Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Song for Maurice Jones

Not long after I became the managing editor for LOADSTAR, a disk magazine for the Commodore computer in 1987, I began getting regular correspondence from Maurice Jones, a Commodore fan from nearby Laneville TX. Since my main interest in computing was programming, and the Commodore was perfect for it, I encouraged all users to learn to program, at least a little, and Maurice leapt into it wholeheartedly. He had been a mainframe programmer back in the days when the only computers were mainframes. His early programs were modest but within a year he began to write excellent card game simulations -- like the Klondike and Free Cell that we've all played on our PCs. Then he and I developed a special font that made the games look even better and before I knew it Maurice had come up with a tool-kit of routines that made it easy for him to develop new games.
By 1989 Maurice was sending me a card game for every monthly issue. He knew the rules for every card solitaire around, and could analyze and categorize them as a chess master analyzes chess games. Then he began developing original card solitaires, ones never even dreamed of by whoever it is that invented the traditional games.
And around 1990 Maurice and I collaborated and invented what we called "Rotato" card solitaires. These were games that involved complex moves of several stacks of cards at a time as part of the puzzle. They were games that would drive a person crazy if he tried to play them using real cards on a table. They couldn't be done. But on a computer, a simple press of a key would start cards flying around the screen. There are several examples of these games on LOADSTAR COMPLEAT, the CD of all of the 199 LOADSTAR issues that were published during my 1987 - 2001 reign at LOADSTAR.
By Issue 1999 Maurice had had 100 card solitaires published on LOADSTAR, about 20 of which were original games never conceived by man, until he invented them. I called him THE Acknowledged Master of Card Game Solitaires, and I challenge anyone to deny him that title. No one on earth knew more, or has invented more card solitaires.
Maurice died in 2001 just as I was running out of steam as the editor. In fact it was the death of Doreen Horne of Australia and Maurice that depressed me so much that I gave up the magazine. Doreen was a programmer who knew the LOADSTAR system so well she was practically doing all the technical work for the last two years of our publication. It was a double blow I couldn't recover from.
I gave a eulogy at Maurice's funeral using oratorical powers I never knew I had -- I can rant but in general can't speak worth a damn -- and I still miss his incredibly astute opinions on programming, card games, politics and life as an East Texas iconoclast.
Early in our relationship, when I was still in the afterthroes of a 25-year career as a bar musician, I asked Maurice what kind of music he liked and he said jazz. I was recording the 60 or so songs I had written during those 25 years at the time and I told him I'd try to write a little jazz song for him. I was not a jazz player by any means. I doubt if I ever played a jazz song in my life. I knew some jazzy chords and had listened to a bit of Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, but I figured I could throw something together that might sound like jazz for Maurice.
So around 1990 I cranked up my four-track Yamaha tape deck, found a mellow, jazzy tone for my guitar (with no distortion) and recorded a little tune off the top of my head. It took about an hour. I simply played the first chord progression that popped into my mind on the keyboard, threw in a bass line, and overdubbed the simplest guitar melody I felt I could play without making any major mistakes. Then I overdubbed an organ solo on top of that. I had played piano in a three-piece lounge group for a year back in the early 80s.
I called it "Maurice's Song " or "LukeWarmJazz" and sent Maurice a copy on cassette tape. No CDs in those days. He said he really liked it, although he didn't really consider it "jazz" and I was supremely flattered.
I still see Maurice's widow, Jo Anne, and his daughter from Austin, Louanne, and have met the other siblings at various family shindigs in Laneville. They are some of my wife's favorite people and provide what is probably the most civilized discourse we have these days. If only Maurice were here to start the discussions! He was a life-long teacher and knew as much about the human condition as any man in Texas.
Here is "Maurice's Song". I doubt if I could ever do anything like that again. It was inspired by something and my fingers must have been under the control of Maurice's telekinetic powers, because I definitely cannot play five verses and two choruses of anything without making numerous mistakes these days. In 1990 it was done in one take for each track. Let's face it. It was Maurice Jones who wrote and played this song, even though it isn't really jazz.
Maurice's Song


Bill Crider said...

Well, whatever it is, it sounds good.

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Jo Anne said...

What a wonderful tribute to my dear husband! Thank you so much for the kind words. I know he always enjoyed your phone calls and the visits with you and Judi.. And he really liked writing those programs. I think they kept him going for a long time when he was housebound. He had a wonderful imagination and a keen mind, and he liked to exercise both.

I hope you are both well. I'd like to see you again.

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