Tammy Wynette performs 10/05/1980 at Countryside Opry, Chicago, Il, USA
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'Golden Ring': The Story Behind George Jones and Tammy Wynette's Post-Divorce Duet


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Massive stars in their own right, George Jones and Tammy Wynette became one of the definitive coed country duos, charting 13 Top 40 country hits between 1971- 1980. Three of those singles reached No. 1: 1973's "We're Gonna Hold On," 1976's "Golden Ring" and 1977's "Near You." These creative and commercial highs placed the duet partners in the same conversation as Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner; Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens; Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb; Lynn and Conway Twitty; and Jones' past collaborations with Margie Singleton and Melba Montgomery.

"Golden Ring" stands out among the former married couple's hits, and not just because it stands the test of time to the ears of listeners.

Bobby Braddock and Rafe Vanhoy penned this story-song that follows a golden wedding ring through love, marriage and divorce before it ends up back at the pawn shop where it was first purchased. As the story goes, Braddock was inspired by a film that traced the various lives that owned one handgun and applied the same idea to this song.

Even if it wasn't intentionally autobiographical, Jones and Wynette knew the song's story well; they divorced just 14 months before its release in 1976 as the first single and title track from the album of the same name. The couple re-recorded the song for Jones' 1994 album The Bradley Barn Sessions.

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Acoustic guitar kicks off a mournful song that juxtaposes Wynette's soaring voice with Jones' signature drawl. The story begins with a couple that loves each other so much that it didn't matter that the golden ring in question isn't the fanciest. The marriage eventually unravels, making the ring both cheap and meaningless. At the end, a different couple is shopping for a ring at the same pawn shop, keeping the same vicious cycle churning.

It's a coherent story about everyday issues, told by two of country music's all-time best storytellers-- and individuals with their own experiences with heartbreaks and struggles. It should be no surprise, then, that it's among both Hall of Fame artists' most heartbreaking songs, ranking up there with Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

This story was previously published on Sept. 20, 2021.

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READ MORE: George Jones & Tammy Wynette's Daughter is Keeping Her Parents' Country Legacies Alive

"Golden Ring" Lyrics

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the
Wedding rings there on display
She smiles and nods her head
As he says, "Honey, that's for you
It's not much, but it's the best that I can do

Golden ring
With one tiny little stone
Waiting there (waiting there)
For someone to take it home
By itself (by itself)
It's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a little wedding chapel
Later on that afternoon
An old upright piano
Plays that old familiar tune
Tears roll down her cheeks
And happy thoughts run through her head
As he whispers low, "With this ring I thee wed"

Golden ring
With one tiny little stone
Shining ring (shining ring)
Now, at last, it's found a home
By itself (by itself)
It's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

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In a small two-room apartment
As they fight their final round
He says, "You won't admit it
But I know you're leavin' town."
She says, "One thing's for certain
I don't love you anymore."
And throws down the ring.
As she walks out the door

Golden ring
With one tiny little stone
Cast aside (cast aside)
Like the love that's dead and gone
By itself (by itself)
It's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the
Wedding rings there on display

Golden ring

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