Phil Jones is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve met in my life. He worked across from me in the Custom shop. Charlie’s old bench area became my bench area when he moved on to telemarketing. The Custom Shop was a small island in the massive Gibson factory located on Massman drive. I would guess it was only seven or eight hundred square feet in size, roughly the area of a two car garage. That small room was a special place to many of the guitar world’s greats. Many of the rock legends and Nashville’s own country stars were regulars visiting the Custom Shop whether they stopped by for a tour or to see how their next custom guitar was being built.
Phil’s bench and my bench had a common wall with a large “cut out” or window in it so we could be facing each other while we worked. I don’t know who designed the shop but it seemed to work out well. We could easily talk to each other while working.
Phil is a sweetheart of a guy and was the brunt of constant jokes, practical and otherwise. One of my first instructions from Charlie was for me to continue to make Phil’s life miserable as he was gullible and would believe anything. Phil being the big man that he was had probably heard every fat joke in the book multiple times. Phil was the opposite of Charlie and I. He looked at us as “bluegrassers” and Phil hated bluegrass music. Phil loved the Beatles, the Police, Paul McCartney and the modern underground music of the day. He looked at Charlie and I as hillbillies. I think Phil was looking forward to Charlie moving on to the marketing department as one of Charlie’s missions in life was to make Phil miserable. That was Phil’s point of view anyway.
Early on when I first started at Gibson I think Phil felt Charlie had found his replacement for the sole purpose of continuing to make his life miserable. I did my best for a couple of years and in the meantime Phil and I somehow became good friends through it all. Most of the hands on experience I learned about anything but a mandolin came from Phil Jones. I watched over his shoulder for hours on end while he did impossible repairs to noted artist’s personal guitars. He made custom one of a kind instruments for all the rock artist of the day from, Ted Nugent to Slash and everyone else that has ever been guitar royalty. Through it all Phil was always a good sport. I must have heard Phil yell out, “I hate you Charlie!” hundreds of times. Though he said it, we all knew Phil liked Charlie most of the time.
Charlie was at my bench in the custom shop and he turned to me and said,”Watch this, I’m gonna call Danny.”
Charlie promptly stepped to the phone that was located on the bench behind me and dialed up Danny Roberts extension. He whispered into the phone, “Danny, come back here, let’s piss off Phil.”
I looked at Phil and he was working away and listening to AC/DC through his boom box. Thirty seconds later Danny Roberts showed up with a sh!t-eating grin on his face. Danny came into the shop, with mandolin in hand through a back door and Phil missed his entrance. Charlie grabbed Bill Monroe’s mandolin off my bench and they quickly started playing Rawhide as loud and fast as they could. It took Phil about three seconds to yell, “God Damnit Charlie!” at the top of his lungs.
Charlie and Danny continued their playing, louder and faster. Cursing kept imminating from Phil Jones bench area. The two pickers laughed as they played. This was all new to me and I joined in in the laughter. Danny and Charlie finished Rawhide after one time through so they could finish their laughter.
Charlie yelled, “you love it Phil.”
“I hate bluegrass, I hate you guys,” he answered.
Danny looked at Charlie, “Lets do it again.”
They kicked Rawhide off in unison. The laughter started again. The cursing continued from Phil’s bench. He finally gave up and stormed out of the shop. As soon as he left they both quit playing. Charlie said, “He’s gone, that’s it.”
Danny got up and left. It all ended as quickly as it began.
I asked Charlie, “what just happened?”
“Hee, hee, we do that to Philly a couple of times a week. He really hates that song.” Charlie continued, “You know you’re going to have to do this with Danny from now on. I won’t be able to get back here that much anymore.”
Danny and I did the Rawhide thing occasionally the next few years but not as often as Charlie did. It never seemed the same when Charlie wasn’t involved. Phil never got quite as mad and to Danny and I it never seemed quite as funny.