Honest Jon’s opened as a tiny record shop in 1974. Today his staff are top entrepreneurs in the global grooves and jazz section. Let’s go digging tasty crates in front of the Fireside at Red Bull Music Academy Radio!
In 1974 London record dealer Jeff Francis passed on his Golborne Road shop to two friends from Liverpool – a Sociology student named “Honest” Jon Clare, and Dave Ryner, the son of a Trinidadian doctor.
Honest Jon's quickly made a name for his business in this Ladbroke Grove section called 'The Town' – a Caribbean-Iberian-London stop-over on the rag-and-bone trading route from Shepherds Bush to Kilburn.
The music wasn't punk – rather bee-bop, reggae, funk and R&B – but the ethos was. Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren were customers; Joe Strummer was a close friend; the rasta deejay Weasel – whose sessions back then introduced the early punk scene to reggae – was still coming in every other day 25 years later. “Music was just part of it,” says Jon. “It was more important that we took each other seriously, we had a laugh, we showed respect, we found each other interesting. That was what having the shop was all about.”
Before the turn of the 1980s, a barely legal James Lavelle had started commuting from Oxford to work behind the counter – in no time launching Mo Wax – and the shop quickly became a key focal point of the new trip-hop and breakbeat scene...
In 1994 Jon passed the business on to his long-serving staff Alan and Mark who, in partnership with Damon Albarn, have since set up the already legendary record label of the same name.
Since 2002's sublime Mali Music, featuring Albarn, Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabate and a host of Malian music makers, the Honest Jon's label has specialised in nothing except wonderful music.
From post-war black music in Britain to highlife and afrobeat past and present, from 70s English folk to modern southern soul, they have followed their own path and unearthed some wonderful treasures along the way.
Red Bull Music Academy Radio sat down with Alan Scholefield in the shop’s backroom one evening for a chat about the shop, the label and the pleasures and pitfalls digging through the EMI archives...
Lord Kitchener - London Is The Place For Me - Honest Jon's
Shira Small - Eternal Life - Honest Jon's
Tony Allen - Sankofa (Hypnotic Brass Ensemble rework) - HJ
Moondog - Dog Trot - Honest Jon's
Mali Music - Makelekele - Honest Jon's
Kokanka Sata - Tata Kan To Gnonkon - Honest Jon's
Lord Beginner - Nobody Wants To Grow Old - Honest Jon's
Russ Henderson - West Indian Drums - Honest Jon's
The Mighty Terror - No Carnival In Britain - Honest Jon's
Steel An' Skin - Afro Punk Reggae Dub - Honest Jon's
Young Tiger - I Was There (At The Coronation) - HJ
Tony Allen - Ise Nla - Honest Jon's
Tony Allen - Kilode (Carl Craig remix) - Honest Jon's
Candi Staton - Evidence - Honest Jon's
Isaac Jackson - Nitsi Koko - Honest Jon's
Abdel Hadi Halo & El Gusto Orchestra Of Algier - Min... - HJ
Elmore Judd - Tron Song - Honest Jon's
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