R.I.P George Jones: The Hard-Living Country Legend Who Tamed Tammy Wynette

After a life of booze, the blues and driving lawnmowers, the onetime Mr Wynette has died aged 81...
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After a life of booze, the blues and driving lawnmowers, the onetime Mr Wynette has died aged 81...

After a life of excesses, George Jones passed away today following his hospitalisation a week ago with fever and irregular blood pressure.

Jones led a storied life, beginning with being born with a broken arm in Saratoga Texas, in 1931. Jones didn’t let this hold him back, and by 9 years of age, he had begun to teach himself to play guitar. He then polished this talent by riding across the town on free buses, singing for patrons. A brief stint in the marines followed, before Jones was signed to Starday Records and released his first single, the somewhat ironically titled ‘No Money in This Deal’, in 1954.

Jones first married aged 17, but perhaps his most famous marriage was to fellow country singer Tammy Wynette. The pair met in 1966 and started an affair whilst touring together. Jones eventually declared his love by upending the dining room table in front of Tammy’s husband, songwriter Don Chapel. It worked, and Wynette left with Jones.

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Soon after marrying Wynette, Jones opened a country-themed park on his property, the Old Plantation Music Park. This was just one of many eccentricities, which included speaking on stage in a Donald Duck voice, and constant heavy drinking, which led to Jones’ nickname changing from ‘Possum’ (for his close eyes) to ‘No-show Jones’, for his dedication to booze over performing.

In 1966, Jones opened another theme park, the ‘George Jones Rhythm Ranch’. Jones gave a single performance there, then set off on a month-long drunk across Texas. His wife had had enough by this point and decided to hide his car keys, but even this could not stop Jones, who rode their lawn mower 12 miles to the nearest liquor store. Unsurprisingly, the marriage didn’t last much longer.

Despite his drinking, Jones’ single “She Thinks I Still Care,” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1962 and “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring” and “Near You” — were No. 1 country hits. Jones also sang duets with Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, and despite his drinking, his album sales continued. “I was country music’s national drunk and drug addict,” Mr. Jones wrote in his autobiography.

Drunk, genius, or drunken genius, there’s no denying George Jones was a true character who will be sorely missed.