TORONTO – Quincy Jones is sitting in a posh hotel meeting room, holding out his right hand to show a gold pinkie ring given to him by the late Frank Sinatra.
The renowned music producer explains he’s close with the Sinatra family, having worked with Ol’ Blue Eyes numerous times over the years as an arranger and conductor.
The duo also liked to hit the town together with soul great Ray Charles, embarking on booze-fuelled adventures that took a toll on Jones and left him “almost being never vertical,” he admits.
As the new Netflix documentary “Quincy” shows, the 27-time Grammy Award winner behind many of Michael Jackson’s hits suffered a diabetic stroke in 2015 that put him into a coma. When he was on the mend, he swore off alcohol and has been dry ever since.
“I just stopped, because when you come up with Ray Charles and Frank, you’ve had enough alcohol for 4,000 dudes,” Jones said with a laugh in a recent interview.
“Those guys didn’t play, hunny. They took no prisoners.”
“That was the best thing I ever did. I don’t miss it at all,” added the master raconteur.
“It fogs you up, it makes you groggy and I don’t like that feeling. Now I feel like if I wanted to, I could be 25. I’m only 85, hunny.”
The ever-candid and affable Jones opens up about his personal life and career in “Quincy,” which hits Netflix on Friday after making its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.
Actress Rashida Jones, his daughter, co-directed and co-wrote the film with Alan Hicks. She also sometimes operates the camera as she captures her dad in intimate settings.
The film contains a wealth of archival footage as it details Jones’s beginnings in south-side Chicago in the 1930s, where his mother’s mental-health issues forced her to be admitted to an institution when he was just seven.
“They took her away in a straight jacket, from my brother and I, so that’s a hard way to come up in Chicago in the ’30s — a hard way,” Jones recalled.
“It affected everything. A son needs a mother bad when they’re young. A mother and son, daddy and daughters. My feeling with my daughters, boy, is frightening. It’s so deep. Six daughters — 25 to 65 — and one son.”
Jones explained his dad was a workaholic carpenter and was often absent from the home.
“Then he married another lady that was like (the mother in the film) ‘Precious,'” said Jones, alleging she was physically abusive toward him.
“She didn’t call me by my name until I was 57. Anyway, we got through it. We survived it.”
Jones’s saving grace was a piano he came across by chance in the recreational hall of a military camp in Bremerton, Wash., where he was working as a paper boy.
“I closed the door and something in me said, ‘Idiot, go back in that room,’ and I went back in that room and I slowly walked over to that piano and touched it,” he recalled.
“I didn’t realize that human beings played these. I heard this music all my life but I never realized human beings played it. It’s hard to conceive that at that age. And I knew right then that that’s what I would be doing the rest of my life — or else I’d be dead or in prison.”
Jones went on to learn many more instruments, study classical music and overcome racial hurdles to work with scores of illustrious acts around the world.
“Daddy used to tell us every day, ‘Once a task has just begun, never leave it until it’s done. Be the labour great or small, do it well or not at all.’ That sticks with you,” Jones said.
“Nothing scared me. I like that old expression: ‘You can’t get an A if you’re afraid of an F’ — gotta take a chance.”
He does have some regrets, though.
“I was supposed to do Whitney (Houston)’s first album and Bobby McFerrin’s first album. I was always hung up with Michael,” Jones said.
“I was supposed to do Sting’s first record. I liked those guys, I idolized them, really, or we liked each other. But I was always hung up with something else.
“It’s a lot of work, hunny — producing. It took 800 songs to do ‘Thriller.'”
Seeing such accomplishments compiled into one film is “overwhelming,” Jones admitted.
“Like, who the hell is that?” he said. “The combination of stuff just blows me away. I said, ‘That’s got to be somebody else.’ This is a lot of stuff there — and only a little bit of it is in there.”