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Spotlight On In Memory of George Jones
1931 - 2013
Concert photos by Glenda S. Paradee

Goodbye George Jones

George Jones performed hundreds of times at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House - whether on the WSM Radio show, or appearing on such shows from the auditorium like the CMA Awards, so it's only appropriate that his funeral has turned out to be a farewell fit for a country king.

NEW PHOTO GALLERY: Country Stars Mourn George Jones

Open to the public, fans started lining up for a chance to say farewell to the artist known as "The Possum." Famous friends who either spoke or performed during the 2 hour, 40 minutes-long service included Kid Rock, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless, former First Lady Laura Bush and others held on May 2, 2013.

WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs welcomed the crowd to the Opry House, and proceeded to introduce longtime family friend Tanya Tucker and the Imperials, who performed a beautiful version of the Gospel classic "The Old Rugged Cross," ending the performance by saying "I'm gonna miss you, Possum." Tucker was one of several acts that was slated to perform with Jones on his final concert - which was slated for November 22 in Nashville.

Nashville radio personality Keith Bilbrey spoke next, followed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam who praised the singer for being an ambassador to the state of Tennessee.

Pastor Mike Wilson was next on the hallowed stage, who asked for prayers on behalf of George's family and friends. Bilbrey then introduced a pair of artists who had deep ties to Jones. The first was Randy Travis, who relayed a story to the crowd about a concert date where Jones persuaded Travis to close for him. It was a Travis duet , "A Few Old Country Boys," that brought Jones his final top ten entry on the singles chart in 1990. With simply an acoustic guitar on his lap, Travis performed "Amazing Grace."

The Oak Ridge Boys followed Travis with a performance of "Farther Along." The legendary foursome appeared with Jones on his 1982 top ten record "Same Ol' Me." One of Jones's fellow Texans, CBS News personality Bob Scheiffer, was next to eulogize the singer. He recalled listening to Jones on the airwaves of the Grand Ole Opry, and said that though everybody wanted to sing like George Jones, 'You couldn't sing like George Jones...if you weren't George Jones.' He also relayed memories of his growing up years as relayed to him by Jones in an interview. Scheiffer also commented that in 2008, Jones was a little concerned about attending the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony where he was going to be celebrated because "He didn't think people in Washington didn't like country music, and wouldn't know who he was."

A couple of Jones' fellow Grand Ole Opry members were next in the program. Charlie Daniels walked onto the stage, recalling the first time he heard the voice of George Jones, and also cited the influence he has had on so many artists over the years. Daniels also told a story about longtime producer Billy Sherrill saying that Jones was "the only singer who could make a five-syllable word....out of 'church." He then grabbed his guitar, and offered a simple yet moving version of "Softly And Tenderly."

Travis Tritt - one of many stars who appeared on Jones' 1992 hit "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" - was next, performing Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord," which Jones also recorded. He also spoke of the love George felt for Nancy, recalling a conversation where Jones told him "She's my angel."

One of Nashville's favorite "angels," Barbara Mandrell was next on the stage. Visibly moved, Mandrell - his duet partner on 1981's "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," told the crowd that Jones would always be the "Greatest singer of all time in Country Music, and there would never be anyone to fill his shoes." She also shared an anecdote about meeting Jones at age 13. Mandrell - a teenage prodigy on the steel guitar - talked about the fact that Jones didn't have a steel player on the bill - so he asked her to play the instrument during his performance. "George left his lasting imprint on my heart...all of our hearts. He sang for you and me, and now he's singing in glory for the one who gave him that voice. Hallelujah," she said.

Kid Rock might have been an unlikely participant in the ceremony, but the singer about an incident where Jones had asked him to write a song for him - one that he never finished. The singer talked about how difficult it can be to be married to a performer, and performed an original song called "The Best Of Me."

Frequent Jones collaborators Vince Gill and Patty Loveless were next on stage. Jones gave Gill his "Sweet 'Pea" nickname, and Loveless had covered many Jones records over the years - including her first top ten single, "If My Heart Had Windows," from 1988 - which featured Gill on harmony. Gill recalled touring in his early years with Jones and Conway Twitty - and having to perform with Jones opening, and Twitty closing. Loveless talked about covering a few Jones songs on her Sleepless Nights record in 2008 and George and Nancy driving around town trying to find it. A clerk at a record store said 'We'll get on it, Mr. Jones." The two then combined their talents for an emotional performance of "Go Rest High On That Mountain," with both artists crying throughout - bringing the capacity crowd to their feet.

Former First Lady Laura Bush was introduced by Stubbs. Bush thanked Nancy for allowing her to speak at the service. "Nobody made music like a man from East Texas like George Jones," she told the crowd to applause. She recalled putting quarters in the jukebox to hear Jones' 1964 hit "The Race Is On." She also spoke of the meetings between her husband and Jones - in 2003 when he was presented the National Medal of the Arts, and 2008 during the Kennedy Center Honors - recalling the former President working on his treadmill to "White Lightning."

Grand Ole Opry member Brad Paisley was brought to the stage by Bilbrey next, and he encouraged those watching the funeral who weren't familiar with his legacy to seek out his music, and 'find out what this ruckus is about. It's worth it." He then proceeded into Tom T Hall's classic "Me And Jesus."

Opry GM Pete Fisher followed Paisley, adding that "If you were visited by an alien from another planet, and were asked about country music, you would play them George Jones." Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee approached the podium next. He called getting to say goodbye to Jones "One of the greatest honors of my life." He also relayed what it would have meant to his father had he known he had played music with Jones on his FOX TV show. "George Jones did not sing to us.... He sang For us," said Huckabee.

Ronnie Milsap was then introduced next, saying "We're all here because we loved George Jones," before kicking off a soulful version of his 1969 hit "When The Grass Grows Over Me," a song that he called "the saddest song he had ever heard." After Milsap left the stage, Stubbs introduced Kenny Chesney, who recalled the first Jones song he ever heard was "Who's Gonna Chop My Baby's Kindlin" at his grandmother. He cited the singer as father figure, who he opened for early on in his career. "I came here today to tell Nancy I love you....and I will miss him so much."

Wynonna Judd - a neighbor to the Jones family for many years - recalled Jones sitting in the front row at Tammy Wynette's 1998 memorial service while she performed "How Great Thou Art" before her performance of the song. Judd also recalled that her first concert ever was Jones and Merle Haggard, and also praised...his hair. "The most perfect hair I've ever seen in my life," she quipped.

Wilson appeared on the stage next with closing remarks. He recalled being introduced to Jones as a youngster through his 1985 hit "The One I Loved Back Then (The Corvette Song)." He also recalled when he and his wife adopted two daughters from Haiti, that Jones and Nancy asked them to bring them over. "We talked throughout the years, and no matter how you knew him....life didn't stop for George on Friday. It started." Wilson concluded his message by quoting John 14, ending with a prayer.

Being the funeral of country's most-respected singer, it was fitting that the service ended with a song - but not just any other one. Alan Jackson took to the stage with a somber performance of the song that defined Jones' career - "He Stopped Loving Her Today," ending the song by removing his hat in honor of his mentor.

With that 'wreath upon his door' that the lyric of the song speaks of, Jones made his final exit from the Opry House to the strains of his recording of "When The Last Curtain Falls." A procession would escort his casket to his burial place at Woodlawn Memorial Park, with his band serving as pallbearers. The funeral lasted for over two and a half hours - a fitting send off to one of music's most legendary figures.
 
Fans that were not able to attend can leave a special message about George Jones at: http://tinyurl.com/GJtribute


George Jones at the Country Radio
Seminar in Nashville, TN


George Jones, Glenda S. Paradee,
Merle Haggard at a Music City
News Awards show in Nashville, TN


George Jones & Glenda S. Paradee


George Jones & Theresa Kane

 

More on George Jones:

Deep in the timbre of a George Jones song, you can hear the soul of country music. The absolute purity of Jones's vocals assures that his style will never go out of fashion. George Jones

Jones is a Country Music Association male vocalist of the year representing a range of two decades---he won in 1962 and 1963, when the award was still voted on by country disc jockeys, and in 1980 and 1981. He sings from the most cobwebbed corners of his heart. His textured voice reveals tension, with authoritative range running like a railroad train between honky-tonk and sorrow.

Jones's trademark is his playful country flutter. he downcasts vocal lines for drama before immediately climbing the scale. This is what emphasizes tension in his 1986 classic, "Wine-colored Roses."

Jones was born on September 12, 1931, in rural Saratoga, Texas. "I never played guitar until church, although when I was very young, I sung around the house," Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times in a rare 1988 interview. "My Sunday school teacher taught me my first chords on a guitar. I would go with Sister Annie and Brother Berle Stevens into this little town called Kuntz, Texas. Every Saturday afternoon, we'd sit inside the car with loud speakers on the outside. Sister Annie would play guitar and I'd sing harmony with her or she'd sing harmony with me."

His mother, Clare Jones, was very religious and played organ and piano in church. His father, George Washington Jones, was a hard-living truck driver and pipe fitter. On the side, he played a little "square dancin' guitar," as Jones puts it. Clara was a Pentecostal who often shielded young George and his six brothers from the fallout of their father's drinking binges.

As a youngster, Jones listened to the Grand Old Opry on KRIC in Beaumont, Texas. Hank Williams, Sr., came to town in 1949 to play live on KRIC. Williams sang "Wedding Bells" with Eddie and Pearl, the husband-and-wife house band that featured an excitable 19-year-old George Jones on electric guitar. Jones was so hyper about playing behind Williams that her never hit a note.

"Hank sat and talked with us like he knew us his whole life," Jones told the Sun-Times. "I worshipped him. His style was all in the feeling. He could sing anything and it would make you sad, but an up-tempo thing could make you happy."

And Jones's early recordings were happy. In 1953, the year Jones was discharged from the U.S. Marines, he signed with the Houston-based Starday lable, for whom her recorded hits such as "Why Baby Why" and "Uh Uh No." But what followed were raw rockabilly singles, such as "Rock It" and his own version of "Heartbreak Hotel" (recorded under the pseudonym Thumper Jones to avoid upsetting traditional country fans). In fact, Jones's first number one record , "White Lightning" (on Mercury Records), was written by rockabilly star J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson in 1959.

"I feel bad about it nowadays," Jones said in 1988. "I feel bad because I love country music so much. I tried to buy up all the old Starday masters so people couldn't hear them anymore. It was such a bad sound."

After several years with Mercury, Jones moved to United Artists Records and had Top 10 hits like 1962's "She Thinks I Still Care," 1963's "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds" ( a duet with Melba Montgomery), and a 1964 pop crossover with "The Race Is On." In the 1970s Jones sang with artists as diverse as Johnny Paycheck, James Taylor, Ray Charles, and of course his ex-wife, Tammy Wynette.

One can chronicle the turbulent Jones-Wynette marriage through the high-strung hit singles they had as a duet: 1972's "Take Me," 1973's "Let's Build a World Together," and 1980's "Two Story House." Jones and Wynette became the parents of a daughter, Georgette. In 1975 Wynette divorced Jones after seven years of marriage.

Unfortunately, Jones acquired his father's taste for alcohol. After missing 54 concerts, he earned the nickname of "No-Show Jones." He filed for bankruptcy in 1979 and checked himself into a hospital. He attempted to dry out again in 1982, but in 1983 he was arrested in Mississippi for cocaine possession and public intoxication. The next day he flipped his car and nearly killed himself. His weight had dropped from 160 to 105 pounds. Texas singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard tried to sing some sense into Jones by writing the song, "George, Put Down That Drink."

The terminally shy Jones credits much of his survival to his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulveda Jones, whom he married in 1983. The Louisiana native met Jones in 1980 at a Jones concert in upstate New York. Jones has been sober since 1986.

In March 1983 Nancy and George Jones left Nashville to open "Jones Country Music Park" near Beaumont. "It saved my life and everything else," Jones said in a 1991 biography for MCA Records. In 1988 Jones was ready to put his full effort back into recording and he sold the park and moved back to Nashville.

"You've done this for so many years, you just enjoy being out there in front of those people," he said in his record company biography. "As long as they like me, I'll do it 'til I die."

STATS

Born: September 12, 1931; Saratoga, Texas

First hit: "Why Baby Why" (1955)

Other notable hits: "White Lightning" (1959), "She Thinks I Still Care" (1962), "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds" (with Melba Montgomery, 1963), "The Race Is On" (1964), "Take Me" (with Tammy Wynette, 1972), "Bartender's Blues" (1978), "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980), "I Don't Need No Rockin Chair".

Awards and achievements: Country Music Association (CMA) Male Vocalist of the Year (1962, 1963, 1980, 1981); Grammy, Best Country vocal Performance, Male (1980); CMA Single of the Year (1980); CMA Music Video of the Year (1986), plus more.

THANKS FOR THE MUSIC GEORGE!


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