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George Glenn Jones (born September 12, 1931) was an American musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame for his long list of hit records, including "White Lightning", as well as his distinctive voice and phrasing. For the last 20 years of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as the greatest living country singer.[2][3] Country music scholar Bill C. Malone writes, "For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics, and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved." Waylon Jennings expressed a common jealousy in his song "It's Alright": "If we all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones." The shape of his nose and facial features gave Jones the nickname "The Possum." Jones said in an interview that he chose to tour only about 60 dates a year.

Born in Texas, Jones first heard country music when he was seven and was given a guitar at the age of nine. He married his first wife Dorothy Bonvillion in 1950, but ended in divorce in 1951. He was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps until his discharge in 1953. He later married Shirley Ann Corley in 1954. In 1959, Jones released a cover version of "White Lightning" by J. P. Richardson, which launched his career as a singer. During his marriage to Shirley, Jones' alcoholism compromised his health and his marriage ended in divorce in 1968. The following year, he married fellow country music singer Tammy Wynette. His wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones."[1] After his divorce from Wynette in 1975, Jones married his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvado, in 1983 and Jones became mostly sober. During his life, Jones had more than 150 hits during his career, both as a solo artist and in duets with other artists.

Early life[edit source | editbeta][]

George Glenn Jones was born on September 12, 1931 in Saratoga, Texas, and was raised in Vidor, Texas, with his brother and five sisters.[4] His father, George Washington Jones, worked in a shipyard and played harmonica and guitar while his mother, Clara, played piano in the Pentecostal Church on Sundays.[5] During his delivery, one of the doctors dropped Jones and broke his arm.[5] When he was seven, his parents bought a radio and he heard country music for the first time. Given a guitar when he was nine, Jones was soon busking for money on the streets of Beaumont.

He left home at 16 and went to Jasper, Texas, where he sang and played on the KTXJ radio station with fellow musician Dalton Henderson. From there, he worked at the KRIC radio station. During one such afternoon show, Jones met his idol, Hank Williams.[5] He married his first wife Dorothy when he was 19, but they divorced within a year. The Korean War was underway, and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed in San Jose, California for his entire service. Not long after his discharge in 1953, his music career took off.[6]

Wild years[edit source | editbeta][]

Jones's identity was closely tied to his alcoholism. One of the best known stories of Jones' drinking days happened when he was married to his second wife, Shirley Corley. Jones recalled Shirley making it physically impossible for him to travel to Beaumont, located 8 miles away, and buy liquor. Because Jones would not walk that far, she would hide the keys to each of their cars they owned before leaving. She did not, however, hide the keys to the lawn mower. Jones recollects being upset at not being able to find any keys before looking out the window and at a light that shone over their property. He then described his thoughts, saying: "There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. 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."[7][page needed]

In her 1979 autobiography, former wife Tammy Wynette recalled waking at 1 AM to find her husband gone: "I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away. 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.’"[8][page needed]

Jones later jokingly sang of the lawn mower incident in his 1996 single "Honky Tonk Song", and parodied his arrest in the music video.

In the 1970s, a manager introduced Jones to cocaine before a show, because he was too tired to perform. His self-destructive behavior brought him close to death and he was in an Alabama psychiatric hospital by the end of the decade. Celebrated by some of his fans as the hard-drinkin', fast-livin' spiritual-son of his idol, Hank Williams, Jones missed so many engagements that he gained the nickname of "No-Show Jones" — the song "No-Show Jones" makes fun of Jones and other country singers. He was often penniless and admits that Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came to his financial aid during this time.

Poking fun at his past, three country music videos would feature Jones arriving on a riding lawn mower. The first was Hank Williams, Jr.’s "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" in 1984 while the second was Vince Gill’s "One More Last Chance" in 1993. Gill's song mentioned the mower with the lines "She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere." At the end of Gill's video, he is leaving the golf course on a John Deere tractor and greets Jones with "Hey, possum." Jones, arriving at the golf course driving a John Deere riding lawn mower with a set of golf clubs mounted behind him, replies to Gill "Hey, sweet pea." The third is John Rich's "Country Done Come to Town" and shows George mowing grass on the rooftop on a zero turn mower. It was also the inspiration behind Hank Williams Jr's "Now I think I know how George feels" from William's 1983 album release Man of Steel.

The Jones Boys band[edit source | editbeta][]

Jones worked with many musicians who have found success in Nashville as session players and singers. These include Dan Schafer,[9] Hank Singer, Johnny Paycheck, Brittany Allyn, Sonny Curtis, Ron Gaddis, Kent Goodson, Bobby Birkhead, and Steve Hinson.

Marriages[edit source | editbeta][]

Jones was married twice before he was 24. While his 1950 marriage to Dorothy Bonvillion only lasted a year, the couple had a daughter, Susan. In 1954, Jones married Shirley Ann Corley. This marriage lasted until 1968 and produced two sons, Jeffrey and Bryan. He married Tammy Wynette in 1969. They stayed married for six years and had a daughter, Tamala Georgette. As Georgette Jones, she is a country singer and has performed on stage with her father. Jones married his final wife, Nancy Sepulvado, on March 4, 1983 in Woodville, Texas. Nancy, who went on to become his manager, is credited by Jones for rescuing him from drinking and cocaine. They had lived in Franklin, Tennessee.

Wives[edit source | editbeta][]

  • Dorothy Bonvillion (1950 – 1951; divorced), 1 daughter
  • Shirley Ann Corley (September 14, 1954 – June 11, 1968; divorced), 2 sons
  • Tammy Wynette (February 16, 1969 – March 13, 1975; divorced), 1 daughter
  • Nancy Sepulvado (March 4, 1983 – present)

Later years[edit source | editbeta][]

Jones largely lost favor with country radio as the format was altered radically during the early 1990s; his last album to have significant radio airplay was 1992's Walls Can Fall, which featured the novelty song "Finally Friday" and "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," a testament to his continued vivaciousness in old age. Despite the loss of radio airplay, Jones continued to record and tour throughout the 1990s. He was very vocal in his later years about his disappointment in the direction country music had taken. In his autobiography, Jones devoted a full chapter to the changes in the country music scene of the 1990s that saw him removed from radio playlists in favor of a younger generation of pop-influenced country stars. Despite his absence from the country charts during this time, latter-day country superstars such as Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and many others often paid tribute to Jones while expressing their love and respect for his legacy as a true country legend who paved the way for their own success.

On February 17, 1998, The Nashville Network premiered a group of television specials called The George Jones Show, with Jones as host.[5] On March 6, 1999, Jones was involved in an accident when he crashed his sport utility vehiclenear his home, puncturing his lung and causing lacerations to his liver.[10] He was rushed to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was released two weeks later.[11] In May of that year, Jones pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges related to the accident.[10] A duet by Jones and Tracy Lawrence was released in September 2008. The song, "Battle Scars", was on a various artists CD named Never Forget.[12] An album titled "Hits I Missed And One I Didn't", in which he covered prior hits from other artists as well as a remake of his own "He Stopped Loving Her Today", would be released as his final studio album.[13] On March 29, 2012, Jones was hospitalized with an upper respiratory infection.[14] Months later, on May 21, Jones was hospitalized again for his infection[15] and was released five days later.[16] On August 14, 2012, Jones announced his farewell tour, the Grand Tour, with scheduled stops at 60 cities.[17]Jones was scheduled to perform his final concert at the Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013.

Awards and honors[edit source | editbeta][]

For a list of awards and accomplishments, see List of awards received by George Jones.

Jones received many honors during his long career, from Most Promising New Country Vocalist in 1956, being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, and being named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. In 2012, he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. At the ceremony his longtime friend Merle Haggard paid tribute to him.[24]

He served as judge in 2008 for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[25]

Jones was a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1956.

Number one country hits[edit source | editbeta][]

  1. "White Lightning" (1959)
  2. "Tender Years" (1961)
  3. "She Thinks I Still Care" (1962)
  4. "Walk Through This World with Me" (1967)
  5. "We're Gonna Hold On" (with Tammy Wynette) (1973)
  6. "The Grand Tour" (1974)
  7. "The Door" (1975)
  8. "Golden Ring" (with Tammy Wynette) (1976)
  9. "Near You" (with Tammy Wynette) (1977)
  10. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980)
  11. "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" (with Barbara Mandrell) (1981)
  12. "Still Doin' Time" (1981)
  13. "Yesterday's Wine" (with Merle Haggard) (1982)
  14. "I Always Get Lucky with You" (1983)