The Swellers
The Jones Assembly, photo by David Callahan

I'd been working in downtown OKC for about a year when The Jones Assembly first opened its doors in 2017. Staying up-to-date with the new spots opening was always important to me, so I was stoked to hear about a place so close to my office opening soon. I remember going to grab drinks the week they opened and how impressed I was with the space. I wondered, "what did this place used to be?" I'd seen the building dozens of times on my way to work, but it now had a new breath of life. It was clear that plenty of time and effort had been put into opening this spot.

The history of the space and everything it took to get to this point is a journey all its own.

Graham Colton is a name that anyone involved in the music scene here in Oklahoma will recognize. A native of north Oklahoma City, he cut his teeth playing gigs anywhere that'd give him a chance to get on the mic. He admittedly caught the music bug early, crediting his father for instilling that passion in him, "My dad is still in the same band he was in, when he was in college. That was always a huge influence on me."

This love for music and dedication to the craft of songwriting put Graham in the crosshairs of touring musicians in the early 2000's scene, among those being Better Than Ezra and The Wallflowers. This opened the door wide open for Graham to jump on tours opening shows for the better part of 6 years between 2001 and 2007.

Following that run of tours, Graham plugged back into the scene here in his hometown. Between OKC and Dallas he and his lifelong friend Brian Bogert had been attending shows and taking in all of the culture the cities had to offer. A dream to have a place of their own had been a part of their "what ifs" for years while hanging out at a local show or a restaurant. When Brian relocated back to OKC around 2002, that dream started to seem a little more attainable.

The introduction of the OKC Thunder solidified the idea of this place of their own coming to life. The city was in the big leagues now. Connecting, networking and re-establishing roots in the culture of OKC for the following years was the kindling to the fire that would ultimately become The Jones Assembly. Along with Scott Marsh and Courtney Mankin, Graham and Brian selected the old Jones assembly line building at 901 W Sheridan as the site for their venue. "The building was everything. It's where everything started to click. Even when we walked in and it was a dirty, leaky warehouse we thought - this is it," said Graham.

As a professional touring musician, Graham's personal industry experience naturally leant itself to shaping the live music aspect of The Jones. Creatively working within the parameters of the building's structure, they've managed to build a one-of-a-kind concert experience unlikely to be recreated anywhere else. "Our vision for this place is based on things we've seen all over the world. From the height of the ceiling, to the paint, to the doorknobs," Graham added.

Specifically for the sound and layout on the musician's side, Graham credits bad experiences in his career alongside the good ones in shaping the direction of design. "I've been to crazy places that were charming, but I knew - nope. We can't do that." It's ultimately an amalgam of things to give both musicians and concert-goers alike the experience they want when they go to a show.

Graham was candid about the difficulty in finding traction early on as a new venue, "Five years ago we had our open date and I don't think people understood at that time it was difficult to get bands in OKC." Bound and determined to kick things off with a bang, Graham reached out to The Wallflowers and Better Than Ezra - two bands he'd formed relationships with in the early 2000's while touring the country. The poignance of the moment wasn't lost on Graham, "There was a moment after the first song played when I looked at Brian and thought, 'man this is cool.'"

Today The Jones is among the venues in the city bringing in artists that inspire and match that pure, love-of-the-craft ethos they're building their legacy on. It's a 1,600 capacity room made of metal and wood and brick, held together by the blood, sweat and tears of a small group of dreamers. It's that energy that emanates from the venue, spreads to everyone it touches and becomes the very heartbeat of the city.

Special thanks to Graham Colton for this interview.