Jon Jon – Is Never Too Late
SKII MAGAZINE: I’m interviewing Jon Jon. He’s part of a dynamic group of five guy -TROOP. In my questions, you’ll find out about his life, family, friends and the tragedy that took place during their life, of the World Renowned R&B Group called….. TROOP.
SKII Magazine: Do you live in California, and are you still part of the group?
JON: Yes I do live in California and I am still a part of the group.
SKII: Have you lived anywhere else besides Pasadena, California?
Jon: I lived in Rialto, California, Kawana, California, and Moraga, California for a bit and now, I’m back in Pasadena, California.
SKII: Have you only perform in California or were there other cities, or states you’ve performed at? You’ve never desired to live elsewhere besides, California?
Jon: Because of the church I’m involved with in my hometown and those responsibilities that’s why I stayed near California. I’m part of the Choir and Praise Team and I’m the Section Leader in the tenor section at my church – Victory Bible Full Gospel Baptist Church in Pasadena CA. My GOD-brother, Jonathan Decuir is the First Assistant Pastor of the church. I’ve been there for fifteen years, since 2000.
SKII: When and why did the group break up?
Jon: We broke up in 1994. The reason was pretty harsh. It became hard for us to get anything done successfully, as far as any record deals, or shows.
SKII: How was the chemistry between you guys?
Jon: Our chemistry was great until manipulation got a hold of the group and started to separate us.
SKII: How did the group start?
Jon: It actually started from a show called “Putting on the Hits”. Rodney’s mom , (at that time, Rodney’s mom name was Shirley Jean Benford. She’s since changed her name is Jackson and she’s still hanging with us! Ms. Jackson was always the one who had the group’s back, as far as if someone was sick she would find someone to stand-in their place, for that moment. I was the one she’d chosen to stand in place for the group at the time. I was the one just helping them. I’d actually came to the audition the same time as Steve. Steve became a part of the group. Actually auditioning alongside with Steve is how I became a part of the group.
SKII: What age did you join Rodney and Reggie?
Jon: It had to be around fifteen; and, that was after “Putting on the Hits”
SKII: So, are all of ya’ll still singing together [in the group]?
Jon: No; actually, it’s just four of us now. Al Mac is not in the group anymore. He’s doing his own thing and I wish him well. I’m not going to speak negatively on anyone. However, things don’t work out for a reason…
SKII: What happened with the group?
Jon: I’ve always been the quiet guy, so I stayed to myself – business was business. We worked with people like Greg for a bit, only after he saw the four of us dance and sing. Then that’s when Allen came. Al Mac was never an original member – it was just us four, Steve, Rodney, Reggie and I. Allen joined last, and left first.
SKII: In the beginning, was Al Mac the lead singer of the group?
Jon: Yes, he was. You heard me on some songs “All I Could Do is Think of You” and a few other songs.
SKII: After joining them what did ya’ll actually start doing?
Jon: We did talent shows, family reunions, and anything we were actually able to put our hands on.
SKII: So tell me something about your family?
Jon: I came from a family of singers. A brother, and two sisters. We all sing, all of the time in church. My Job was to make sure that everyone was good. I’d learned to play the drums at the age of seven and was deeply engulfed in my music. From Casa Dean we started as five singers me, mom, two sisters and brother – in the church. At that time we were singing for mom, but we weren’t really thinking of starting an actual band. Singing to us was a family thing for church, and for my mother. My first real solo was around three years of age! I grew up in a household of Gospel music, but I was really in love with R & B. We had James Brown, the Jackson Five, etc playing all the time. So, music was all around us.
SKII: I’ve read that when you were in church you played the bongos?
Jon: Yes, I played the Bongos, Drums and percussions.
SKII: That’s cool! Especially for a band. So, you were preparing yourself without even knowing it?
Jon: Yeah, pretty much. I’ve never looked at it like that…
SKII: They say that your voice was like the late, great Luther Vandross. Was that true?
Jon: Yeah, kind of around that sound. A very mature sound.
SKII: Who wrote the songs that ya’ll sang?
Jon: Different people: Gerald Levert, Klymaxx, and Dallas Austin, etc. Also, pretty much ourselves.
SKII: The group sings in the film “New Jack City”. How was that experience?
Jon: It was rough in the beginning because we went to New York and heard Gerald Levert’s part first. So it took a minute to add into the song after hearing his part, “For the Love of Money”
SKII: In New Jack City, did you act in the movie as well as sing?
Jon: We just sang [on the street corner] in the beginning.
SKII: What other movies and/or plays have you done?
Jon: I’ve done a play called, “Treat Her Like a Lady”. I was working with the background singers while working with James Hawthorne.
SKII: You guys made a lot of hits!
Jon: Yeah, we did about ten of them. Five of them made it to the Top Ten Billboards! It was a blessing, but back then we learned to do what we loved, and used that for our source of income. Steven Russell became a very productive song writer and is now working with Chris Brown, Jennifer Hudson, Howard Hewitt, Omarion, but he’s also the one keeping that TROOP sound current.
SKII: So, have you written any new songs for the group to sing?
Jon: I have co-written a song with Steve for Christmas called, “Santa Can You Help Me?” and another called, “Praise” and am currently writing a song for my solo album.
SKII: Tell me a little about your solo project “All About Love”?
Jon: Freddy Gorman wrote the first number one top song for Motown Records, “Mr. Postman”, and he’s like my father. This hairstylist introduced me to Billy Gorman (the son of Freddy Gorman) and we’ve stayed connected since. Freddy made me apart of his solo project which was called, Freddy G. “It’s All About Love”
I was on two songs; one is called, “Together is One” and the other is featured by David Daughtry, “Forever Yours”.
SKII: Who other albums have you been on?
Jon: “Bullets Don’t Have No Names” for the Bloods and the Crips – The Red Album and The Blue Album. You can look them up on YouTube…
SKII: When did Troop come back together?
Jon: 2005 we came back together. We’d separated in ’94, but we’d done an album in ‘98. They say, it’s five albums, but I consider it to be the fourth because that was the last time we were together, all five of us for that album in ‘98. That’s why I called it number Four for the album…the last time we were all together.
SKII: When you guys were separated was everyone doing solo projects?
Jon: We were trying to see if we were going to get back together, or not.
SKII: Now that the four of you are back together what other places have y’all performed?
Jon: Arizona, Dallas Tom Joyner’s Morning Show, we did the cruise, we did Rochester, New York, L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, and Cleveland Ohio, and pretty much did whatever kicked in.
SKII: Singing old or new?
Jon: We do both. We do three old songs and four new ones.
SKII: Who inspired you to do this? Who gave you that push to do these things?
Jon: I came from a Gospel family people who believed in us. My family pushed me to do better. But most of it is from our efforts. No one ever really pushed us. We’ve done this on our own.
SKII: Can you tell me something that no one else knows about you? Anything?
Jon: This is deep. I snore sometimes, but only when I’m really tired. That’s the only thing I can think of.
SKII: What’s your aspiration in life?
Jon: God first. Being a servant to God, loving his people, and family and doing whatever he calls you to do.
SKII: What would you say to a younger you?
Jon: Winners never quit! Quitters never win! Rest if you must, but don’t quit.
SKII: What would you say to someone who wants to come into the business?
Jon: Just make sure you surround yourself with positive people, movers or shakers that can help you. Move to the next level with encouraging, uplifting people, and make sure you get everything in writing on the contract, and make sure you get it checked out.
SKII: How did you get the name Jon Jon?
Jon: My father’s niece, Cheryl gave me the name when I was two. She’d call me and both my dad and I would come running.
SKII: How can folks get in contact with you?
Jon: Inglewood California 7-9 every Sunday www.AcceleratedRadio.net. Rhythm and good news, Stevie Dreamer, Jon Jon, and Andrew. I want to shout-out Paul Nutall, with Second Chance Organization. He’s doing big things and great moves, to help out the community. Accelerated Radio (we were part of Stevie Wonder Radio Station), “Rhythm in Good News” 9PM to 11PM Station NCWE, Sunday nights, and we’re just getting on FM radio. We’re going to be on three stations, 93.5, KKTM, WQIB, 105.3, NBURGH MISSISSIPPI, etc and it starts April 26th