More than 200 people gathered at DuSable Museum of African American History on Chicago's South Side Aug. 8 for the memorial ceremony of Dedry Jones, who passed away July 26. He was 64.
Jones was a music lover and an independent music-store owner who opened his first business in 1989. Track One Records was located at 71st and Jeffrey in the South Shore community. During this time, rap and hip-hop were beginning to explode, and, with the help of BET and MTV, pop music was crossing all categories and selling well. Soon after, soul and R&B music would be in slower rotation on radio, or getting rebranded into the smooth jazz category. Track One Records, though, had music for all tastes.
Memorial attendee Michelle Taylor remembered how respectfully Jones treated her when she was a teenager working next door to Track One at a pager store.
"Dedry sold me my very first CD," she said. "He would talk to me about music and warn me to stay away from rap," she recalled with a laugh. She credits Jones for introducing her to a variety of music and getting her started on her personal music collection, which now has more than 5000 CDs.
Frederick Dunstonfounder, president and executive director of the Frankie Knuckles Foundation and was Knuckles' business partner, and who was also at the memorial to pay his respectsrecalled how Jones allowed promotional materials for their annual house party to be left at his store, even before he knew him. One time, to their surprise, Jones actually came to the Frankie Knuckles House of Blues summer party. That was the beginning of their friendship.
Jones rode the wave of a changing music industry with grace, through his love of music, vision and personal relationships he had with various artists, industry reps and other independent music store owners. When he moved his store to East 73rd Street, renaming it The Music Experience, he hosted in-store events and listening parties inside the store and on the back patio. In 2012, the live, small auditorium interview and private performance idea became Jones's special event, The Experience.
Soul-school lovers supported Jones vision by returning again and again to hear stories told by Al Jarreau, Bettye Lavete, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, Patti LaBelle and Maxwell, to name a few. These events often turned grown people into squealing teenagers who waited in line afterwards to get their CDs autographed. Several years ago, at the Harold Washington Auditorium on 47th Street and King Drive, Jones hosted Donna Summer. The line started to form long before the doors opened.
Last year, WTTW recreated The Experience for the Chicago market. This year, the show was broadcast nationally. For Jones, it was a dream come true. Ironically, as word moved through social media about Jones' passing, The Experience was playing on television.
Special Events Promoter of Lipstick and Lace John Fleming met Jones over 10 years ago. A few years back, he invited Jones to be the commentator for the Annual World AIDS Day fashion show and fundraiser, Strut. Fleming recalls Jones, who was quiet about his personal life, saying, "Something in my spirit says I should do this," and he did. Jones was a funny, improvisational and professional commentator who Fleming respected and enjoyed working with.
Fleming said he and Jones were partnering in creating a "big" event that was to happen before the end of this year, adding that he will still move forward with it next year in honor of Jones.
Jones leaves his parents, a brother, extended family and many industry colleagues and customers who he called friends to cherish his memory.