The roots of Cleveland's reggae scene can be traced back to Carlos Jones, who has played with such seminal groups as I-Tal, First Light and, for the past 20 years, the P.L.U.S. Band. "It's been so much fun, I haven't noticed the time going by," says the 56-year-old guitarist. "I'm not going to get rich playing this kind of music, but it makes me happy." We talked reggae, musical influences and Nelson Mandela with Jones, who brings the P.L.U.S. Band to the Cleveland-based Little Fish Records 20th anniversary concert June 7 at Lost Nation Sports Park in Willoughby.
Q: What makes reggae music so liberating?
A: It's a universal vibration. I could be feeling crappy all day, but when I strap on my guitar, I'm in the zone. I watch everyone from babies to senior citizens responding to the music, and it's a beautiful thing to see.
Q: How has reggae music changed over the years?
A: Back in the '70s, it was a social commentary. The music had a lot of substance. It was very organic. Once we got into the '80s, everything became electronic and synthesized and it started to lose a lot of the soul it had. In the '90s, it paralleled what was going on with hip-hop. I like to keep the focus on where the music comes from.
Q: What influences your music?
A: I grew up listening to a variety of music, from Earth, Wind and Fire to Genesis to Yes. I might even throw in a song from the Youngbloods.
Q: What inspired your song "Nelson Mandela"?
A: I wrote that and recorded it on the day [Nelson Mandela] won the election in 1994. All that he had overcome really inspired me. I recently unearthed the song.