Born on December 14, 1911, Lindley Armstrong Jones got his nickname, “Spike,” by being as thin as a railroad spike for the Southern Pacific railroad company that his father worked for. He became a young musician at an early age when he received his first set of drums.
Jones later became a popular musician and bandleader who specialized in popular tunes. Offers to appear on the radio poured in, and Jones became a popular addition on shows such as Al Jolson’s Lifebuoy Program and Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall. When Jones was a member of the Cindy Walker backup band Cindy wrote a song called, We’re Gonna Stomp Them City Slickers Down, and later he used the name, City Slickers for his own band.
Spike began to record under the name of Spike Jones and his City Slickers and took his band on the road using the name, The Musical Depreciation Revue. Their popularity got the band a contract with RCA and Spike and his band began to appear on some of the most popular radio (and later, television) shows.
One of Jones’ earliest appearances was as a panelist on The Adventures of Ellery Queen, a mystery radio show that premiered in 1939. He was also in charge of the music on the Bob Burns Show, a sort of spin off of the Kraft Music Hall. In 1942, Command Performance began, featuring many stars that appeared in the show’s various war-type productions. Spike Jones appeared – along with such greats as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore and Red Skelton. Time magazine voted Command Performance as “the best wartime program in America.”
After his appearance on The Bob Burns Show, Jones was awarded his own radio show, The Chase and Sanborn Program, which premiered in 1945 and lasted until 1949. Jones’ guest list included the crème de la crème of Hollywood – Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx and Burl Ives among many others.
Spike married his first wife, Patricia, and they had one child, Linda. Later, Jones married Helen Grayco, a singer who appeared frequently with Jones on stage and television. Helen and Spike had three children – Spike Jr., Leslie Ann and Gina, who all followed their father into show business.
In 1942, Jones recorded a song, Der Fuehrer’s Face, which was a derogatory song making fun of the German dictator, Adolf Hitler. Jones was a genius at so-called satirical songs and many became big hits, such as his parody of Ghost Riders in the Sky and All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.
Emphysema began to cause the deterioration of Jones’ health and he finally started using an oxygen tank to help him breathe. He died when he was 53 years old and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.