Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on PSW in 2012.
Living in Britain, I am in a country steeped in history. A friend of mine’s house was built before a European even “discovered” America, and we are so used to things just being old that we don’t get excited about it.
U.S. writer Bill Bryson noted that there were more, older buildings in the tiny village he lived in Derbyshire than in the whole of Iowa, where he was born.
But like most people, I don’t get involved with history that much, what with working in a forward thinking, technological industry. The equipment changes all the time, companies come and go; people move around and move on. Or so I thought…
A few years ago, a consultancy project led me to southwest London to a company called RG Jones. When wanting some brief details about them, I asked how old the company was. “We are 80 years old this year,” was the reply.
I couldn’t believe it.1926! Did the professional sound industry really exist in 1926? Who needed a PA system back then, and what for? What were the venues? After all, The Eagles didn’t start touring until some time just after that.
So then I was told the story, and like many stories of successful businesses, it all started a bit by accident. In 1926, Reginald Geoffrey Jones worked as a salesman for Milton Products. He worked in a busy market street where he experienced great difficulty competing with the noise level from all the other market traders.
His solution was to use amplified sound. He attached two large horn loudspeakers to the top of his van, so he could be heard through a microphone connected to an amplifier, projecting his sales pitch above all the others.
He then discovered that others wanted to use his PA system, and was soon making more money from hiring than he made from his work with Milton.
This quickly led him into the world of professional audio—launching his career as one of the great pioneers of sound reinforcement in the UK. Within a few years RG Jones had set up in his own business and had established the company in both the rental and sound installation market.
Later, he built his first recording studio in the back room of a house in the grounds of Morden Manor. This studio went on to be one the most well-known independent studios in history; boasting clients such as The Rolling Stones and The Who.
The business grew and RG Jones was soon the preferred sound supplier and installer in the UK. During the Second World War, his mobile PA equipment was used by The Home Guard, The Red Cross and even in the docks at Liverpool for controlling the landing of thousands of American troops in preparation for the D-Day landings.