New Single "What Kind Of America (Do We Want To Be?)" Out Now On All Platforms!
Hello. By now I am sure that you have gathered that my name is Jotown. I am a singer / songwriter / guitarist / producer / entertainer. If you care to know more than that, I have included this brief biography. It is broken into four parts.
1. The Early Years.
2. The Big Time.
3. In Between.
4. What have I done for Me Lately.
The Early Years.
I was born on September 1st six weeks premature, and I arrived in the world in a taxicab on the way to Saint Joseph’s hospital in Detroit Michigan. My Mom always said that I've been in a hurry ever since. My childhood was pretty uneventful; Sports, school, poverty, dysfunctional family. You know the typical urban story. I was always a pathologically optimistic kid though. The kind of kid who was too naïve to see how funky the world could be. I didn’t show any particular talent, but I always loved music.
Around the age of fourteen I started playing guitar. I had always wanted to, but I never had a teacher, not to mention a guitar. My brother Mike was in a band and some of his friends showed me some chords, and from there I just kept learning on my own. I’ve never had any formal lessons. I was always into singing so the guitar thing was just about accompanying myself at first. Somewhere around sixteen years of age I started singing at parties, and clubs, the park; anywhere really. It was all acoustic stuff and I was kind of a folk singer. In my neighborhood you were either doing something illegal, thinking about doing something illegal, or in jail for doing something illegal. So I just played my guitar a lot and dreamed of one day making it big.
I moved to Cleveland Ohio in 1974 and while I lived there I got a day job and I stayed home and practiced my guitar a lot. I bought my first good guitar at that time (a 1972 Fender Thin line Telecaster). I moved back to Detroit in 1975 and tried to get a band together
The Big Time.
In 1975 I hooked up with a band called The Flaming Emeralds, They were a very good young R&B show band. I had never been in a real band, yet alone one of this caliber. I didn’t know any of their material, and at that time I was probably the least talented musician in the band, but I could sing. And I was so damned enthusiastic.
We played all over the Detroit area; Cabarets, hall parties, talent shows. Occasionally we would perform in night clubs, but we were all too young to get into bars, so we didn't do much of that. In 1976 we cut our first record. It was produced by James Mitchell of the Detroit Emeralds. In that same session, we also recorded a song with a group called The Floaters. Needless to say our record flopped, but The Floaters single caught the attention of ABC Records, and they were given a record deal. Most of the Flaming Emeralds played on the album (The Floaters), which went onto sell over 20 million copies, and the single Float On, became one of the biggest selling records of 1977.
You can see and hear The Floaters pretty much every night on infomercials selling those R&B compilation CD’s; Particularly “Slow Jams”, “Only Love” and the Time/Life “Soul Ballads” collection.
Around that time I became the The Floaters musical director. I was also the guitarist for The Detroit Emeralds. With the Emeralds I had already been to Europe a couple of times, and I was playing on The Floaters records, as well as touring with them, so the move up to musical director was part of the natural progression I guess.
Some of the highlights with The Floaters, were;
We also made television appearances on Soul Train, American Bandstand, and Don Kirshners Rock Concert.
After The Floaters, I worked as a guitarist, vocalist, and/or musical director for former Temptation, David Ruffin (My Girl, I wish it would Rain)) and. Gwen and George Mcrae (Funky Sensations, and Rock Me Baby). Chuck Jackson(Any Day Now, and, I don’t Want to Cry). L.J. Reynolds and The Dramatics (Be My Girl). John Edwards of The Spinners ( Working My Way back to You Babe). Spanky Wilson ( Last Days of Summer),and Bill Merriweather (No Stronger Love) just to name a few.
In 1980 my group at that time, T.F.O. signed a deal with Venture Records, a division of Warner Bros. We had one single "Happy Family", written by Jesse Virdin, Thomas Postell and myself, and it was produced by bassist Freddie Hudson and I. "Happy Family" went on to sell over one hundred thousand records, but as the story goes the label went bankrupt, we never got paid a penny, ( yada, yada, yada) you know the tune.
One of the highlights with T.F.O. was opening for Run DMC at the Centurion Club on Jefferson Avenue in Downtown Detroit Michigan in 1983. It was their first Detroit appearance and less than 75 people attended the concert as Rap music was too new for urban audiences still hanging with post disco and funk. I met and talked to Russell Simmons and he clearly had a vision for where Rap – and then Hip-Hop – was going to go.
He told me to “get rid of those tuxedos and the band and call me sometime.” At the time my group T.F.O. had a local hit and we all thought that Rap would be a passing fad. I called Mr. Simmons a year later but I could never get him on the phone and his secretary said that he didn’t remember who I was.
In 1980 I got married and had my first of two children Courtney in 1981, and Heather in 1983. They are my Grammy, and Platinum Album. At that time I had grown tired of the constant travel, and scam boogie of the Record Industry, so I retired from the road, and dedicated myself to trying to be the best dad that I could be. I have never regretted that decision.
Since 1983 I have been making my living as a nightclub entertainer, music producer, and most importantly, a musical entrepreneur. I’ve gone from 15 piece bands, to a one man band/ D.J. Over the last 20+ years I have recorded quite a few things. I have had a few managers. A few sure, can’t miss record deals that never happened, and I guess a lot of fun too. I’ve also produced and composed the music for a bunch of commercials, and industrial / corporate films.
My most notable production of late was the music of Grammy nominated pianist Jim Bajor (“Intimate Christmas”) formerly of JBX Records and later with Sugo Records. Ironically, my most successful recording as an artist has been a self produced album I did in 1990 on my own label (Words Can’t Say, on Milyfe Records). I sold over 5000 copies ( one at a time all by my self). I made more money off that project than any thing I have ever done with any real label. Recently I’ve been able to put together my own digital project studio so that I can finally record things that I am interested in without having to mortgage my house, or my soul.
What Have I Done For Me Lately.
Right now a lot of very cool things are happening that I am very excited about. The Internet, and more specifically the World Wide Web, are changing the way that artists can get their work out to the masses. We are truly in the midst of a revolution in how we will be able to get our work out there.
I am very much into the Web, and all that it portends to the music, multi-media biz. I have a few recording projects that I am involved in with my production company (One World Productions.). I am also involved in a joint venture with Niche- DIGITAL Media. Where I have been working on various multi-media, and web based projects.
So you will be hearing some new music from me soon. It's funny. I have spent 20+ years of my life in the music business chasing the platinum rainbow,. waiting for that big break, and in a way I'm right back where I started from. The reason I started playing, and writing music, was that I wanted to reach people and move them with my own music.
Some of the songs I fell in love with as a kid really made a difference in the direction of my life. When I would hear songs like Bridge over Troubled Waters, You’ve Got A Friend, or Everybody is a Star; I believed them. I thought that those songs were just for me; They moved me. That's all I ever really wanted to do; to touch people the way that those songs touched me. And to record and perform music that moved other people.
For over 20 years, just about every musical project I have been involved in has in one way or another been about making a deal, getting a deal, or keeping a deal. Somewhere along the line I forgot about the music just for itself; And the idea of touching people with that music. So that's what I am returning to, and that's what you will be hearing from me very soon.
In 1997 I had the honor of opening for Modern English (Stop the World and Melt With You) at the Hamstock Music Festival in Hamtramck. Some year 2000 (and beyond) highlights have been Performing with my band, and The Floaters at the Hamtramck Festival, and Sharing the Stage with Soul Legend Al Green at the Masonic Auditorium in Detroit in 2003 with The Floaters and my former band T.F.O. I was also named Hamtramck’s number one entertainer in 2002 and 2003 by the Mainstreet Newspaper.
I had the honor of doing the soundtrack for the movie "Return of the Magi" in 2008 and I performed at the movies premier in May of the same year.
The past couple of years I have been working on a documentary film about my old neighborhood on the East side of Detroit. The film is tentatively called “Echoes in D” (my Chene Street Story) and I am also finishing the soundtrack CD/Album of the music from the film. I have been seeking funding the past year and I hope that 2014 will see the completion of the CD and the film. Wish me luck.
Well. Since I'm not dead yet, my biography is by definition incomplete. So check back often as I will be updating my bio, as well as the rest of this web site.
Love and Blessings