Our colleague friend and chief cheerleader at SanDiegoStory.com, Welton Jones, passed away this last December 2022. He is co-founder of Critics LLC, publisher of sandiegostory.com, along with Ken Herman, Bill Eadie, Kris Eitland and Mark Burgess. He wrote our site history (in the menu above) and published over 137 reviews since we debuted in July 2012.
A celebration of his life occurs February 11, 2023 at 1pm in Balboa Park at the Marston House.
To honor him, the following is an article that appeared in February 2008 that includes his very first theater review.
(With apologies as the archive of reviews linked here are lost through multiple sales of the sandiego.com domain name.)
Welton Jones II: 50 Years in the Arts
sandiego.com’s Senior Arts Critic
By Mark S. Burgess
Posted on Feb 08 2008
Last updated Feb 08 2008
People often get recognized for their contributions when they’re gone and everybody else gets in on the story. In this case, in the rock and roll of his work in coordinating the award winning critical arts reviews on sandiego.com, we’re taking a short pause to talk about the fellow that got this part of our site started, grew it to the great resource it is. He continues to lead the team and the arts community in San Diego has noticed, by commenting on reviews on the site and other means – inspiring spirited exchanges like that following his review of “The Treatment” at Moxie Theater or by “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Old Globe. Those long involved in San Diego Arts like the Artistic Director of Balboa Park’s Old Globe, Tony award winning Jack O’Brien, noted Welton’s impact over the years at this year’s San Diego Critics Circle awards ceremony (Jan 21, 2007)
“I see Welton [Jones] out there, who was the first critic here to review me: he carved his initials on SEVERAL parts of my body and I have the scars to prove it….”
Welton Jones started his long and distinguished career at the lowest possible rung of the ladder of journalism: as a paperboy in Junior High School. In high school, he was called a good writer but considered himself to be more of a story teller.
After graduating from Lubbock High School, he started college at Texas A&M in the fall of 1954 and majored in journalism as a compromise. Having never written for a newspaper, he went to work for The Texas A&M Battalion before even registering with the college, earning $5 the first month.
The summer of 1956 he worked for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and for the Houston Post the next summer of 1957 before his senior year. That year he was up for Editor of the Battalion. When he didn’t get that, he decided to write about theater and taught himself how. He was rated 1A in the draft but followed his girlfriend to New York City. He worked fulltime as a copy boy at New York Herald Tribune in the fall of 1958 for three or four months.
The future scion of theater critics in San Diego must have given a thumbs down to New York and joined the US Coast Guard in the fall of 1958. He made Ensign in February of 1959. While stationed in Juneau, Alaska he had a daughter, Diana.
Welton’s First Review from 1957 (See the complete article below)
After leaving the Coast Guard, he returned to Texas and went to work for the Houston Post. He worked the police beat as a result of working an all-nighter and soon rose to be the senior police reporter. All the time he was describing the police blotter, though, he aspired to the entertainment post. During that time he co-founded a local theater group. He resigned from the paper, went broke, and had a son, Welton III, all in 1961.
He moved to Shreveport in late 1961 and was hired for the entertainment beat . His first review was of the Shreveport Opera doing Lakme! And began to pay off his debts. The Coast Guard Reserve recalled him to NYC which began what became an annual trip to the city.
In 1965, he joined the San Diego Union as the Sunday department entertainment staff writer, writing reviews daily. Continuing what he started eight years earlier. He held the reviewers post from 1965 until 1971, missing his annual trek to New York. He took the post of entertainment editor in 1972, although he got no extra pay. He resumed his New York trips, though.
He became the official Theater critic for the Union in 1984. The Union merged with the Tribune and Welton became the Critic-at-large in 1994, a post he kept until retirement in 1999.
In 2000, he began writing for this site, sandiego.com. He’s been instrumental in pulling together a team of erudite, enthusiastic and dedicated writers that cover nearly all of the professional performances in town, winning awards in both 2006 and 2007 as the dominant arts reviewing group in the city.
As of October 2007, just a few months ago, Welton’s been on the job for 50 years and he’s still going strong and not just writing and leading the review team at sandiego.com. His theatre activities include:
- Passion play tour, Galveston Little Theater, started Juneau Little Theatre, started Major Productions Inc. (went broke). Still corresponds with one actress from that co.
- Shreveport helped form a couple co.s; directed The Boyfriend for Barksdale AF Base. Stage managed and wrote Shreveport Press Club Gridiron show.
- SD New Heritage Th. Inc. 1968 2 original musicals: The New Black Crook, Chinchilla! (directed/produced); Del Mar series of 1 act plays 1973. For Women’s Ensemble Theater, he did sound design for Uncommon Women and Others.
- SDG&S 84 Patience, 85 Orpheus, 86 Iolanthe, 86 Savoy; 87 Florodora, 88 Yeomen, 88 Utopia Ltd.,
Theater has been a lifelong passion. In 1981 he had already written a 50 minute traveling show, Songs for a Queen, which toured the San Diego schools for the SDG&E outreach program. In 1986 he wrote The Savoy Theater Cat, an insider view of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. Since retiring, Welton has written, produced and/or directed The Gift of the Magi (2001), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2002), La Pastorela (2005), and The Pirates of Point Loma (2007). He was co-founder of the San Diego Press Club and is currently a member of SOHO’s board of directors.
Links on the Net to work by Welton Jones:
- Welton’s reviews on sandiego.com
- (We would link to his work at the UT via signonsandiego.com but they don’t publish digests of their writer’s work and the search engine returns just 11 of the articles Welton wrote over 22 years)
- San Diego Film Town in the Journal of San Diego History.
- Full Focus: Celebrating the Opera 4/4/2005 talk show appearance, PB Television
- Review of Welton’s production of La Pastorella
- Member of the Board of Directors of The Save Our Heritage Organization
- Welton addresses the CCDC on final approval of the design of 777 Beech
- Welton’s review of The Ring on OperaWest
- Welton’s biography of Gregory Peck
- Welton quoted in the book Reading Shakespeare on Stage
- San Diego Shakespeare Society Advisor
- San Diego Theater Critics Circle Awards (5th row on right)
- 33rd San Diego Press Club Awards (Daily Newspapers/Websites – Reviews)
- San Diego Union Performing Arts Collection, 1908-2001
- Mentions of Welton Jones in books on Amazon.com:
- The Critics’ Canon: Standards of Theatrical Reviewing in America
- Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right
- Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer’s Guide to Exploring Southern California’s Great Outdoors
- Sputnik: The Shock of the Century
And, now, Welton’s very first review:
Art for Aggies’ Sake
By Welton Jones
Some comments have been reaching the ears of this column concerning the column content. The speakers had various things to say, some of which will be taken into consideration in future offerings.
The column will not be so pat or trite as to say the usual beginning, simpering speech of “this is YOUS column and we want to put in it what YOU want.” It most decidedly is not your column; for the owner’s name see above.
However, the column will duly consider and possibly answer any legitimate comment, derogatory or otherwise, so—feel free.
VARIETY—The biggest news of the week entertainment-wise, is, of course, the return of the Four Freshman to the campus under the auspices of the Town Hall organization.
The popular vocal group, which set a new style for such quartets when they were founded 10 years ago, was extremely successful on one previous appearance here and adequate on another.
Keynote of the Freshmen is their individual versatility. If one man were to be picked as the voice giving their sound its distinctive quality it would probably have to be the tenor, Bob Flanigan, who is also responsible for the rather crude trombone solos heard on their unaccompanied records. In addition he plays the bass viol.
Other members are the effervescent Ross Barbour, who makes introductions and handles a trumpet when he is not laboring over a meager set of drums, his brother, Don Barbour, who is fairly constant on the guitar and who belts the group’s wierdies such as “Circus”, and Ken Albers, vocal soloist and sometime trumpet-mello-phone player.
A more complete list of their accomplishments and qualifications may be found elsewhere in these pages, but may this column go on record as saying that the Four Freshmen, probably the best small musical organization of their type in the country, will provide an evening of entertainment worth the price of admission and time spent.
MUSIC ON RECORDS—Following last week’s comments about the state of the MSC Browsing Library’s record collection, this column talked with Joe Harris, a barried individual whose job it is to purchase the $100 worth of new records allowed the MSC each year.
Harris told the column that all is not as easy as it appears and having a cool one hundred to spend on records, an enviable position to most of us, is rather disconcerning when one has to please an audience such as the one at A&M.
“Like last year,” he said. “There was a big cry for some Spanish-American music, so we bought a lot and now, well the records are just as new as they were last year.”
Harris and this column join together in requesting all music lovers, or those who can even care at all, to either leave a note for Harris in the Library or write this column in care of The Battalion and give an opinion at least on the type of music you might enjoy.
TELEVISION—Many readers may recoil at the mention of this young media in a column devoted so bravely to The Arts”, and, to confess, this column finds the fact a bit distasteful also.
Nevertheless, a Houston television station, KPRC-TV, has produced a coup worthy of notice at this time. The station has just finished the first week of a new film series entitles M_GM Theatre, which will, each Monday through Saturday at 10:05 p.m. on channel 2, present most of the memorable film works produced by that studio.
The list of the titles and stars is much to lengthy to note here, but included will be such names to conjure with as the legendary Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow, the Barrymore family (all three featured in one film, the only one they did together). The Marx Brothers, Wallace Barry and Sir Laurence Oliver.
In the future this column will attempt to carry some type of note when an outstanding feature is scheduled on this series.
MOTION PICTURES—This Friday’s offering by the MSC Film Society will be the always popular musical play “Showboat”. The particular version featured will be that starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keed and Ava Gardner.
This column remembers wondering at the time how Miss Gardner, who is adequately written about in gossip columns, would be into a musical of the caliber of “Showboat”.
|Posted by Joey Landwehr||February 8, 2008|
|This is a wonderful article on Welton Jones. I have only been in San Diego for 5 years but have enjoyed his intelligent and well written reviews. Bravo Welton!!! Congrats on 50 years!|
|Posted by Bob Laurence||February 8, 2008|
|Congratulations Welton! The recognition is well-deserved for decades of incisive, perceptive criticism and great writing. Cheers, Bob and Susan|
|Posted by Dave Gregson||February 9, 2008|
|Without Welton, the tradition of literate, informed criticism would be virtually dead. It is most certainly withering in the daily papers. His inspiration to get good arts writing on line has resulted in this very site, one that deserves wider readership. Both as a writer and a thinker, Welton is a dynamic force — and I am proud to call him a friend.|