George Jones had one of the most iconic voices in country music history, and he lived a life to match. Who would have thought that the boy from Saratoga, Texas, would go on to be one of the greatest voices of his generation? He paved the way for future country powerhouses like Garth Brooks with his timeless honky-tonk songs and incredible skills as a singer and songwriter.
He's won multiple Grammy Awards, and after he passed away, his memorial service was even held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, where various country stars honored his life and career on the televised event. One of his biggest hits, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," even charted again on the country charts after his death.
Throughout his incredible career, the Country Music Hall of Fame member, inducted by Randy Travis, gathered nearly as many heartaches as hit singles. Some of his best-known songs include one of his first hits, "Why, Baby, Why," Tammy Wynette duet, "We're Gonna Hold On," and "She Thinks I Still Care." Jones even recorded My Very Special Guests, which featured Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, and more. Here are our top ten things you probably didn't know about George Glenn Jones.
10. He grew up busking on the streets of Beaumont
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.
9. He met his idol, Hank Williams while working at a radio station
While still in his teens, Jones got a gig playing guitar on a radio show on Beaumont's KRIC radio station. One afternoon his most significant musical influence, Hank Williams, stopped by the studio to perform. Jones would go on to sing a duet with Hank Williams Jr, "I Don't Care If Tomorrow Never Comes."
8. He cut rockabilly tracks under the pseudonym Thumper Jones
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.
7. His favorite country singer was his friend Merle Haggard
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."
6. He hated "He Stopped Loving Her Today" at first
"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. He also won Country Music Association's Song of the Year in 1980 and 1981.
Before this song, he hadn't had a hit in years and, due to his heavy drug use, earned the nickname "No Show Jones" for all of the shows he would miss. During this dark time, he had financial troubles, and fellow country singers Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash would often help him in his time of need.
5. He once flushed $1,200 down the toilet
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."
4. He was an accomplished songwriter
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.
3. He professed his love for Tammy Wynette while at dinner with her and her husband
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.
2. He credited his fourth wife, Nancy, with saving his life
After his split from Tammy Wynette, Jones's 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.
1. He refused to attend the CMA awards after he was asked to perform an abridged version of his song "Choices"
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. Alan Jackson paid tribute to Jones by interrupting his 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.