Hugh’s news & Views
TRIBUTE TO A LEGEND
George Jones, country music icon, is dead at the age of 81. He passed away early Friday morning, April 26, at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The front page of the Saturday, April 27, edition of The Tennessean was unprecedented in my memory in that it did not carry a single local, national, or international news story—only a full, page-engulfing “bigger than life” picture of George Jones! He was by all rights as big as Elvis.
Many of my readers know of my love for traditional country music, the kind of music for which George Jones was renowned. Some of my readers also know that I have a nostalgic streak, especially when it comes to the passing of old preachers whom I have known, loved, and respected, old baseball players that I idolized as a kid, and old country music stars whose music I enjoy so much.
I have said for many years that in my judgment there was not a greater country music singer than George Jones. To me, his voice was “one of a kind,” the epitome of what a country singer should sound like, a voice perfectly suited for the kinds of songs for which he was most famous.
George was invited to join the cast of The Grand Ole Opry in 1956; recorded his signature song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (co-written by Curly Putman, a member of the College Hills Church of Christ in nearby Lebanon, TN), in 1980; was voted the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year in both 1980 and 1981; was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992; was honored in Washington, D. C. with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2008; and was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Recording Academy in Los Angeles in 2012. He recorded 143 “Top Forty” country songs, 14 of which went on to become Number Ones. He had a Number One hit in five different decades of his career!
Last Friday, following the news of his death, tributes began pouring in from Jones’ peers. Merle Haggard said, “The world has lost the greatest country singer of all time.” Ray Price said, “Sad day, folks. Today, with the passing of my good friend, George Jones, the door to an era is slowly closing. With only a handful of us left standing, the country music I knew and loved has also passed away.” Barbara Mandrell said, “I believe if you ask any singer who the greatest country music singer of all time, they would say ‘George Jones.’ ” Dolly Parton said, “My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all-time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world.”
George lived a rough life. He was married four times. For six years he was married to the greatestin my opinion”girl sanger” (to quote Porter Wagoner) in country music of all time—Tammy Wynette. He and Tammy recorded a number of great duets. George battled alcohol and drugs much of his life. I once heard him tell of going on a drinking spree, coming home, and finding the keys to all the vehicles hidden so that he could not drive them. “But,” he said, “they forgot to take the key out of the ridin’ lawn mower!” Someone had to go get George as he drove down the road as fast as possible on the lawn mower singing at the top of his voice. His last wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1983 and remained with until his death, is due credit for “cleaning him up.” I do not defend the sinful lifestyle of anyone, including entertainers. I do not condone the lifestyle that is sometimes portrayed in country music. But neither do I condone the vulgar lyrics (in those cases where one can actually understand the lyrics) of “Rappers” and other purveyors of modern music, so-called!
But I do love a good country song that tells a good story—sometimes humorous, sometimes sad—in words that I can understand. And George Jones could do that! So could Hank Williams, Sr., Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, “Little” Jimmy Dickens, Eddie Arnold, Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, the Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Jean Shepherd, Alabama, the Statler Brothers, and a host of others, many of whom have passed on. As George sang in 1983, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”
May 5: Mitchellville Church of Christ, Mitchellville, TN
May 12: OakGroveChurch of Christ, Red Boiling Springs, TN
April 30, 2013