Member Since 1956
There’s only a short list of names nominated when the familiar barroom or living-room debate over “Who’s the best country singer there’s ever been?” comes up. The man who’s so often the winner continues to headline over a hundred live dates a year (after more than 50 years of recording), still sounds like no one else at all, and, to this day, always makes time for regular appearances at the Opry. As you know, he’s called “The Possum.”
For his singularly expressive delivery of every syllable of some of country music’s great heartbreaking ballads, and his rousing attack on those grin-making novelty change-ups, George Jones has been justly honored.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, he was awarded the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award that same year. In 2002, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence, in a ceremony at the White House.
People who keep track of numbers say that George has charted more singles in his extraordinary career, than any other artist in any music format. As the 2004 compilation George Jones: Fifty Years of Hits made plain in its three CDs, he had hit records in every decade of the second half of the 20th century. Now that’s popularity that’s lasted!
Born in southeast Texas near Beaumont, the eighth child in a poor family, George was introduced to music by his mother, a church pianist, and his truck-driver/pipefitter father, who played guitar. He was singing at age 9, playing guitar at 11, writing his songs at 12 – and had a regular spot on a Jasper, Texas, radio station by 15.
The first of his long list of hits was the near rockabilly “Why, Baby, Why” recorded at Starday Records in 1955. Two years later, he moved to Mercury, where he recorded “White Lightnin’,” (his first No. 1), and such enduring classics as “The Window Up Above,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On,” and “Walk Through This World With Me.”
In the tumultuous years in which George was married to Tammy Wynette, and they both recorded with Billy Sherrill at Epic Records, their perfect duets included “Golden Ring,” “We’re Gonna Hold On,” and “Two Story House.” George’s own new hits there included “The Grand Tour,” “The Door”—and in 1980, the indelible “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” From “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” to “Choices” on 1999’s Grammy-winning 1999 Cold Hard Truth album and beyond, great George Jones records have not stopped arriving.
In 2004, Jones released a 3-CD set titled George Jones 50 Years of Hits to commemorate his 50 years as a recording artist. Having produced a multitude of hits throughout his career, George chose one hit per year for the 50-year period to place on his CD set
Through every twist and turn in country music fashion, his pre-eminent gifts have remained clear. In recent years, George has become a successful seller of everything from sausage to that family-friendly drink called “water,” but he’s never “sold” anybody a song. He’s lived in them.