The King of links
By Shirley Everett-Dicko
Back in the 70’s James Jones was the quintessential cool. This tall, dark, strong, handsome brutha from Lubbock County, Texas always looked like he stepped off the set of some Blaxploitation film. The Mack (Max Julien), Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), Superfly (Ron O’Neal) and Shaft (Richard Roundtree) had nothing on him. He smelled good, looked good, had an easy smile that made the girls blush, and a quiet voice which made you lean closer in to hear what he was saying.
You'd find him wearing his signature cowboy boots buffed to perfection, blue jeans starched to attention, big belt buckle that shine bright as a diamond, and a Stetson hat that sat perfectly on his head cocked to the side, along with his groovy polyester suits, 5 inches wide neckties and full-length leather coats. And the brutha had a perfectly shaped afro, can you dig it? Yes, you can! No! He wasn’t a gangster or a pimp. He was Jones and the coolest mutha (Shut yo mouth!) to ever grace the streets of Oakland, California.
He was a super cool sexy black cowboy, before Kool Moe Dee and Will Smith. He had that Wild Wild West original vibe. He was an urban cowboy cruising down the streets of East Oakland in a crème and gold colored Lincoln Continental Mark IV with the matching leather seats and interior. You could spot him anywhere. When his car passed, it felt like it moved in slow motion just so you could see the sun dance off its body. Dope as hell!
. . . diamond in the back, sunroof top diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean wooh-ooh-ooh.
Jones, called by his last name from his military days, was a veteran of the United States Navy- A third class Boatswain Mate and the original master link-maker for the family business-Everett & Jones Barbeque. He put the Jones in Everett & Jones. This black funky soul brutha from Texas wrote the book on the art of making delicious homemade beef links. Lawd, that man could make some tasty links. It ought to be a law against it! Jones took you to church with those links. It didn’t get any better than biting into a perfectly smoked, perfectly seasoned, coarsely ground, juicy beef link; make you wanna dance, make you wanna shout, and for no reason at all run and testify. I ain’t one to gossip and you didn’t hear it from me, while Jones and Mama Dorothy came up with the recipe for the homemade beef links, it was Jones who was the link-meister, the architect-the master craftsman-the Guru-the wizard-the almighty link god (ahhhh…) let the church say amen. Amen!
We are often asked what gives Everett & Jones Barbeque its delicious taste and unique and wonderful smell. The answer is obvious, it's the beef links, baby. Say it loud, “Black folks love them some links!” And after 45 years of bbq'n (while black) that’s a Black-Fact, Jack and not just my opinion. Black folks don’t play. If we were out of links, they would walk away cussing you and your mama out. Jones had been anointed with the divine gift and talent of making superb-tasting, award-winning beef links. The same care he took in his wardrobe and car was put in his link making. Watching the master at work was almost spiritual. How did he do it you ask? That’s a closely guarded, protected, threat of death, family secret. Seriously, if I tell you they’ll come after me (looking over my shoulder) . . . Ok here’s the missing link (see what I did here) but you didn’t get it from me.
Jones was born and grew up in Idalou, Texas the son of Johnny Jones and Cora Lee (Minnie) Smith, and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1961. He was a complicated yet simple man. As the story goes, Jones met Dorothy while she was working at Jenkins Original Barbeque on 7th Street in West Oakland. Dorothy would feed him and a few of his Navy friends whenever they were portside and wanted a home-cooked meal, especially during the holidays when they couldn’t go home. Our house was always full of Sailors. Mama Dorothy eventually introduced Jones to her daughter, Annie Pearl, the second oldest of her eight daughters and one son. They were married a year later in 1966 and three children followed (Yvette, James and LaShaun).
Johnny Jones and Cora Lee (Minnie) Smith and their son James Jones in his Stetson hat
Siblings Yvette Jones-Hawkins, James Jones Jr. and LaShaun Jones
To the sisters he was the big brother we never had. He took us on ship tours during Fleet Week, he was also the bodyguard at the restaurant, the prom date for the dateless, and the high standard for future husbands. Since Annie Pearl was the first of us to marry we named the restaurant Everett & Jones.
After an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, Jones settled down in Oakland continuing the diaspora of Blacks moving out of the south to a better more urban life. He got a job working at General Motors in Oakland, where he worked for 19 years until it closed and then at Nummi (New United Motors in Fremont, CA) until retirement. Making links was his part time gig y’all. Just imagine what those links would taste like if it was full-time.
Siblings Virginia, Angie, Dorothy Jr, Mary, Annie, Yolanda, Shirley and mother Dorothy and Jones
This legendary slow-walkin’, smooth talkin’ Texan-Gentleman-Husband-Father-Brother-in-law, ex auto worker and United States Veteran changed the game in Oakland’s rich BBQ history. The King of links, James Jones, helped lift Everett and Jones Barbeque heads above the rest and positioned the family business for its long reign as a top tier BBQ restaurant and destination.
Jones ushered in future heirs to the link throne, like his son James Jr., his nephews and grandsons, and they honor his legacy. On special occasions Jones can be coaxed out of retirement to make some beef links for us, reminding us all of our delicious history. “Ummmm” as I chew this perfectly smoked, perfectly seasoned and coarsely ground beef link, The King of Links lives.
Jones making a small batch of beef links at daughter Yvette's home
Keeping up with the Jones and Hawkins' families with this photo slideshow. Thank you for your service this Veteran's Day.
Jones inspired his first born, Yvette Jones-Hawkins, son James Jones Jr. and one grandson Jalen Hawkins to join the military to serve our country. Daughter Yvette married Sean Hawkins also a Navy veteran. Thank you all for your service.
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Looking for an agent/publisher for a proposed new barbeque book from a Black woman's perspective 50 years in the game.
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