Touring with George Jones
Buddy Jewell, George Jones and Craig Morgan on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2004.
George Jones, Alan Jackson and Joe Diffie on stage at the Grand Ole Opry celebrating George Jones' 80th birthday.
The list of names is short in the familiar, friendly debate over “the best country singer ever.” The man who’s often the winner continued to headline dozens of live dates a year (after more than 50 years of recording), sounded like no one else, and always made time for regular appearances at the Opry. He was called “The Possum.”
For his singularly expressive delivery of every syllable of some of country music’s great heartbreaking ballads, and his rousting attack on this grin-making novelty change-ups, George Jones has been justly honored.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, George won the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award that same year. In 2002, he was presented with 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 charted more singles in his extraordinary career than any other artists in any music format. George’s 2004, three-CD compilation George Jones: Fifty Years of Hits showcases his hit records from every year of the second half of the 20th century.
Born in southeast Texas near Beaumont, George was the eighth child in a poor family. George was introduced to music by his mother, a church pianist, and his truck-driving, 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 “Why, Baby, Why,” recorded at Starday Records in 1955. Two years later, he moved to Mercury, where he recorded “White Lightning,” (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 George was married to Tammy Wynette, they both recorded with Billy Sherrill at Epic Records. Their duets included “Golden Ring,” “We’re Gonna Hold On,” and “Two Store House.” George’s solo 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 Cold Hard Truth album, great George Jones records just kept coming.
Through every twist and turn in country music fashion, his pre-eminent gifts remained clear. In 2013, Jones died at age 81. His memorial service was held at the Grand Ole Opry House and the all-star tributes and eulogies were broadcast live on multiple TV and radio stations.
"Jimmy Dickens handed me his guitar to play on stage when I got my first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. I was scared to death."