Remembering My Good Friend Bob Jones
By Bill Traylor
It was around July of 1983 when I first met the man, Bob Jones, that would have the most influence on me and my career in Gospel Music.
After The Zondervan Corporation bought The Benson Company in 1982, they decided to break the once large Zondervan into four divisions with new presidents for each. Bob Jones was appointed as president for the music division of Zondervan which included Singspiration Music, Stamps Baxter Music, and distributed labels, including my label RiverSong Records.
I was tasked with picking up the new music president at the airport which turned out to be my introduction to Bob Jones. I knew we were going to get along just fine from the moment he got in my car. He popped in a Southern Gospel CD and wanted to know what I thought. Of course, it was of the SongFellows Quartet. Bob was the SongFellows baritone singer and his dad, Bob Jones, Sr. was the lead singer. I can’t remember what I said about the CD, but I do remember fondly that moment because it was the start of a friendship that lasted more than 40 years.
Initially, Bob offered me the position of General Manager of Stamps Baxter Music; what a privilege that was. I served in that position for one year before there was a change of management at the Benson Company leaving the president’s position vacant. Bob had taken firm control of Benson. Because of his background in Southern Gospel, he was looking for someone who appreciated the heritage of that music to fill the position. Bob offered me the position of a lifetime as president of the company that gave me my first job in Gospel Music in 1978 in radio promotions.
Under Bob’s leadership, Benson grew from 6 million in sales to over 20 million in sales in just 2 years. Bob taught me the value of a good business plan, how to read financials, and how to forecast for future business. He was an expert at it all! Gospel Music grew under Bob’s leadership, especially Southern Gospel. I was blessed and honored to be along for the ride!
Bob’s career took many paths. He was president of Samick Music (then the world’s largest manufacturer of pianos and guitars), vice president of Steinway Pianos, and vice president of Baldwin Pianos. He was the SongFellows Quartet’s baritone for decades, and the lead singer after the passing of his father. He closed out his life singing with his two dear friends Rick Strickland and Tank Tackett as the SongFellows. Bob never lost his enthusiasm for music or his desire to spread the gospel through song.
Bob was a brilliant businessman, a devoted father, and a wonderful husband. His passing has left huge holes in the lives of those who knew him and the industry he loved so much. His contributions to both will continue for decades. I will be forever grateful for his mentorship and friendship.