George Jones

Sept. 12, 1931-April 26, 2013              Colmesneil, Texas

According to country musician Waylon Jennings, "If we (country singers) all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones."

 

George Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, and grew up in Colmesneil, Texas. His father was a violent alcoholic who would sometimes return home in the middle of the night, wake up George, and demand that he sing. Despite the way music was abusively thrust on him, Jones continued to perform. When he was nine years old, his father bought him his first guitar, and he began busking on the streets of Beaumont. He left home at 16 and went to Jasper, Texas, where he sang and played on the radio. 

 

Jones' first hit came with "Why Baby Why" in 1955. That same year, while touring as a cast member of the Louisiana Hayride, Jones met and played shows with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, who would become a lifelong friend.

 

"White Lightnin'," written by J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson was Jones' first No. 1 in 1959. In 1962, Jones scored one of his biggest hits, "She Thinks I Still Care." He was also well on his way to gaining a reputation as a notorious hell-raiser. Merle Haggard recalls: "George was famous for not showing up, or showing up drunk, and he showed up drunk. I was onstage - I think I was singing Marty Robbins' 'Devil Woman' - and he kicked the doors of the office open and said, 'Who the xxxx is that? He also folded my steel guitarist Fuzzy Owen in a rollaway bed and rolled him out on the street. That was the pinnacle."

 

For the rest of the 1960s, Jones practically owned country music. He divorced his first wife and married fellow musician Tammy Wynette, and the couple became known as "Mr. and Mrs. Country Music." Jones' drinking and drug abuse created problems at home, including an incident where Wynette claimed that Jones fired a shotgun at her. They divorced but recorded another album together in 1980, scoring a hit with "Two Story House." Jones also earned a Grammy in 1980 for "He Stopped Loving Her Today," as well as Single of the Year and Song of the Year, even though he hated the song. Jones spoke publicly about his hopes for a reconciliation and would jokingly reference Tammy in some of his songs, such as his 1981 hit "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)."

 

In 1983, Jones went on a drunken rampage in Alabama and was straitjacketed and committed to a psychiatric hospital (not for the first time). A year later, at the age of 52 - Jones performed his first sober show since the early seventies. Jones began making up many of the dates he had missed, playing them for free to pay back promoters, and began opening his concerts with "No Show Jones," a song he had written with Glen Martin that poked fun at himself.

 

Jones continued to record and tour throughout the 1990s and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Rolling Stone named him number 43 in their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, and in 2012, Jones received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Among country music purists, he is widely considered to have the best voice of all time. He continued to tour until his death in 2013. George Jones is a member of the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Music Hall of Fame.

 

George Jones performs "She Thinks I Still Care"
on the Grand Ole Opry, February 12, 1962
Tex Ritter Portrait
George Jones performs "White Lightning"