James Jones (June 2, 1937 – August 2, 2012) was an American singer-songwriter who moved to New York City while a teenager. According to Allmusic journalist Steve Huey, “best known for his 1960 R&B smash, ‘Handy Man,’ Jones sang in a smooth yet soulful falsetto modeled on the likes of Clyde McPhatter and Sam Cooke.”
Jones was born in Birmingham, Alabama. His first job in the entertainment industry was as a tap dancer. He joined a doo-wop group named the Berliners in 1954. They later changed their name to Sparks of Rhythm. In 1955 Jones co-wrote “Handy Man“, which was recorded by the Sparks of Rhythm in 1956 (after Jones left the group). After recording with other groups, Jones went solo and, in 1959, teamed up with Otis Blackwell who reworked “Handy Man” which Jones recorded on the MGM subsidiary Cub Records. When the flute player did not show up for the session, Blackwell famously whistled on the recording. “Handy Man”, released in 1959, gave Jones his first US and UK hit single. It went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, and peaked at No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. It introduced a rock falsetto singing style to the British audience and later scored hits for Del Shannon and James Taylor.