Feb
24

10 Badass George Jones Moments

February 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  35 Comments

george-jones

George Jones. The Possum. Possibly the man whose life and story embody the themes of a country song better than anyone. From rags to riches, back to rags, and eventually onto rehabilitation and redemption, George Jones was a man that faced demons more fierce than any of us can imagine, and eventually came out on top. Was he a badass? You bet, and here’s 10 reasons why.


1. Flipping the Dinner Table at Tammy Wynette’s House

George+Jones++Tammy+WynetteBefore George and Tammy were married, George went over to Tammy’s house one night to have dinner with her and her then husband, songwriter Don Chapel. George knew Tammy through their mutual booking agent. While fixing dinner, Tammy and Don Chapel got in a heated argument, resulting on Don calling Tammy a “son of a bitch” in front of George. George, secretly hiding his admiration with Tammy, lost it.

“I felt rage fly all over me,” Jones said in his autobiography. “I jumped from my chair, put my hands under the dinner table, and flipped it over. Dishes, utensils, and glasses flew in all directions. Don’s and Tammy’s eyes got about as big as the flying dinner plates.”

George professed his love for Tammy right then and there, and the country music couple were soon married.


2. Helping To Found ACE — The Association of Country Entertainers

George Jones was never considered an Outlaw, but he participated in one of the most significant precursors to country music’s Outlaw revolution in the mid 70′s. Some know the story of Charlie Rich burning the envelope announcing John Denver as Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s in 1975, but it was the year prior when the stink had begun about performers outside of the country genre walking away with the industry’s accolades. Olivia Newton-John’s win in 1974 for Female Vocalist of the Year caused such a stir that traditional and even pop-leaning country performers at the time organized behind the acronym “ACE” that stood for “Association of Country Entertainers”.

Spearheading ACE was George Jones and then wife Tammy Wynette, and the inaugural meeting of ACE was held at their Tennessee residence. Other participants in ACE included Dolly Parton, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, Barbara Mandrell and more than a dozen others. ACE demanded more representation of traditional artists on the CMA’s Board of Directors, and more balance on country radio playlists (does any of this sound familiar?).

Just how successful ACE was can be argued, but it was the precursor to future organizations looking to restore balance and better representation from the CMA, and helped usher in country music’s Outlaw movement and the return to a more traditional sound that the mid 70′s saw in country.


3. Riding a Lawnmower to the Liquor Store

george-jones-riding-lawnmower-john-deereThis is probably the most notorious George Jones story, but what a lot of folks don’t know is that George Jones chose this slow-moving mode of transportation to procure alcohol more than once.

The first and most well-documented lawnmower incident was the late 60′s. George Jones was living 8 miles outside of Beaumont, TX with his then wife Shirley Ann Corley. Jones had experienced a few #1 hits by that time, and his success fueled his wayward ways with alcohol. He was drinking so bad, his wife Shirley resorted to hiding all the keys to the vehicles before she would leave the house so George wouldn’t drive to the nearest liquor store in Beaumont.

But that didn’t stop him. After tearing the house apart looking for a set of keys one time, George looked out the window to see a riding lawnmower sitting on the property under the glow of a security light. “There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition,” George recalled in his autobiography. “I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”

The second, lesser-known incident of George Jones’s escapades on a riding lawnmower happened when he was married to Tammy Wynette. Taking a cue from George’s previous wife Shirley, Tammy hid all the keys from George, but George had been down that road before. Wynette woke up one night at 1 AM to find George missing. “I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away,” Tammy recounted in 1979. “When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He’d driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she’d come after me.’”

The George Jones lawnmower incidents later went on to be memorialized in many country videos, including Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” Vince Gill’s 1993 hit “One More Last Chance”  that includes the line, “She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere,” and John Rich’s “Country Done Come to Town,” and George’s own “Honky Tonk Song.”


4. Recording “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

Yes, it could be easy to highlight George’s signature song and say it was awesome for him to cut it, but the story behind “He Stopped Loving Her Today” goes much deeper. The song not only saved George’s career, it potentially saved his life, and all of this is from a song that at first he didn’t want to record because he thought it was too depressing, too long, and nobody would play it. It eventually became his first #1 in six years, salvaged his career, introduced him to a new generation of fans, and solidified his place as one of country music’s biggest ever superstars. Jones himself says about it, “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”

Written by Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Braddock (who you can argue would not be a Hall of Famer if it weren’t for the song), along with Curly Putnam, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” went on to spend 18 weeks at #1, won the Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 1980, both the ACM for Single and Song of the Year, and was the Song of the Year from the CMA’s for 1980 and 1981. After George’s death, the song re-entered the charts at #21. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” deserves to be in that elite class of songs that can be argued are the greatest country music songs of all time.


5. Being The Best Male Duet Partner in the History of Country Music

When you have the best voice in country music, your services as a duet partner are going to be called on early and often. And despite George’s body of solo work being worthy of a Hall of Fame career, his work as a duet partner is unparallelled itself. Country music stars young and old, male and female lined up to take advantage of his voice over many decades, and duets accounted for five of the fourteen #1 hits George had over his storied career. Here’s a rundown of just some of the people George performed duets with over the years:

•Tammy Wynette •Loretta Lynn •Buck Owens •Waylon Jennings •Willie Nelson •Johnny Cash •Dolly Parton •David Allan Coe •Jerry Lee Lewis •Hank Williams Jr. •Patty Loveless •Lynn Anderson •Emmylou Harris •Ricky Skaggs •Garth Brooks •Tracy Lawrence •Charlie Daniels •Marty Stuart •Merle Haggard •Ralph Stanley •Randy Travis •Vince Gill •Alan Jackson •Sammy Kershaw •Shelby Lynn •Mark Chesnutt •Travis Tritt •Barbara Mandrell •Brenda Lee •Shooter Jennings •The Staple Singers •Keith Richards •B.B. King


6. Walking out of the CMA Awards

Ahead of the 1999 CMA Awards, George Jones was enjoying yet another resurgence in his career. Jones was slated to perform the song “Choices” on the CMA’s, but when producers insisted he must sing an abbreviated version, he walked out of the ceremonies and boycotted the show.

In a super act of class and solidarity, Alan Jackson halfway through his performance of “Pop A Top,” stopped down and shifted gears to perform “Choices” in protest. The event has gone on to be considered one of the biggest moments of country protest in the history of the genre.


7. Recording “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”

Throughout his career, George Jones held fast to the ideals of traditional country music, and wasn’t afraid to fight for them, or speak out about what was happening in the genre. And as one of the few artists who registered hits in multiple decades (according to Billboard, Jones had more “hits” than any other country artist), when George Jones spoke, people listened.

George’s song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” comes from the 1985 album of the same name, and was written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes. It’s a poignant tribute to the history of country music and its previous greats, while calling attention to the abandonment of country’s roots. The song was so potent, the phrase “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” has become one of the most popular go-to colloquialisms concerning the state of country. The song was also a hit, rising to #3 on the Billboard country chart in 1985.


8. Overcoming His Personal Demons

Some people assume that becoming a rich celebrity solves many of your problems, when for many artists it exposes and fuels their problems. Such was the case for George Jones, who had major issues with alcohol, and later in his career, drugs. At one point in 1979, despite being one of the best-selling artists in the history of country music, he was bankrupt and destitute, living in his car, weighing around 100 pounds and living off of junk food. George spent time in mental institutions tied to his drinking multiple times and had to be straighjacketed on numerous occasions. He became known as “No Show Jones” because he missed so many engagements over his career.

But in many ways George Jone’s bad behavior only helped his reputation. His fans didn’t turn on him, they loved him more because they could relate to him and their own personal struggles, and because he was such a great artist and performer when he would show. Alan Jackson once said about Jones, “…what I like most about George is that when you meet him, he is like some ole guy that works down at the gas station…even though he’s a legend!”

Waylon Jennings and others first helped get George Jones sober in the early 80′s, and the result was a resurgence in his career. However later in life George Jones would fall back into his old habits. George gave up drinking and drugs for good in 1999 after wrecking his car and spending two weeks in the hospital. After the crash he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. Jones told Billboard later, “…when I had that wreck I made up my mind, it put the fear of God in me. No more smoking, no more drinking. I didn’t have to have no help, I made up my mind to quit. I don’t crave it.”


9. Wanting to Die Performing

Some artists perform because they want to, others perform because they have to. In March of 2012, George Jones was hospitalized with an upper respiratory infection. The 80-year-old performer was having trouble breathing, and it was thought that he didn’t have much more time before his lungs would fail him. Instead of heading home to recuperate and potentially prolong his life, George set to planning a 60-date farewell tour, culminating in a star-studded event set to transpire at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in November of 2013 with over 50 special performers.

According to George’s wife, before he even left on the tour, he knew he would not make it to the finale. Doctors said he was in no condition to perform or tour, but he did anyway. On April 18th, 2013 George Jones was hospitalized in Nashville, missing tour dates in Alabama and Salem. He eventually passed away on April 26th, 2013 at the age of 81.


10. Having The Greatest Male Voice in the History of Country Music

  • “When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, ‘You mean besides George Jones?’” — Johnny Cash
  • “The greatest voice to ever sing country music.” — Garth Brooks
  • “The second best singer in America” — Frank Sinatra
  • “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones,” — Waylon Jennings
  • “Anyone who knows or cares anything about real country music will agree that George Jones is the voice of it.” — Dolly Parton

35 Comments to “10 Badass George Jones Moments”

  • Great article, Trigger George was a badass indeed. I wanted to point out that one important name was left off the list of duet partners and that’s Johnny Paycheck. He also personally paid for Mr. Paycheck’s funeral though that may not constitute as “badass”.

       8 likes

    • Correction: He apparently paid for the burial plot but I may be splitting hairs at this point.

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    • He also performed with Jamey Johnson

         1 likes

    • That Johnny Paycheck story is another good one.

      And just to clarify, that list of duet partners was not meant to be a complete compendium of every single one of his duets over the years, but a representation of the breadth of his duet work. A complete list would have likely been twice as long.

         0 likes

  • Great article! Loving this series of them.

       1 likes

  • Personally I think if every baby were lucky to see George Jones like I was, they would at least be cemented in listening to Country. By lucky, I mean I was born in an era where people like him, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Keith Whitley (I was barely even two months old when he died) had their videos being played on CMT in the early to mid 90′s when I was in my diapers. Matter of fact I still remember being in my diapers and CMT would run in my house and it would keep me quiet because I would sit there and just watch it and the first time I got exposed to Jones was “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair” and I honestly didn’t know what to think of his voice (because when you’re a baby sometimes people can sound funny) but I just knew I liked the song.

    Now about to be 25 years old, I’m an uncle to a niece whose 3 and I can’t explain to her about me liking an artist when I was her age without getting a “nuh-uh”

       5 likes

    • When I was a wee thing, we lived too far out to get cable, so one of my monthly joys would be going to my aunt’s house in town. It had cable! It had CMT! I remember loving an hour or two of Vince, Alan, Kathy Mattea, and the like. I also remember the Rocking Chair video.

      Man, it’s a shame what CMT has become, even when they do play videos these days.

      Relevant to this article, I also feel the need to point out that it was through my early love of people like Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks that led me to discover George Jones. They loved him, and I was curious about my favorites’ musical heroes. I might add that it was their admiration for him that led me to that discovery, not some BS line in one of their songs about how being a drunk driver made them just like George Jones.

         2 likes

  • I love these. Not being greedy but any chance we could ever expect a David Allan Coe 10 badass moments?

       10 likes

    • I’m sure he’ll make it on to one eventually. I’m trying to keep everyone on their toes of who’s coming next. ;)

         3 likes

      • Hmmmm, an Eric Church or Blake Shelton 10 badass moments would surely keep the “boys round here” on there toes. HAHA JK. Nice work on GJ, looking forward to what you write next!!!

           2 likes

        • Has there ever been a 10 badass moments joke article?

          I can only imagine how funny something like that would be for someone like Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan.

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          • You mean like the time Luke and Blake hid Jason Aldean’s “Affliction” wardrobe from him?

               1 likes

      • I would say that a Hank Williams or David Allan Coe list should be in order, but a DAC list might be difficult because he’s probably more batshit crazy than badass, and a Hank list would probably be disturbing, violent and downright depressing. But a Paycheck badass list is a must!

           0 likes

      • Can’t wait for an article about D.A.C, but very good Job on Mr. Jones. I dind’t knew about the circumstances of getting closer with Tammy. He showed that he was a real man.

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      • LOVE this Article. Loads of interesting facts that leave me visualizing a more “real” George Jones. His having successfully kicked alkey-hole will hopefully be an inspiration to those who are currently wasting their time, money and talent on the crap. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a few drinks myself now and then, but to start off at breakfast, all thru the day and a nitecap unfortunately changes those possessed and not for the better. What’s worse is the damage it causes in relationships…making it impossible for any kind of real closeness or advancement.

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  • This is a great list, some of which were items I didn’t know about.

    His most often told story is the riding lawn mower story and including it in this list is probably somewhat obligatory.

    But it was nothing more than an incident of alcoholic pathos.

    It’s what a drunk does when he has to find a drink.

    When you hang around bars every night, there are quite a few seemingly funny stories being told (usually about what happened the preceding weekend), but they kind of ceased being humorous to me when it occured to me that more and more of them seemed to involve me.

    Alcoholism and drug addiction seems to be endemic to the music industry, and little makes me feel better than seeing a musician I admire turn his or her life around.

    I miss George (and, for that matter, Tammy) a lot.

       1 likes

  • as always Trig, great article, George Jones is one of my heroes, he died on my birthday, and that was the first thing I heard that day, despite never meeting him, or getting to see him perform, that hit me pretty hard, and like every other country singer (both young, and not so young) I played a lot of George Jones that day, and sang a few more of his songs at shows.

    anyway, I just wanted to share that, and ask if that was Vince Gill presenting Alan Jackson for pop a top again?

       0 likes

    • Yep, that was Vince!

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  • #10. You could say there’s having a voice, a range, an ability to add emotion/soul into a vocal performance and an ability to interpret a song.

    The only male I’ve ever heard spoken of in such a way (reverence) by other credible singers is Roy Orbison. If you could pick between being able to sing like one or the other, man that would be a hard choice.

       3 likes

    • I’ll never forget the first time I heard George sing “It’s Been a Good Year for the Roses” as a duet with Alan Jackson. Alan kicks the song off, and I remember thinking “Wow, he really nailed this one.” Then when George picks it up, his voice older and more trail-weary than when he recorded the original, it’s like he just reaches in your chest and rips your heart out. What a gift.

         4 likes

  • George Jones is definitely one of the first things that come to mind when I think of country music, but to include #3 on the list is rather unfortunate. That’s not a “badass” moment. That is a moment of desperation for a man in the middle of a sickness. It’s unfortunate, and nothing that should be celebrated.

    He certainly turned his life around, and for that he should (and is) commended. But alcoholism destroys the lives of more than just the person who is drunk, and the struggles of Shirley and Tammy in those stories prove that.

       0 likes

    • Zia,

      I certainly understand how you could take that approach with #3, and I don;t wholly disagree with it. However the reason I included it is not necessarily because of the drinking aspects of the story, but how it highlights his “everyday man” approach to life, like Alan Jackson said and I included in #8. And that’s also why I included #8 about his redemption, and I think that helps resolve #3 into a positive ending.

      Also, I think I would have been killed by many of my readers if I hadn’t included that story, seeing how it’s probably the most popular story about George Jones.

         3 likes

  • I saw George twice one in the mid ninties and once in the early 2000′s and with the exception of the times I’ve seen Haggard have I ever heard a better country vocal performance live. The way George bent and twisted notes and could ring out so much emotion in the line of a song was just incredible to hear in person. Good list. the med 80′s show I saw he was not happy with the sound, although out in the aduience it was good, and on mike he told the sound man to turn it up and walk away from the board or he was going to whip his ass. Classic George.

       3 likes

  • A true legend. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song of his that I didn’t like. Nobody will ever fill his shoes.

       3 likes

  • He was THE country music singer, best there ever was.

    Charlie Daniels said it best at George Jones funeral:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U71MvIIdXLQ

       3 likes

  • What more can I say about the man.
    Thanks for the music. And thanks for the great read again, Trig.

    Just so I understand, when they wanted an “abbreviated” version of the song, did they just want it cut shorter or did they want the lyrics revamped as well?

       0 likes

    • I don’t really know for sure, but usually when an awards show wants you to cut your song short, they usually want you to sing the first verse into the first chorus, then maybe recycle the chorus again and get the hell off stage. So it is usually 2nd or 3rd verses that get axed.

         0 likes

      • Good article. What a badass moment that was when Alan Jackson walked off the stage after Choices. Chills.

           0 likes

  • Jones is the legend and always will be!!!

       2 likes

  • “Wood and Wire” should qualify as #11. Great list though. I found myself in the same room as Mr. Jones when I was a 19 yr. old bus boy at Red Lobster in Lakeland, FL. I think I’ve said it around here before, but like all other dumbass kids then I was really into hard rock/metal exclusively. Even at that I knew who the giant was and was too chicken shit to approach him.

       0 likes

  • No problem with the lawnmower story. It was part of who he was. Lots of people struggle with alcohol and drugs. Those things are everywhere around us.

    It’s pretty easy to fall into that trap.

    I’m not familiar with a lot of his music, but…. I really like the song he did with Jamey Johnson and Blackberry Smoke.

    It’s brilliant.

    Great mini biographies. Have to thank you for all of this.

       0 likes

  • Charlie Parr has a song called Riding Mower Blues from his Jubilee album thats basically all about George’s lawn mower escapades. it’s a great song and i threw it up on youtube yesterday if anyone is interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9okTTLFxNw

       1 likes

  • Hey Trigger, reading this and thinking about Tammy Wynette having to deal with George in his wild substance abusing days makes me wonder if maybe we could see a female version of this series. While their may not be as many female candidates and the incidents would be slightly different perhaps I think you could come up with some cool things for Tammy, Loretta Lynn, JC Cash and a couple others.

       0 likes

    • There will definitely be some women featured. In fact I’m a little embarrassed there hasn’t been one yet.

         1 likes

  • Sorry I’m late to the party, but one name left off the list of duets was Vern Gosdin… “All That We’ve Got Left”… not that it was a chart topping hit or won an award for collaboration of the year, but come on… The Voice with The Possum? I know your list was not meant to be all-inclusive, I believe you have said as much, I just wanted to throw that duet in there. This is a great site Trig!

       0 likes

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