|Spotlight On In Memory of George
1931 - 2013
Concert photos by
Glenda S. Paradee
Goodbye George Jones
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
NEW PHOTO GALLERY: Country Stars Mourn
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
Seminar in Nashville,
George Jones, Glenda S.
Merle Haggard at a Music City
News Awards show
in Nashville, TN
& Glenda S. Paradee
& 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
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
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."
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