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Arts & Culture

The Dianna Jones Trio Rocks It Out in the WUWM Studio

Jon Stelecki

Singer/songwriter Dianna Jones was tricked into her first on-stage performance when she was only a teenager in New York City. Playing at an open mic, she was immediately offered other engagements. Cutting her teeth in Greenwich Village, Dianna Jones crafted her rock style by working with some of the best musicians in New York City. Now performing with The Dianna Jones Trio, backed-up with Katie Elliot on bass guitar and Cheryl Staats on percussion who both lend back-up vocals to Jones, she joins Rachel Owens in the WUWM studio to talk and play three of the trio’s original songs.

Jones’ vocals are powerful and expressive, a perfect complement to her acoustic guitar playing, it is no wonder she was a stand out in the New York City music scene. Living in Greenwich Village was “a gas” according to Jones. She remembers laughing the first time she was unwittingly called on stage to perform at the infamous Gerde's Folk City, a trick which her brother and friends teamed for. That night Jones guitar playing and singing chops would land her a slot opening for Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Maria Muldaur, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Drawn to the Midwest for a quieter life in the late 1980s, Jones took a break from performing to focus on her family…until her own son recommended she get back into it. Jones’ son Joshua became an “instrumental” part of her decision to return to the music industry.    

“When he was nine we were sitting in the car and something came on the radio,” remembers Jones. “He said ‘Mom you’re so much better than her, why aren’t you in a band anymore you were so much happier.’”  

Spurred on by her son’s motivation, she plunged back into music with her Milwaukee friends Katie Elliot and Cheryl Staats.

“These two ladies just sat me down and said ‘let’s just do this, let’s just play for fun,’” says Jones. “Playing with Cheryl and Katie I’m having fun, and I hadn’t had fun with my music in a really long time.”

After a soulful rendition their song “Keeping You Near” Jones, Elliot, and Staats talk about their experiences with songwriting, a process which Jones notes requires you to be proficient in two skills.

“One is being talented enough to stay out of its way and let it happen, and sometimes being physically able to write fast enough to keep up with it once it’s fallen out,” says Jones.

Inspiration for the trio comes from the varied musical tastes of all three women. Elliot prefers the sounds of R&B, 70s, smooth jazz, rock n’ roll, and especially Motown records. Staats, a local drummer from an early age, prefers 80s music; Kate Bush, The Motels, and The Police. With their increasing presence among local music venues and festivals and their growing fan base, the three women say they will continue play as long as their performances excite and inspire them.   

“It was never my goal to be an all-female thing,” says Jones, “as long as it’s fun for us it’s good to go.”

Thanks to Jon Strelecki for engineering this session, and to Trapper Schoepp for editing this interview.