an American vocalist, musician, songwriter, and producer from the United States. Over the course of a three-decade career, Jones has recorded in various musical styles including rock, R&B, blues, pop, soul, and jazz standards. Born in Chicago, Jones grew up in a family she has described as "lower-middle-class-hillbilly-hipster" in Chicago; Los Angeles; Phoenix, Arizona; and Olympia, Washington. Her grandfather, Frank, was born in West Virginia, the son of the town sheriff and dry goods store keeper, was the Vaudevillian singer/dancer/comedian known as "Peg Leg Jones." Frank lost his leg playing by the railroad tracks at a young age, as a child he learned to play - and dance, and execute flips from a standing position, with his peg leg. His wife, Myrtle, was a chorus girl, and the two of them traveled the Vaudeville circuit when they were not home in Chicago with their four children, Bea, Frank, Richard and Bobby. Richard was four when his mother was killed by a truck in front of her two young sons. Richard grew up in boarding schools and reformatories, running away to be in "Boys Town" where he appears in the documentary short that precedes the film. His mother, Myrtle, had been adopted into the Lee family in Virgina, her genealogy was unclear. Richard joined the army in World war II, served in North Africa and Sicily, was discharged with a purple heart. Rickie grew up listening to his war stories, eventually using them in her play-performance of the 1984 tour for "The Magazine."
Jones has spoken of her Welsh, Irish and Dutch heritage. Her maternal grandfather, James Glen, was a black Irishman who returned to Ohio unable to work, after suffering through the gas bombing in France in WWI. Her maternal grandmother, Lydia Spice, was Dutch and French, and she met and married James while a young teenager. Bettye Jane, Rickie's mother, grew up with her three brothers in orphanages in Ohio. Lydia had four children by the time she was 21 years old, the county decided she was an unfit mother after her husband was put in jail for stealing chickens.
When a social worker came to remove all the children from the home, Lydia took her youngest, two year old Bettye, and ran through the corn field. Lydia worked nights, leaving Bettye with a sitter, when the social worker came in through the window and stole Bettye away. Bettye's image was featured in a cake flour magazine ad, and it became an iconic image used today, with the "page boy" haircut and sweet face, the four year-old girl orphan was used to sell cakes, chocolate, and flour.
By the time her parents met, Richard had returned from the war and was working at a drug store lunch counter. Bettye stopped there each day on her way to and from work. The two met in 1946, and would have four children before they separated permanently in 1970. "Dick" worked as a waiter, restaurant manager and furniture mover. Besides studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, he studied painting and played the trumpet and guitar. The arts were welcome in the Jones household, a lively and emotional clan of middle class Americans, their backgrounds made them unable to quite fit into the strict social climate of the 50's. They moved each year, and their children suffered for this although apparently never financially. Both parents worked, so there was plenty of money for whatever the kids needed and what mom wanted for them including dance lessons, acting lessons, after school sports and new clothes each year. However there was never enough to buy a home, or perhaps simply no inclination to. Rickie Lee had been quoted as saying that she went to 11 schools by the 11th grade. Mr. Jones had landed a good job in a private club when his son was hurt in a motor cycle accident in 1965, an accident that tore the family apart. All the lessons ended, and Rickie's life was turned upside down by the grief of her mother and the alcoholism of her father. Within four years she would be smoking pot, dropping acid and running away herself, to be in rock festivals and be a part of her own family, the love generation. "I was the most naive hitch hiker on Highway 1, that perhaps is what saved my life. I was fourteen and, while some things happened, I escaped unharmed, more or less, after hitching across the US to Detroit ..."
Mr. Jones penned "The Moon is Made of Gold," a ballad for his children, and recorded it in a bus station record booth with his brother Bobby, a jazz guitarist and bass player who worked at the Queen Mary for many years. Rickie grew up hearing that record, and learning, not only how to sing, but understanding that she too could write a song, a story, be on stage, act, that it was what she was made to do. The parents took her to auditions at the Phoenix Little Theater before she could read, the father evidently recognizing his daughters talent long before any one else. Mr and Mrs Jones had an on again off again marriage until 1970, when he left the family and eventually married Jean Jones, with whom he lived until his death in 1986. Bettye did not remarry, but remained in the house Rickie bought for her, with her family near, until a series of strokes led to her inability to care for herself, and a medical mistake led to her death in 2006.
Rickie Lee was born in Chicago November 8, 1954, where she lived with her parents, brother and sister until 1959, when her family drove their new convertible Pontiac to Phoenix, Arizona. Rickie went to grade school in Phoenix and Glendale, studying, at various times, acting, modeling, ballet and dance. She trained as an AAU swimmer for a year, swimming before and after school, spurred on by her mother, who took her to the training in between going to work in the lunch shift and going to work for the dinner shift. After her brother's motorcycle accident in 1965, and her older sisters teenage pregnancy (she moved out at the age of 15), Rickie began to find solace in her very active imagination, and submersed herself in pop music. She branched out from West Side Story to the recently discovered Beatles. Every song came easy to her, and in fact she still knows all the lyrics to songs she learned at the age of 11. For a little girl growing up in the Arizona desert who had been plagued by trauma, violence, and instability, music was the only outlet to the outside world. Richard and Betty split up in 1968, and as a result Rickie suddenly left for Chicago to go to school for her eighth grade year. Then she moved back to Phoenix and then back to Chicago, in total three schools in one year. What is worse, she was thrust into the racial climate of Chicago in 1968 and her life was threatened by young black students at her 8th grade graduation. The principal had to intercede to guarantee her safety.
The family remained together for nearly one more year, during Rickie's first year of high school. Her first love affair saw her lose her footing. She dropped acid, smoked pot, was involved in a car theft that left her in juvenile detention, and was nearly removed from her family. A few months later the family broke apart when her mother moved, with her baby sister, to Olympia Washington. Rickie's father had become increasingly violent when he drank, and he drank every night. Rickie ran away--she had just transferred to a new school in the end of her freshman year and was working for her father every weekend. She caught a plane to Los Angeles and got a ride to a rock festival in Northridge.
She lived with hippies in San Diego for the summer of 1968. Her father found her in juvenile detention in Sunnydale, and took her to her mother's. Rickie went to two schools in Washington before the family moved to Seal Beach, where Rickie enrolled in Huntington Beach High, her third school for her sophomore year. She ran away again in 1969, this time ending up in Detroit, arrested by the FBI for crossing into the US, wearing no bra, and sporting a white beret, "in danger of leading a lude and lucidious life." After spending nearly three weeks in the Detroit juvenile hall, her father was found. Her mother told the state that she did not want her back anymore. Her father took her back again, this time to Kansas City, where they stayed until the two took a bus across the North to Lacey, Washington, where her mother was living with her sister at King Arthur's Trailer Court. It was along way from the middle-class life she had known, the devoted mother, and the singing, serious father. They stayed together for less than a year, Richard left one afternoon while his wife was at work and his daughters were home.
Rickie was kicked out of high school for being "undesirable." She immediately took her GED and entered college before her class had graduated. She had already been on the young side for her class, but at 16 she took her GED, and waited until she was 17 to go to enroll at Tacoma Community College, where she studied liberal arts and music.
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