On The Fringe
George Glenn Jones is one of the last of his breed: pure country singers. He is a link to a bygone age, a time when the likes of Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams were kings of the jukebox, when family values and the neighborhood church were important along with the honky-tonk down the street. Well-respected within the Country Music community, George has been listed as the favorite country singer by many of its top performers, most of whom he has influenced. Although he is one of the greatest honky-tonk singers, he has often been victimized by its way of life.
He was born September 12, 1931 in Saratoga, Texas, in a log cabin in an area known as the Big Thicket. This was a hard area to live in and it was filled with lumber camps and oil fields. George was the eighth child born to a heavy-drinking pipefitter (George Washington Jones) and his wife (Clara). His father played guitar and his mother played the piano; they encouraged their son to take an interest in music and they bought him a guitar when he was just nine years old. It wasn't long before George learned how to play it well and he began to play at various local and church functions. A few years later, the family moved to Beaumont where he played guitar in the streets for tips.
In 1947, George was hired to play in the band of Eddie and Pearl at Beaumont's Playground. This eventually led to his own radio show where a co-worker nicknamed him "the possum" due to his supposed similarity to the animal. He married his first wife, Dorothy, at the age of 18, but the couple was separated with one year. George joined the U.S. Marines in 1950 and he performed while he was stationed in Southern California. After returning home from Korea in late 1953, George began playing at dances and in clubs all over Southeast Texas. His style caught the attention of a Houston record executive, H.W. "Pappy" Dailey, who helped to prepare the 24-year-old singer for stardom - which didn't take very long. He married his second wife, Shirley, in 1954.
George Jones' first country hit came in 1955 with "Why Baby Why." This was followed by a brief period as a rockabilly performer, a time that George is not fond of remembering. Even though he was asked to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, he remained in Texas instead of making Nashville his home. That same year, he had several hits, including "Just One More" and "Yearning," a duet with Jeanette Hicks. The year 1957 included such hits as "Color of the Blues" and "Treasure of Love." After leaving Starday for Mercury records in 1959, George had a big hit with "White Lightning," written by his friend J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), followed by "Who Shot Sam" later in the year.
The decade of the 1960's was filled with George Jones hits, both on United Artists and Musicor Records. These hits included such songs as "The Window Up Above" (1960), "Tender Years" (1961), "She Thinks I Still Care" (1962), "We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds" (1963), "The Race Is On" (1964), "Love Bug" (1965), "I'm a People" (1966), and "Walk Through This World With Me" (1967), "When the Grass Grows Over Me" (1968), and "I'll Share My World With You" (1969). Jones' second marriage ended in 1968. It wasn't long before he met Tammy Wynette, whom he married the same year. In 1969, George joined the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1970, Jones' relationship with Pappy Dailey was ended and he began working with Tammy's producer, Billy Sherrill, at Epic Records. Despite the differences in the two producers (Sherrill used symphonic strings and other pop instruments), they were able to work successfully together. Notable hits from early 1970's were "Take Me," with Tammy (1971); "We Can Make It" and "The Ceremony," with Tammy (1972); "Once You've Had the Best" (1973); and "The Grand Tour" (1974). Contrary to the song they had released in 1973, "We're Gonna Hold On," George and Tammy were headed for divorce.
This began a dark period in George's life. His outrageous behavior, the result of heavy drinking and an addiction to cocaine included the alleged beating of his wife, shooting at friends, and missing concerts. It seemed as if he was trying to live out his honky-tonk songs. The couple's lives became a Nashville soap opera filled with separations and reconcilliations, culminating in 1975 when the two were divorced. It was quite ironic that George and Tammy continued to record together, and they had hits such as "Golden Ring" in 1976. He performed that same year a Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic, thereby strengthening his fan-base, both hardcore country and younger "outlaws." His hits during the late 1970's included songs like "Near You," with Tammy (1977); "Bartender's Blues," with James Taylor and "Maybelline," with Johnny Paycheck (1978); and "You Can Have Her," also with Paycheck (1979). He failed to appear at over fifty concert dates in 1979, earning the nickname "No-Show Jones" from many irate fans and tabloid writers. His doctors warned him to stop drinking and he obliged them by entering an Alabama alcoholism clinic.
George started of the decade of the 1980's in a big way. He won a Grammy Award along with several Country Music Awards for the song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" in 1980. He followed this success with songs such as "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will" and "Still Doin' Time" (1981), and "Yesterday's Wine," with Merle Haggard (1982). In 1983, Jones married his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulveda, who helped him to kick his drinking and cocaine addictions. It was because of her support that he was able to close out the decade with hits like "I Always Get Lucky With You" and "We Didn't See A Thing," with Ray Charles (1983); "She's My Rock" (1984); "Who's Gonna Fill Her Shoes" (1985); "The One I Loved Back Then" (1986); "The Right Left Hand" (1987); "If I Could Bottle This Up," with Shelby Lynne (1988); and his final hit on Epic, "One Woman Man" (1989).
The move was made to MCA in 1991 and George was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Upon moving to Nashville, he resumed touring, performing at over 100 gigs each year. George's memorable songs from the early 1990's include "A Few Old Country Boys," with Randy Travis (1990); ""You Couldn't Find The Picture," (1991); "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," with several artists (1992); and "Never Bit a Bullet Like This," with Sammy Kershaw (1993). George had open-heart surgery in 1994, surviving a successful triple bypass operation at Baptist Hospital in Nashville. I Lived To Tell It All, George's autobiography co-written by Tom Carter, was published in 1996, and is an honest appraisal of his life.
George Jones is much more than a consummate country singer. He is the model from which any true country artist must be made. He is the result of a life filled with heartaches, hard living and hard loving. Throughout his career, he as never forgotten his country roots, even with the advent of the "country" music of today's crop of performers. And, despite some recent events, it appears that George Jones will continue his career well into the next millenium.
From a George Jones Fan-Dedicated Website.
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