A Place, A Bond and lots of Guitars!


I was born in Aberdare, South Wales in 1961. I grew up immersed in the valley culture, I loved it like everyone I knew, I felt it was part of me but it was a difficult place to be. The industrial heritage was dwindling, some said that was a good thing but, in the 1970's when the country faced recession the valleys were a tough place to be.

My memories are mixed, I saw the hardships experienced by the communities but loved my teenage years in the oddly anarchic 'Wild West' valleys. That sense of place and belonging has never left me, it resonates through my songs and has meant that the friendships I developed in the 1970s are still strong today. Many of us have moved away and found new lives but that home, that place will always be our bond.

Music in my home was my parents record player, a few select 45s and 3 LPs that I remember. Songs for Swinging Lovers by Frank Sinatra, Latin a la Lee by Peggy Lee and Casino Royale by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass. By the age of 8, I knew most of the words to Songs for Swinging Lovers. My sister Maddy is 5 years older than me and she started to play records that blew me away, songs like Jeepster by T Rex, Schools Out by Alice Cooper and then..... funk, reggae and most of all Bob Marley. I found that I could hear songs and remember the words almost instantaneously. Then came Bowie, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and, finally punk rock!

So here I am, this new music is real, reflects my experience of life, I feel the explosion of creativity, the power of its simplicity and, most of all the rebellion. My friends and I would group together and hire mini buses to travel to Cardiff to see the bands. The Clash, the Jam, XTC, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, Penetration, Siouxi and the Banshees, The Specials, Ultravox, Where do I stop?

I found myself listening not just to the music of these bands but to those they too were influenced by. Rockabilly, blues, soul, country, reggae, folk and protest music. Most of all I was inspired by Joe Strummer and the Clash, I wanted to write with the same urgency, to reflect the social issues impacting upon my world and the people I knew and that passion has stayed with me

It was inevitable that I'd become part of a band, I desperately wanted to sing and with Mike Fenwick, Mark Webber and Jeremy Morris we formed Stolen Images. We emulated our heroes and played our own songs with bravado, we played gigs around the valleys in pubs (sometimes lucky to get away without a beating) but always loving every moment. In Aberdare the pub to be was 'The Conway', upstairs in the tiny room all the best bands played as did we. It was magical and a group of guys who played rhythm and blues called 'Johnny and the Jets' took us under their wing. They'd lend us gear, put up with our crazy enthusiasm and even teach us chords and progressions. From there, I've never looked back.

I left Aberdare for London in 1979, it had to be done, there was a world out there that music had opened up for me. My friends had the same idea and for many years a group of us lived around and about the same areas in South London. We are still firm friends, it's that old valley bond and in our 60s we keep in touch on a daily basis through social media.

Wham. London was a culture shock, I didn't go to college like most of my friends, I had to find a job. I managed but for quite a while felt overwhelmed by the environment. Music came to my rescue and in 1981, I joined a band with my friend Roberto called the Psychotics. Rob played the drums, I played the bass. There were 9 people in the band and we played an anarchic form of rocknroll which people loved. Our peak was playing in support of Pigbag and the Raincoats in Brixton Town Hall for 'No Nukes' in 1983.

By 1985, London had done me in, I was qualified as a nurse (another story) and wanted to get out of Brixton where I lived. I moved to Brighton where my brother and sister lived and before too long we'd formed a band. Me, my brother Andy and Phil Jones an old friend from Aberdare were 'the Sign-on Valley Rangers', we played anything we could master, particularly country songs inspired by the likes of Joe Ely and Dwight Yoakam and then, one night in a pub we met someone who has become our lifelong friend, Adrian Harris. Ade taught us how drumming could drive a band and over the next 4 years we were one of 'the' bands to see in Brighton, full of energy and passion. As the 'Rangers' we supported bands from all over who came to Brighton, La Rue from Louisianna, Energy Orchard featuring the late great Bap Kennedy and even one of our great heroes, Joe Ely at the Brighton Dome

In the 'Rangers' I wrote songs about South Wales, it came easily, made sense, I was proud, and when we finished in the late 1980s I didn't feel I could do it again. My kids were being born, rockn'roll felt like a distant memory and for a long time I played very little. I always wrote songs, sometimes just in my head, perhaps with the memory of the Rangers too much to the fore, I'd play my guitar and sing my heart out, remembering how things had been.

Then, by chance, in 2014 I met British country singer Sam Coe, she was my daughters vocal coach and when she mentioned that she was putting a band together I, half jokingly said, 'well if you ever need a bass player?' a couple of months later I was part of Sam Coe and the Long Shadows, the band were great musicians and working together was a joy, it reinvigorated me. Most of all, I watched the way Sam wrote and developed her songs, she used a mixture of narrative and hooks with ease and it inspired me to return to my own songs and 'complete' them. With Sam we played some tremendous gigs including a couple of storming affairs at the Country To Country festival at the O2 London 2015.

Then, in 2017, Phil Jones said to me that he was developing a studio, why didn't I come down and record a demo with him and his friend Scott Smith as producers. I travelled to Shoreham, to a rickety barge and sang a few songs one morning. I remember Scott saying 'That was good, got any more?' and before I knew it my first album 'East of the Rising' was recorded. Scott and Phil worked some magic and, there I was, out there with an album playing my own songs.

East of the Rising came out in 2018, when I played the Merthyr Rising festival with my old friend Mike Fenwick, 40 years on from when we first played together as Stolen Images. Ahead to 2022 and I have a new album 'Freedom Rose' Recorded and produced by Scott and Phil once more with Adrian Harris on the drums, it feels so, so special.

But, I needed a band, more than a band in fact, I needed a group. People who could spend their time immersing themselves in the music with me and living the dream as 60 somethings. So, we formed 'Jonny Williams and the Last Rangers'. Me, Mike Fenwick, Mark Webber, Mike Rees and Stuart Turvill, a full circle back to those heady days of 1976. Would it work? Well we're having the time of our lives and can't wait to play our first gig in Aberdare on the 27th January at Jacs. It will be the official launch of the album 'Freedom Rose' but it will also be our wonderful return to play in our spiritual home, our place, our valley, our bond.