George Jones had one of the most iconic voices in country music history and he lived a life to match. Throughout his incredible career he gathered nearly as many heartaches as hit singles. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about George Jones.
Jones knew how to entertain from an early age. His overbearing, alcoholic father often forced him to sing and bought him his first guitar at the age of nine. Soon after, Jones began busking on the streets of east Texas.
While still in his teens, Jones got a gig playing guitar on a radio show on Beaumont’s KRIC radio station. One afternoon his greatest musical influence Hank Williams stopped by the studio to perform.
Attempting to recreate the success of Elvis Presley, Jones’ label pressured him to record a few rockabilly tracks in 1956. Having no interest in being associated with the rock and roll market, he refused to use his real name on the records.
Jones first saw Merle Haggard perform in 1961 at the Blackboard Cafe in Bakersfield, Calif. Mesmerized by Haggard’s voice, Jones drunkenly kicked in the doors of the office and demanded to know who was singing. In a Rolling Stone article, Haggard wrote “It was one of the greatest compliments of my entire life when George Jones said I was his favorite country singer.”
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” is widely considered to be one of the finest (not to mention saddest) country songs ever written, but Jones was initially not impressed and considered the song too morbid to sell. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” went on to win the Academy of Country Music award for Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 1980 and revived the singer’s previously tanking career.
Jones was known for financial woes brought on by his excessive drinking and drug use. Following a show in Houston one night, the Possum managed to lose $2,500 in earnings. When he approached his manager Pappy Dailey for more cash, Dailey informed Jones that the singer had flushed the cash down the toilet while partying the previous night. Jones replied, “It wasn’t but $1,200.”
Though he’s known for his tear-soaked voice, Jones was also pretty handy with a pen. He co-wrote “Color of the Blues,” which was recorded by Loretta Lynn, and “Tall, Tall Trees” with Roger Miller, which became a hit for Alan Jackson in 1995.
The tumultuous union between the President and First Lady of Country Music began when Jones professed his love for Wynette after witnessing a fight at the dinner table between the singer and her then-husband, songwriter Don Chapel.
After his split from Tammy Wynette, Jones personal life was in shambles. He was deeply in debt, addicted to cocaine and spent his days binge drinking. In 1981 Jones met Nancy Sepulvado on a blind date and the two fell in love. Sepulvado eventually helped Jones get his finances in order and kick his cocaine addiction.
When asked to perform a shortened version of “Choices” on the 1999 CMA Awards, the singer boycotted the awards show, offended by the notion that he should have to abbreviate such a personal song. In an act of defiance, Alan Jackson paid tribute to Jones by interrupting his own performance of his hit “Pop A Top” to sing the Possum’s “Choices,” reminding the audience of the importance of honoring legends like George Jones.