Originally from Littleton, the now legendary Jonny III were for a time in the late 70's THE top new wave band in Colorado. They were by far and away the most popular local band and the only band who could consistently draw sizeable crowds to their shows. With the endorsement and backing of the then highly influencial Denver record store Wax Trax!, they rose in a short time to become Rocky Mountain and midwestern new wave favorites.
Led by the guitar prowess of Kenny Vaughan and drumming of Leroy X, this band first gained notice in Denver by opening up for New York's Tuff Dart's at The Broadway and Minneapolis' Suicide Commandos at the White Mule in early '78. The band soon became the big favorite of the Wax Trax! Records crowd replacing the Front who had by then dispanded and performed throughout '78 at Wax Trax! sponsored club nights at various Denver venues. Whenever Wax Trax! brought an out of town band to the city it was the Jonny III who performed with them. The group began to get local press in papers such as WESTWORD and THE METROPOLITAN. In the summer of '78 the band ventured north to Wyoming to perform with Larimie's Dirty Dogs (later the Accelerators and a band the Jonny III peformed with in Denver serveral times) during this period. They also performed in Denver with New York's The Marbles and Man Ka Zam.
Their performance at the famous Wax Trax! farewell party marked the end of an era in Colorado punk music. The energy of the original Wax Trax! store departed for Chicago's Lincoln Avenue and the Denver scene began to go through some changes.
Starting in late '78 the home for the Jonny III was the Malfunction Junction, a 3.2 bar located down the street from Wax Trax! and Sisco's Cafe on Capitol Hill. Jonny III gigs during that period became major events and were allways well attended.
In December of '78 the group excepted an invite from friends the Suicide Commandos to perform at Jay's Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis. By early 1979 the band was touring regularly to Minneapolis, Chicago (through the band's connection with the relocated Wax Trax! record store), and eventually Detroit and Cleveland. Soon they had expanded their fan base out of the state of Colorado and into the midwest and were getting writeups in Minneapolis and Chicago newspapers and fanzines. In the spring of '79 a mini tour of California was booked centered around a show at San Francisco's Mabuhay Gardens. The California trip was ultimately cancelled due to transportation issues (their van broke down) for the band. The Jonny III were no longer just a popular Colorado but were beginning to make big waves in the midwest new wave scene. When they returned to Denver after weeks of touring the midwest they were welcomed by their fans as returning heroes and their Denver shows of that time particularly at their Denver home base the Malfunction Junction were always packed to capacity. At this time there was never any question among punk/new wave fans in Colorado what was the top local band. Unanimously it was the Jonny III.
Originally the band was only a three piece but expanded in the fall of '78 by adding farfisa orgainist/sax player Miles to fill up the sound. Vaughan's guitar playing was allready accomplished (even then he was working as a session player for other artists) and the Jonny III's musicianship level was professional whereas many of the other bands were just inspired amateurs. Like most of new wave bands of the period Jonny III's live show was full of all upbeat dancable songs. When Miles switched from playing organ to sax the set changed to a more 50's style rock and roll sound. Covers included the 50's rockabilly classic "Brand New Cadillac". Also featured were several great original songs like "Lonely Astronaut Blues."
Early Jonny 3 setlist
Original bass player Nick left the band in the summer of '79 and was replaced on bass by former Front guitarist Dave Hill. By the fall of 1979 for all practical purposes the band in it's original form and concept was finished due to the usual excesses that break up rock bands.
In the early 80's the group underwent several personnel changes. One version of the band included former Suicide Commando bass player Steve Almaas and the Jonny III (by this point a three piece again) relocated to the east coastperforming several east coast and midwestern dates in 1981 including Chicago and the early 80's east coast New Wave mecca Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Finally, in the early eighties drummer Leroy X became frontman for the group and their name was changed to Leroy X and X-citations. Later in the early eighties singles were released by both Kenny Vaughan and Leroy on Denver's Pi Fi label. The single released under the moniker 'Leroy's Dance Band' received some great reviews. Guitarist Vaughan later moved to Nahville and continues to be an in-demand session and live guitarist.
Colorado's premier punk band was never captured on vinyl in it's heyday. In 2003 a reunited Leroy X and Kenny Vaughan released some CDs under the Jonny II name: "Her Little Red Wagon" and "The Jonny 3 Live Volumes 1 and 2".
Read Denver's Punk Scene: Dead or Alive by Lou Chapman June 1979
Read The Jonny Three Chronicles by Jo Ann Steiger
Read the Kenny Vaughan interview
Read the Leroy X interview