Former Derek Trucks Band percussionist Count M’Butu has died. The death of the musician born Harold L. Jones was confirmed on Sunday afternoon by the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Jones was born in Georgia in 1945, but his musical pursuits would take him around the world and back again. Per his artist page on the Pearl Drums website, Jones’ musical odyssey began to take shape in 1976 when—while studying African history and music at The Neighborhood Arts Center in Atlanta—he was invited to Nigeria to continue his studies.
When he returned to Georgia, Jones completed his degree in African studies and continued his musical education under Santana percussionist Armando Peraza before beginning his career in the public spotlight in 1979. After cutting his teeth playing percussion on the short-lived variety show The Memphis Music Store, Jones hit the road touring with everyone from Nancy Wilson to George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
Jones’ Georgia roots came full circle in the late 1980s when he met Atlanta fixture Col. Bruce Hampton. It was actually Hampton who gave Jones the stage name Count M’Butu when they first met, which only added to the Col.’s mythical lore as M’Butu was the name of the family Jones lived with in Nigeria—a fact Hampton couldn’t possibly have known.
The newly-christened Count M’Butu toured the country with Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit until their dissolution in 1995, becoming a fixture of the traveling H.O.R.D.E. Tour. Over the years, M’Butu shared the stage with many of the H.O.R.D.E. acts that rose to national prominence including Phish, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, and more.
The Count made his solo debut in 2000 with the long-awaited See The Sun. Shortly thereafter, M’Butu joined The Derek Trucks Band where he performed until the band’s hiatus in 2010 as Trucks shifted focused on his then-new project the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife Susan Tedeschi.
Harold Jones leaves behind his wife and musical partner Graciela Lopez.
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[H/T Pearl Drums]