For the first few decades of her musical career, Sharon Jones struggled to establish herself.
“I didn’t get my break when I was younger, and it’s just sad,” said the singer, who has helped spearhead the modern soul/funk revival movement with her band, the Dap-Kings. “What are you going to do? I just said, ‘One day my light is going to shine. God is going to give me my shot.’”
“I may be 59,” she added, “but I’m getting my shot.”
Jones and the Dap-Kings perform Friday at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles with blues guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and blues-rock group Tedeschi Trucks Band. The latter act, led by singer Susan Tedeschi and her husband, guitarist Derek Trucks, previously performed at the venue in August 2014.
Born in Augusta, Ga., and raised in New York, Jones turned 10 in 1966. “That’s when everybody was killing it,” she said, and the sound powered by Motown and Stax Records was hitting its peak.
“I was there when the Beatles came over. I was there when the Rolling Stones came over,” she said. “I watched the Jackson 5 go from little soul singers to big pop singers.”
Two experiences in particular shaped her own interest in becoming a singer.
She heard Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album “Amazing Grace” for the first time in church, around age 14. And, in her 20s, she attended a summer music festival in New York City with an all-star lineup that featured Franklin, Chaka Khan, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes and, most importantly, “The Wiz” star Stephanie Mills.
“When I saw Stephanie Mills (on stage), then I knew I wanted to do that,” recalled Jones, who was often compared to the R&B/soul/gospel singer.
In fact, when she auditioned for a touring version of “The Wiz,” the singer said, “They said I looked too much and I sounded too much like Stephanie Mills.”
Instead of gigs, Jones landed day jobs as a corrections officer at New York’s Rikers Island and an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank.
She didn’t get her big musical break until 1996, when she became the lead singer of Soul Providers, a band aimed at recapturing the sound and spirit of funk and soul music during its heyday from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
The Soul Providers split up in 2000, and a new back-up band, the Dap-Kings, was formed.
Starting with “Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings” in 2002, Jones and her band have released five studio albums and collaborated — collectively and separately — with the likes of Michael Bublé, Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse and They Might Be Giants. Their cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” can be heard during the opening credits of the 2009 movie “Up in the Air.”
Jones said the band comes by its old-school sound naturally.
“When we write music, that’s what we’re writing. That’s what we hear,” she said. “The newest pop stuff is just not that interesting (to us).”
Jones and the Dap-Kings have experienced both triumph and tragedy in the past few years.
They were forced to delay the release of their acclaimed 2014 album, “Give the People What They Want,” when Jones was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, later revealed to be pancreatic cancer.
Jones and her management originally debated over telling fans that she would undergo chemotherapy and surgery to treat the disease. But the singer decided to share her ordeal.
“I just said, ‘I don’t want to hide. I want my fans to know what I am going through,’” she said.
Jones said her listeners' support played a “big role” in her recovery.
“I got hundreds and thousands of (messages) wishing me well,” she said.
Earlier this year, Jones and the Dap-Kings earned their first Grammy Award nomination — for best R&B album — for “Give the People What They Want.”
Although their album lost out to “Love, Marriage & Divorce” by Babyface & Toni Braxton, Jones and her band still enjoyed their time in the spotlight.
“It was fun being there amongst the stars and amongst the crowd and seeing what it was like at the Grammys,” she said. “It was an experience.”
Jones said the Grammy nod is proof that music lovers are eager for their soulful sound, regardless of what some record executives might think.
“They think that soul music is not going to sell, or is not poppy enough,” she said. “America needs to wake up and do more soul stuff.”
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
6:30 p.m. Friday
Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road in Paso Robles
$50 to $85
227-4812 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com