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 jealousy 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, 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 married his first wife Dorothy when he was 19, but they divorced within a year. The Korean War was underway, and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed in California for his entire service. Not long after his discharge, his music career took off.
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 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 keys to the lawn mower. 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-drinkin', fast-livin' spiritual-son of his idol, Hank Williams, Jones missed so many engagements that he gained the nickname of "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.
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 who 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. His 1950 marriage to Dorothy Bonvillion lasted a year, but they had a daughter, Susan. In 1954, Jones married Shirley Ann Corley. This marriage lasted until 1968 and produced two sons, Jeffrey and Bryan. He married Tammy Wynette in 1969. They stayed married for six years and had a daughter, Tamala Georgette. As Georgette Jones, she 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 went on to become his manager, is credited by Jones for rescuing him from drinking and cocaine. Nancy currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee.
- Dorothy Bonvillion (1950–1951) (divorced) 1 daughter
- Shirley Ann Corley (September 14, 1954 – June 11, 1968) (divorced) 2 sons
- Tammy Wynette (February 16, 1969 – March 13, 1975) (divorced) 1 daughter
- Nancy Sepulvado (March 4, 1983 – April 26, 2013) (his death)
Jones announced his final concert was to be held on November 22, 2012, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Jones also mentioned a duet album with Dolly Parton would be released as his final studio album. Between April 19 – 26, 2013, he became one more victim on a long list of celebrity death hoaxes propagated by the internet. Jones' official representatives quickly silenced the hoax and confirmed he is alive and well, saying, "stop believing what you see on the internet".
George Jones died early in the morning of April 26, 2013 at the age of 81. 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 singers tweeted their condolences, including The Oak Ridge Boys, Clay Aiken, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban. The BBC said Jones was noted both for his discography and his "hard-living lifestyle".
Awards and honors
Jones has 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.
He served as judge in 2008 for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
Jones has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1956.
Number one country hits
"White Lightning" (1959) "Tender Years" (1961) "She Thinks I Still Care" (1962) "Walk Through This World with Me" (1967) "We're Gonna Hold On" (with Tammy Wynette) (1973) "The Grand Tour" (1974) "The Door" (1975) "Golden Ring" (with Tammy Wynette) (1976) "Near You" (with Tammy Wynette) (1977) "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980) "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" (with Barbara Mandrell) (1981) "Still Doin' Time" (1981) "Yesterday's Wine" (with Merle Haggard) (1982) "I Always Get Lucky with You" (1983)
Further information: George Jones discography
- Academy of Country Music
- List of country musicians
- Country Music Association
- List of best-selling music artists
- Inductees of the Country Music Hall of Fame (1992 inductee)
- I Lived to Tell it All, George Jones with Tom Carter, Dell Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0-440-22373-3
- In The Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music, Nicholas Dawidoff, Vintage Books, 1998, ISBN 0-375-70082-X
- Country Music U.S.A., Bill C. Malone, University of Texas Press, 1985, ISBN 0-292-71096-8
- Joel Whitburn's Top Country Songs, 1944 to 2005, Record Research, Inc., Menomonee Falls, WI, 2005, ISBN 0-89820-165-9
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