Facebook, but just in case, I think the guy who helped you w/the CDs was probably Ronnie taylor, another talented local musician that also grew up in our neighborhood. Ronnie can be found on Facebook, also. <br \> <br \>and AL! If you read this, email me thru Facebook! I have been trying to track you down, but you are elusive...I&#39;d really like to talk to you. If it&#39;s easier, and you are still at the beach living wild, call my sister in law at Tazy&#39;s Restaurant: barbara.... <br \> <br \>thanks for a wonderful site..think I&#39;ll look up my mother, Paquita Shafer now... <br \> <br \>Deborah Bair
 

deborah (fine) Bair      6:40 PM Wed 4/21/2010

I grew up w/Decatur, and have enjoyed reading all the positive remarks made on this site. Decatur was always like a brother to me, as was his brother, Al. I have pics fr/the newspaper showing decatur playing drums at a very early age..my mother kind of helped mentor him for a while, as we always lived in close proximity , and she wrote for the CH Herald. Harriet, if you ever visit this site again in the near future, I think the guy who helped you with the CDs was most likely Ronnie Taylor, another talented local musician who now lives in Charlotte. He was also a neighborhood fixture. ronnie is on facebook, and can be contacted that way.<br \><br \>al: if you read this, email me thru Facebook! I&#39;d really like to hear fr/you..<br \><br \>Debbie
 

Richard H      3:29 PM Wed 4/14/2010

I knew Decatur in the early 1970&#39;s at Western Carolina University and played guitar with him. What an incredible musician. I am saddened that he is gone. What a musical gift he had and joy for life.
 

Denis Farley      12:43 AM Fri 3/19/2010

This is sad news. <br \><br \>I don&#39;t recall what made me recall Decatur just now but I put him into google and found this site . . . we were acquaintances in Miami, probably met at Danny&#39;s South Miami (forget the name) restaurant where we both entertained from time to time, I lived and worked there as well, for a time while I was at the U of M. I suppose what led me to this site was &#39;not&#39; hearing about or running across some reference to him on the net or the music world - he was someone that had a bit of the &#39;bound for glory&#39; aura around him and I at least expected a body of work to be showing up at iTunes or CD Baby, net radio . . . etc.<br \><br \>When he first turned up in Miami he was in the &#39;singer songwriter&#39; bag but studying guitar at the U of M meant that he was branching out as an eclectic instrumentalist and composer. He mentioned an association with the Taylor family and that was evident in his style of singing and playing. I grew up in the same town as Pete Seeger, and went back there, to Beacon, NY to spend a year on Clearwater and get back to my roots.<br \><br \>Decatur was not someone you&#39;d forget . . . down the road I know he&#39;ll turn up on some byway of my memory - and I&#39;m thankful for this site, the music and links to his other work.<br \>denis<br \>www.pourinrain.com<br \><br \><br \><br \>
 

Jae Leslie      9:09 PM Fri 3/12/2010

I knew Decatur when he was studying composition and classical guitar with Juan Mercadal at U Miami in the late seventies. He was one of the most talented composers and energetic performers I have known. I&#39;ve picked up a few stray recordings of his off the net, but remember many more. He was great at parties, would just play for hours. I&#39;m very happy to find this page and information, and will see if I might have a photo to upload.
 

Larry Howell      12:25 PM Tue 2/9/2010

Charly, I don&#39;t remember Decatur Jones but the girl in the picture looks uncanningly familiar. I cannot place when or where but I know I have seen or met her somewhere. Also, is Skip Via related to William Via who was a professor at UNC school of dentistry in the early 70&#39;s when I was a dental student there?
 

Doug Long      10:29 AM Fri 12/25/2009

I just found this site and am so sorry to hear of Decaturs&#39; passing. I knew him in Key Largo, Fl. in 1977-78. He accompanied me on a sail to the Bahamas in, I guess &#39;78: I&#39;ll always remember his extemperaneous songs about sailing to Bimini. I went jogging a few times with him and he about ran me into the ground! I sure enjoyed his company and his music. I include &quot;Promenade in Green&quot; in my own song repretoire, and think of him every time I sing it. RIP, Decatur
 

MATT JONES      7:42 PM Tue 11/17/2009

DECATUR WAS MY FIRST COUSIN FRIEND AND MUSICAL MENTOR. I MISS HIM AS WELL.I HAVE A COPY OF DOWNTOWN DECATUR AS WELL ALSO HAVE THE IMPURE HAND TAPE.I WOULD LOVE TO AQUIRE A COPY OF ANYTHING ANONE MAY HAVE MY ADRESS IS mattj65@charter.net I WILL GLADLY SHARE WHAT I HAVE AS WELL
 

Joff Coe      5:04 PM Tue 10/27/2009

Just found the website. Fantastic memories for this old Chapel Hill native. The music stuff was especially interesting. I knew Decatur Jones fairly well when he was here, being a guitar player myself. His untimely passing was a tragedy, he was a world class guitar player and a great singer and songwriter. On a guitar website I found this quote from his Florida days that you might find interesting.<br \> <br \>I once heard a guy tell a bluesman named Decatur Jones, &quot;Man, that guitar sounds great!&quot; Decatur just grinned and said,&quot;It ain&#39;t the guitar.&quot;<br \> <br \>So true.<br \> <br \>Regards,<br \>Joff Coe<br \>CHHS Class of &#39;65<br \>
 

william patterson      7:26 PM Wed 9/16/2009

Decatur was my soul brother..He was one of my closest friends.
 

Charly Mann      8:53 PM Mon 8/24/2009

Thanks for stopping by Harriet. We tried to contact you on Facebook, but were unable to locate you there. Can you please send us an e-mail at the Chapel Hill Memories address? We would love to have more material on Decatur.
 

Harriet      7:13 PM Mon 8/24/2009

<br \><br \>I am now and will forevermore be &#39;Decatur&#39;s sister&#39;. Reading about him here was a pleasant surprise.<br \><br \>I have many of the tapes he made and two C.D.&#39;s put together after his death by friend of him with whom I&#39;ve lost touch,lost his name as well. Ron was the first name.<br \><br \>Decatur will have been dead 10 years this November. Still, I can&#39;t bring myself to listen to any of his music. Losing him was the greatest sorrow of my life.<br \><br \>There were rumors of suicide when he died soon after Lea Anne did. <br \><br \>Decatur was taking classes at the Durango Community College. A guitarist with rheumatoid arthritis who suffered terribly when he performed, he took a lot of pain meds and maybe one or two things not from a pharmacy. Who could fault him for that?<br \><br \>The day before he died, one or two days after Lea Anne, he played all day for the residents of the condos where he lived.<br \><br \>The next morning he was found dead in Lea Anne&#39;s apartment.<br \>A massive heart attach,according to his death certificate. Nothing but prescribed meds in his system. His death did cause a huge broo-ha-ha in Durango, articles in the local rag,and a comment from the funeral home saying he had died of <br \>a drug overdose.This talking out of school being a no-no within the mortuary business.<br \><br \>Having paid for his cremation and brought him back home with me, I swiftly stopped payment on my check to them and told them they could sue me. They didn&#39;t. Never heard back from them.<br \><br \>While I won&#39;t give out my email addy, you can find me on facebook as Harriet Jones Zimmerman.<br \><br \>
 

Patricia Fields Neubert      12:19 AM Thu 8/20/2009

Decatur and I were in Mrs. Drake&#39;s first grade class together at the Franklin Street School (where Granville Towers were built).<br \><br \>Grew up together.<br \><br \>He played his guitar and sang at my first wedding (I&#39;ll forward photo) at the University Baptist Church Christmas 1974.
 

Mary Hall Rodman      6:15 PM Tue 7/21/2009

Decatur was a sweet, goofy guy who was always well intentioned. <br \>
 

Mary Hall Rodman      6:03 PM Tue 7/21/2009

Thomas Decatur Jones<br \><br \>Thomas Decatur Jones died Monday, Nov. 15, 1999, in Durango. He was 46. The cause of death was not available. The Rev. Larry Osborne will officiate.<br \><br \>Mr. Jones was formerly of Chapel Hill, N.C. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Miami.<br \><br \>Mr. Jones was an accomplished classical musician and teacher. He was preceded in death by his special friend, Lee Ann Collins of Durango.<br \><br \>Survivors include his sister, Harriett Zimmerman of Lexington, N.C.; his brother, Al Jones of Wilmington, N.C.; and his cousin, Watts Poe Jr. of Chapel Hill, N.C. Joint memorial services for Thomas Decatur Jones and Lee Ann Collins will be 3 p.m. Wednesday at Durango Christian Church.<br \><br \><br \>The Durango Herald<br \><br \>
 

Hugh Nemets      8:24 AM Fri 7/17/2009

I met Decatur in 1979, shortly after he graduated the University of Miami, classical guitar. His esrstwhile gf, Mary, was my room mate for a while. I hired him at the entertainment at Tony roma&#39;s Cutler Ridge. He was a real talent, I enjoyed his classical &amp; blues!
 

Wayne Sloop      6:41 PM Tue 7/14/2009

I knew Decatur in Miami in the early &#39;80&#39;s...<br \><br \>He rented a room from me in Coconut Grove for about a year...<br \><br \>I think he might have attended Univ. of Miami prior to meeting me...<br \><br \>While I knew him, he played gigs around Miami and the Grove...<br \><br \>We partied a lot and drank lots of red wine (his favorite)...<br \><br \>He did have a cassette recorded at that time. The cover shot was of him in front of the wall around the Deering estate in South Miami...<br \><br \>He was always broke. He was the ultimate &quot;starving artist&quot;. We used to laugh about it...<br \><br \>He couldn&#39;t pay his rent towards the end and I am not sure where he went after moving from my house...<br \><br \>He dated a friend of mine, Valerie Chagnon, for a short time...<br \><br \>I met him through one of his friends, Lesley Cooper, who still lives in Miami...<br \><br \>I have a picture of him and our friends at the time...<br \><br \>If anyone is interested in seeing it, email me...<br \><br \>I&#39;m sure I can get more information for those who are interested...<br \><br \>Regards,<br \><br \>Wayne Sloop<br \>srx6822@yahoo.com<br \><br \>
 

Nancy Watkins Jones      9:18 PM Sat 7/11/2009

Hi Everyone,<br \><br \>I am Decatur Jones former sister-in-law. As for the family holding a copyright to his music, you could contact his sister, Harriet Jones Zimmerman in Lexington, NC. It is listed under Herman &quot;Butch&quot; Zimmerman. <br \><br \>When Al, Decatur&#39;s brother and I were married we had a copy of an album called &quot;Downtown Decatur&quot; and he sent us a cassette called &quot;The Impure Hand&quot;. <br \><br \>Interestly enough, The cassette was named after a book of poetry written by his father, who was also, Thomas Decatur Jones, in the late 40s. It was an incredible piece of work which I am sure was way ahead of it&#39;s time. Had the publisher not folded, it would, I am sure left a lasting legacy.<br \><br \>I attended the funeral and a memorial service out on a farm in Chapel Hill. Seems like the guy was affiliated with an oil company up there, so someone in CH may know who I am talking about.<br \><br \>They put together a post-humous CD that was fabulous. I remember sending a guy some pics and he had started a nice website. I think if any of you asked around the Cat&#39;s Cradle and found some of his old friends, you may be able to get someone to burn a CD. I wouldlike to have his music myself.<br \><br \>I am so glad he has not been forgotten. His girlfriend died 3 days before he did. This was 1999 or 2000.<br \><br \>Yes, he was quite a presence.!!!!<br \><br \>Respectfully,<br \><br \>Nancy Watkins Jones
 

Skip Via      12:22 PM Thu 6/25/2009

I can fill Dan O in a bit. Bland Simpson collaborated with members of the Red Clay Ramblers (http://originalredclayramblers.com/) on a Tony-award winning musical called Diamond Studs (http://originalredclayramblers.com/studs.htm) and had a musical career of his own. Diamond Studs was a hoot.<br \><br \>Don Dixon was the bass player and front man of a well-regarded band called Arrogance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrogance_(band)) which was formed when he was a freshman (or sophomore? It was the sixties...) at UNC. I played with him a few times but was never in the band.
 

Skip Via      7:57 PM Wed 6/24/2009

I actually have a CD copy of Decatur&#39;s &quot;other&quot; album which was called Jones Crossing. It was recorded in 1988 in Florida. I don&#39;t know if it ever had a commercial release. I suspect it didn&#39;t since no database has a record of it that I can find. He apparently also had a cassette of some of his classic guitar pieces, which I have never heard.<br \><br \>I don&#39;t know who holds the copyright to Decatur&#39;s songs. I&#39;d like to make them available here but I don&#39;t want to go against his family&#39;s wishes if in fact they hold copyright to them.<br \>
 

steve hull      9:42 PM Tue 6/23/2009

I studied musically (classical guitar) for a short time with Decatur in the mid 90s in Durango, Colorado. The 1st time I met him, he was alone playing classical guitar in a small city park and I was in awe of his talent. I asked him if he would give me music lessons and he said it would cost me a soda and a sandwich so we walked up Main Street to a small general store (now gone) and took it from there. Soon afterwards,all my friends wanted lessons from Decatur because they saw how good I was getting at guitar! He was a good teacher and he became a great friend. In a way, I guess he was almost like a father figure to me. <br \><br \><br \>Decatur had a great presence and was a real force of nature! If I am not mistaken,he chose music over going into sports after playing some basketball in college or perhaps going all-state in high school. He wonce showed me some news-clippings from his BB days. <br \><br \>When I knew Decatur in Colorado he tried his best to make ends meet with a variety of odd jobs while he still practiced and recorded classical music;it is worth searching a cassette (and CD?) around 94 and that has some great classical pieces on it plus an original track with a haunting melody. I wish I still had a copy of that cassette(I lost it in a move)!<br \><br \>Unfortunately,his girlfriend had severe MS and I think he was devastated when she died and I was told he had a heart attack. Decatur lives on through the lives he touched with his music,teaching and humor. I feel fortunate to have known him. My search for Decatur Jones on the internet led me to this site and I hope my responding brings a smile to someone out there! God Bless<br \><br \>Steve Miles Hull
 

Alex Eyre      4:42 PM Wed 4/29/2009

Thank you for this posting. I search for references to Decatur every once in a while but have not learned much beyond that he was teaching music at UNC Chapel Hill for a time and that he passed away three days after the death of his then-girlfriend; a suicide?<br \>The music samples are great. Wish that there were more.<br \>
 

Nanci Paxton      9:21 AM Fri 4/3/2009

Hey I remember Skip from Chapel Hill schools. He was always in a band. What is he up to today?
 

Henry Warren      8:47 PM Thu 4/2/2009

This is incredible. I loved Decatur. He was the most talented singer-songwriter of his era in Chapel Hill.
 

Dan Oakley      5:35 PM Thu 4/2/2009

I&#39;m too young (22) to remember this person. I have not heard of Bland Simpson or Don Dixon, but I love Mike Cross. Are they similar to him?
 

M Davis      3:24 PM Thu 4/2/2009

I think about Decatur all the time. Thanks for bringing his music back to us.
 

Jenny Brown      12:38 PM Thu 4/2/2009

Thanks for this piece on Decatur. My older brother took me to see him sing when I was twelve, and I still have not been as spellbound by a performance since.
 

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.

 

 

What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt

 

 

Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".

 

 

Check out Charly Mann's other website:
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There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.

 

 

The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.

 

 

 

 

The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.

 

 

 

 

William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.

 

 

The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.

 

 

Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.

 

 



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Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.

 

 

The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.

 

 

Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.

 

 

Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.

 

 

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