Remembering the 'Possum
I grew up on Country Music. Pretty much everybody in Texas did.
As a kid, I listened to the likes of Johnny Horton, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Bob Wills, The Willburn Brothers, Johnny Cash, Cowboy Copas, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, and so many more.
But the king of 'em all was George Jones.
George had a voice and a style all his own...nobody even came close.
He was equally at home with a gospel tune or a honky-tonk hell-raiser.
From the mid-fifties through the nineties, George enjoyed success beyond his wildest dreams.
But that success took a heavy toll on Jones' personal life....and very nearly killed him.
Booze, Drugs, Cancelled Shows And Failed Marriages
We often hear of the turbulent lifestyles of various artists and "No-Show Jones" had one of the most turbulent.
As his career became more and more successful, his behavior became more and more erratic and self-destructive.
He was married four times, divorced three.
Most famous was his stormy marriage to fellow Country Music Hall of Famer, Tammy Wynette. Married in February, 1969, it was a relationship marked by fights, accusations of abuse, separations, reconciliations and more than one call to police. It finally ended in divorce in 1975. Ironically, they continued to record together, adding to their string of hits.
The seventies were easily the darkest period in Jones' life with addictions to alcohol and cocaine making their presence known and felt. He was constantly in and out of trouble with the law.
It seemed to many he was trying to live out his music. He would disappear for days at a time, he began missing scheduled appearances- 54 just in 1979- earning the nickname "No-show Jones."
He was once arrested for driving a riding lawn mower down a Nashville street, after having made a purchase at a local liquor store.
Even so, he began the eighties with a top-ten hit, "Two Story House" with Tammy Wynette, released in early 1980. That same year, he won a Grammy and an armload of CMA awards for "He Stopped Loving Her Today", possibly his greatest hit.
Between 1981 and 1983, he had eight top-ten records.
Still the addictions continued, and his health declined.
The rampages continued, until a televised drunk-driving police chase through Nashville.
Cleaning Up And Almost Dying
Following that chase and subsequent arrest, and with the help of his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulveda, George finally began to address his addictions and finished out the eighties with another string of hits, including 1984's "She's My Rock" and culminating in 1989's "One Woman Man".
Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, he began touring again, with over a hundred concerts a year. He had hits like "A Few Old Country Boys" with Randy Travis in 1990, "You Couldn't Find the Picture" in 1991, he was joined by several artists for 1992's "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" and “Never Bit a Bullet Like This,” with Sammy Kershaw, in 1993.
In 1994, he underwent triple-bypass surgery.
We thought we'd lost George in 1998. While recording his highly acclaimed album "Cold Hard Truth", he was involved in an auto accident, crashing his SUV into a bridge abutment just a mile from his home.
It took rescuers almost two hours to extricate him from the wreckage. He suffered a collapsed lung, a torn liver and other internal injuries, remaining in the hospital critical care unit for eleven days. He then contracted pneumonia, further exacerbating his recovery.
But, Jones came storming back and in 1999, released his last hit, "Choices".
George's final concert appearance was November 22, 2012. And he also mentioned an album with Dolly Parton that was intended to be his final work.
George fell ill and was hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure on April 18, 2013.
Then early this morning, April 26, his turbulent life ended quietly. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, two sons and two daughters, many friends, and millions of lifelong fans.
There was so much to George Jones, his life, his music...all those hits, that it was just impossible to put it all here.
I'm sure far better writers than I will flood the media in the coming days and fill in the gaps.
So, I'll close this tribute with my all-time favorite from "The ol' Possum".