Reverend Sun Myung Moon oftens speaks of God as a "grandfather," and the realm of the grandparent's heart as one of unconditional love:
This is the ideal realm of the heart of man—shim-jung. When there is 100 percent commitment, there is 100 percent freedom. The tiny little child can climb all over his grandfather; he has that kind of total freedom.
When "Grandpa" Jones, still in his 20s, decided to don the stage personality of an old man—everybody's grandfather—he must have sensed that people are particularly attracted to a grandparent's heart. Rather than promoting his own ego, he hid himself and intuitively practiced the principle of "living for the sake of others." As a result, he became on of country music's most popular and enduring performers. He also represented an authentic aspect of American country music: part vaudevillian, part hillbilly musician, and all around good-time entertainer. Whenever he took the stage, the audience knew they were in for some fun, as well as some great, toe-tappin' old time country banjo strumming and singing.
Jones' comedic antics belied the fact that he was a fine musician and singer who worked hard to perfect his art of making people happy and keeping them that way. Unificationists will be glad to know that during much of his career—rather than traveling on his own and acting the ladies' man—he was accompanied by his wife, Ramona, who was a fine fiddler and mandolinist in her own right.
Jones will be remembered most for his happy-go-lucky, good-time songs like "Mountain Dew" and "Rattler." But he also had a whistful side, as when he sang, "It's rainin', rainin', rainin' here this morning, as the Mississippi flows into the sea." And, like many country performers, he was not ashamed to express religion in his music. He was often called on, at the end of a set, to lay down his banjo and sing tenor in a gospel quartet, as he did for many years on the popular network television show, Hee Haw with Buck Owens and Roy Clark.
Few people realize how important Grandpa Jones was in preserving the banjo as a popular American instrument. The banjo had all but died out as a recording instrument in the 1930s, and if it were not for Jones, it may have withered altogether before Earl Scruggs came along in the mid-1940s to revive its popularity with his high-powered, three-finger style of picking.
A young man who adopted the role of a grandfather to make people happy, Grandpa Jones was one of a kind. His spirit of joy was infectious, and we are fortunate that it has been preserved in film and audio recordings for posterity.