George Glenn Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) was an American country music singer known for his long list of hit records, his distinctive voice and phrasing, and his marriage to Tammy Wynette.
For the last 20 years of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as the greatest living country singer. Country music scholar Bill C. Malone wrote, "For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics, and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved." Waylon Jennings, in his song "It's Alright" expressed a common envy when he said, "If we all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones."
Throughout his long career, Jones made headlines often as much for tales of his drinking, stormy relationships with women, and violent rages as for his prolific career of making records and touring. His wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones." With the help of his fourth wife, Nancy, he was sober for more than the last 10 years of his life. Jones had more than 150 hits during his career, both as a solo artist and in duets with other artists. The shape of his nose and facial features gave Jones the nickname "The Possum."
In August 2012, it was announced that at the conclusion of his 2013 tour, titled "The Grand Tour", Jones intended to retire to spend more time with his family. However, Jones was hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure, and died on April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
George Glenn Jones was born on September 12, 1931, in Saratoga, Texas, thirty-eight miles northwest of Beaumont, to George Washington Jones and Clara Patterson Jones, and was raised in Vidor, Texas, with his brother and five sisters. When he was seven, his parents bought a radio and he heard country music for the first time. Given a guitar when he was nine, Jones was soon busking for money on the streets of Beaumont.
He left home at 16 and went to Jasper, Texas, where he sang and played on the radio station. He met Hank Williams at a local radio station in 1949, and the singer advised young Jones to stop singing like Roy Acuff and start singing like himself.
Jones married Dorothy Bonvillion when he was 19, but divorced her before the birth of their daughter. The Korean War was underway, and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed in California for his entire service. He served in the Marines from 1950 to 1953, then signed to Starday Records, whose co-owner Pappy Daily became Jones’s producer and manager. Not long after his discharge, his music career took off. Jones’s first single, “No Money in This Deal,” was released in 1954, the year he married his second wife, Shirley Corley. He first hit the national country charts in 1955 – the same year that Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash made their chart debuts – with Why Baby Why, a honky-tonk record featuring a double-tracked vocal. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard country charts that year. It was Jones' first chart single. The single's early airplay occurred in Jones' home state of Texas, with Houston's country music station KIKK ranking it number one locally. Their charts were sent to stations around the country, which began to pick it up as well, partially overcoming Starday's regionally-limited distribution. However, its progress on the chart was blunted by Red Sovine and Webb Pierce's cover duet, which benefited from Decca Records' major label status and national distribution and rose to number one on the chart over the 1955–1956 Christmas holiday period. Jones's rendition was later included as the first track on his 1957 debut album Grand Ole Opry's New Star.
Jones's identity was closely tied to his alcoholism. One of the best known stories of Jones' drinking days happened when he was married to his second wife, Shirley Ann Corley. Jones recalled Shirley making it physically impossible for him to travel to Beaumont, located 8 miles away, and buy liquor. Because Jones would not walk that far, she would hide the keys to each of their cars they owned before leaving. She did not, however, hide the lawn mower keys. Jones recollects being upset at not being able to find any keys before looking out the window and at a light that shone over their property. He then described his thoughts, saying: "There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did."
In her 1979 autobiography, former wife Tammy Wynette recalled waking at 1 am to find her husband gone: "I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away. When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He'd driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she'd come after me.'"
Jones later jokingly sang of the lawn mower incident in his 1996 single "Honky Tonk Song", and parodied his arrest in the music video.
In the 1970s, a manager introduced Jones to cocaine before a show, because he was too tired to perform. His self-destructive behavior brought him close to death and he was in an Alabama psychiatric hospital by the end of the decade. Celebrated by some of his fans as the hard-drinking, fast-living, spiritual son of his idol Hank Williams, Jones missed so many engagements that he gained the nickname "No-Show Jones." (The song "No-Show Jones" makes fun of Jones and other country singers.) He was often penniless and admits that Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came to his financial aid during this time.
His nickname No-Show Jones gained national circulation as he missed more engagements than he kept. When he was scheduled to play a 1977 showcase at the Bottom Line in New York, he disappeared for three weeks instead. In 1979, he missed 54 concert dates. But as his troubles increased, so did his fame and his album sales. “I was country music’s national drunk and drug addict,” Mr. Jones wrote in his autobiography, “I Lived to Tell It All,” published in 1996.
Poking fun at his past, three country music videos would feature Jones arriving on a riding lawn mower. The first was Hank Williams, Jr's "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" in 1984 while the second was Vince Gill's "One More Last Chance" in 1993. Gill's song mentioned the mower with the lines "She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere." At the end of Gill's video, he is leaving the golf course on a John Deere tractor and greets Jones with "Hey, possum." Jones, arriving at the golf course driving a John Deere riding lawn mower with a set of golf clubs mounted behind him, replies to Gill "Hey, sweet pea." The third is John Rich's "Country Done Come to Town" and shows George mowing grass on the rooftop on a zero-turn mower.
The Jones Boys band
Over the years, George Jones worked with many musicians wh have found success in Nashville as session players and singers. These include Dan Schafer, Hank Singer, Johnny Paycheck, Brittany Allyn, Sonny Curtis, Ron Gaddis, Kent Goodson, Bobby Burkhead, and Steve Hinson.
Jones was married twice before he was 24 years old. His first marriage, in 1950, to Dorothy Bonvillion lasted a year; they had a daughter, Susan.
He married Shirley Ann Corley on September 14, 1954. This marriage lasted until June 11, 1968, and produced two sons, Jeffrey and Bryan.
He married Tammy Wynette on February 16, 1969. They remained married until March 13, 1975. They had a daughter, Tamala Georgette, who, as Georgette Jones, is a country singer and has performed on stage with her father.
Jones married his final wife, Nancy Sepulvado, on March 4, 1983, in Woodville, Texas. Nancy, who survives her husband, currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee.
In his later years, Jones often complained about the direction contemporary country music took, especially after radio stopped playing his records. Mr. Jones found himself upholding a traditional sound that had largely disappeared from commercial country radio. “They just shut us off all together at one time,” he said in a 2012 conversation with the photographer Alan Mercer. “It’s not the right way to do these things. You just don’t take something as big as what we had and throw it away without regrets. “They don’t care about you as a person,” he added. “They don’t even know who I am in downtown Nashville.”[ But younger stylists revered him, particularly during country's commercial boom of the late '80s and early '90s. Several, including Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill, sang with him on 1992's "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair", released the same year Jones was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In the last 10 years of his career, he recorded with Shooter Jennings and Staind frontman Aaron Lewis, as well as with Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard. Jones announced his final concert was to be held on November 22nd, 2013, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Jones also mentioned a duet album with Dolly Parton would be released as his final studio album.
Awards and honors
Jones received many honors during his long career, from Most Promising New Country Vocalist in 1956, being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, and being named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. In 2012 he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. At the ceremony his longtime friend Merle Haggard paid tribute to him.
Jones' was part of the first country concert at Madison Square Garden, a four-show, 10-act package in 1964 that also included Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe and Buck Owens. Each act was allotted two songs per show, but on the opening night Mr. Jones played five before he was carried offstage.
He served as judge in 2008 for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
Jones had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1956.
After being on oxygen for several days, George Jones died early in the morning of April 26, 2013 of acute hypoxia, at the age of 81 according to family members. He had been hospitalized since April 18, 2013, at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville with fever and irregular blood pressure. The New York Times described him as "the definitive country singer of the last half-century". Several celebrities tweeted their condolences.The BBC said Jones was noted both for his discography and his "hard-living lifestyle".The national American daily broadsheet USA Today eulogized the late singer on their April 26, 2013, edition, "Jones influenced generations of country singers and was considered by many to be the greatest of them all.
George Jones performing at Harrah's Metropolisin Metropolis, Illinois in June 2003
|Birth name||George Glenn Jones|
|Born||September 12, 1931|
Saratoga, Texas, U.S.
|Origin||Vidor, Texas, U.S.|
|Died||April 26, 2013 (aged 81)|
|Associated acts||Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard,Jamey Johnson|