“I believe if you ask any singer who was the greatest country music singer of all time, they would say ‘George Jones‘. He was without question and by far the BEST! I first met and worked with him when I was 13 years old; I am so very grateful that he was my friend.” - Barbara Mandrell
Reaction to the passing came quick and fast on the news that Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member, and Kennedy Center Honoree George Glenn Jones died Friday, April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
Born September 12, 1931, Jones is regarded among the most important and influential singers in American popular music history. He was the singer of enduring country music hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Grand Tour,” “Walk Through This World With Me,” “Tender Years” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the latter of which is often at the top of industry lists of the greatest country music singles of all time.
“A singer who can soar from a deep growl to dizzying heights, he is the undisputed successor of earlier natural geniuses such as Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell,” wrote Bob Allen in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Encyclopedia of Country Music.”
Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, and he played on the streets of Beaumont for tips as a teenager. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Texas and recording for the Starday label in Houston, Texas. In 1955, his “Why Baby Why” became his first Top 10 country single, peaking at number four and beginning a remarkable commercial string: Jones would ultimately record more than 160 charting singles, more than any other artist in any format in the history of popular music.
Jones’ first number one hit came in 1959 with “White Lightning,” a Mercury Records single that topped Billboard country charts for five weeks. He moved on to United Artists and then to Musicor, notching hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On,” “A Good Year for the Roses” and “Walk Through This World With Me.”
Jones signed with Epic Records in 1971 and worked with producer Billy Sherrill to craft a sound at once elegant and rooted, scoring with “The Grand Tour,” “Bartenders Blues” and many more. Sherrill also produced duets between Jones and his then-wife Tammy Wynette, and in the 1970s they scored top-charting hits including “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring” and “Near You.”
By the time “Golden Ring” and “Near You” hit in 1976, Jones and Wynette were divorced, and Jones was battling personal demons. His solo career cooled until 1980, when he recorded “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a ballad penned by Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock that helped Jones win Country Music Association prizes for best male vocal and top single. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” revived a flagging career, and Jones won the CMA’s top male vocalist award in 1980 and 1981. He also earned a Grammy for best male country vocal performance.
In 1983, Jones married the former Nancy Ford Sepulvado. The union, he repeatedly said, began his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol and prolonged his life. He signed with MCA Records in 1990 and began a successful run, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. His guest vocal on Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” won a CMA award for top vocal event in 1998, and it became his final Top 20 country hit.
In 1999, Jones nearly died in a car wreck, but he recovered and resumed touring and recording. He remained a force in music until his death, playing hundreds of shows in the new century and collecting the nation’s highest arts award, the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement, in 2008. In late 2012, Jones announced his farewell tour, which was to conclude with a sold-out, star-packed show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013. Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore, The Oak Ridge Boys and many others were set to perform at Jones’ Bridgestone show.
Jones is survived by his loving wife of 30 years Nancy Jones, his sister Helen Scroggins, and by his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews
Ricky Skaggs – “THE Country Music singer of all time. The words ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’ has never been more true than today.“
Larry Gatlin – “Years ago someone asked Coach Bum Phillips if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself. Bum replied, ‘Well if he ain’t, it sure don’t take long to check roll.’ I say the same of the late great George Jones. Rest in peace POSSUM. You were always kind to me… THANKS.”
Sammy Kershaw – “George Jones has been a major part of my personal and professional life for a long time. I have been inspired by his music for the last 50 years and for 42 of those, I had the pleasure of knowing him personally and professionally. He was IT to me. George was and will always be my guy. I am luckier than a lot of people on this Earth because God let me be a part of George’s life and him a part of mine. And on this day, his song couldn’t be more true: ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’”
Mel Tillis -“I met George when he came to Nashville and we became good friends. I’m really going to miss him. The world has lost the greatest singer to have ever lived.”
Ray Stevens -“George Jones may be gone but his music will live on forever. What a great voice and a great friend.”
Pam Tillis -“Country music as we know it would be vastly different if it weren’t for George Jones. He’s in our musical DNA. All country artists will have to figure out how to even begin to live up to his kind of legacy. ‘Honky Tonk Heaven,’ here he comes… though we’re not ready to let go.”
Restless Heart -“The greatest most soulful voice in history is gone. RIP George Jones… the guys of Restless Heart will miss you greatly.”
The Marshall Tucker Band -“We met George many times over the past 50 years. This is a terrible loss for his family, friends, the country music industry and the world. He’s the most identifiable and inspirational country artist that has ever lived.
Billy Dean -“George Jones was a mentor and a giant to my generation of country singers. He was there for my first Ralph Emery Show appearance. Backstage I was so nervous and expressed concern to George that if Ralph Emery didn’t like me, my career may never get off the ground. The first thing George said to Ralph when they went on air was how nice of guy he thought I was. George Jones was our country music soul singer, no doubt. Who’s gonna fill those shoes?”
The Bellamy Brothers -“We’ve lost one of the greatest voices in history. Prayers and condolences to his family.”
Sweethearts of the Rodeo -“Sharing the same vocal booth with George Jones on ‘Traveller’s Prayer’ was without a doubt THE highlight of our career. He was a true legend, generous and supportive and he will live on and on in our hearts.”
- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN firstname.lastname@example.org