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Sunday, April 28, 2013

George Jones (1931-2013)

I think that I've mentioned this before, but I was never really a big fan of country music. In fact, I think I am the only one in my entire family who doesn't go out of their way to listen to it. My parents always had it turned on in their car radio, and my grandparents listened to nothing but country music, but I much preferred rock, pop, and Top 40.

(Well, Top 40 prior to the 2000s, anyway.)

I know that back in September 2012, I attempted to do some features on country music artists. I devoted the whole month of Sunday Jukebox entries to the sweethearts of country music. If I remember correctly, I did spotlights on The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift, and Reba McEntire.

Well, today, I've decided to do my blog entry on someone who many might consider to have been the grandfather of country music. He was a real legend in his own right, releasing fourteen number one hits on the country chart, received several awards, and released a whopping sixty albums during his near sixty year career.

Sadly, on April 26, 2013, the country music genre lost its biggest presence, as George Jones entered into rest at the age of 81.

This blog entry is going to be a challenge for me to write because obviously I don't listen to much country music. So, having to write an entry on someone who was such a huge figure in a genre I rarely listened to is tough. But, what can I say? I love a challenge, and it wouldn't be much of a pop culture themed blog if I didn't report on current events, now would it?

I've debated on how to present this blog for a day and a half now, and I think the best way to do this is to give a brief bio, followed by some notable events that he was involved in. Believe me, there is definitely no shortage.

George Glenn Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas on September 12, 1931. He was one of seven children, born to George Washington Jones and Clara Patterson Jones. At the age of seven, he heard country music for the first time and fell in love with it. He received the gift of a guitar two years later, and began making extra money busking on street corners with a guitar and a song for anyone who wanted to hear him.

By the time he was sixteen, George relocated to Jasper, Texas, where in addition to singing and playing for a local radio station, he had a chance encounter with Hank Williams in 1949, where Jones claimed that Williams had given him some sage advice.

Stop singing like Roy Acuff, and start singing as yourself!”

(Well, all right, perhaps I shouldn't have quoted that as it isn't what Williams actually told Jones...but I'd hazard a guess that it was presented in a similar fashion.)

By 19, he had gotten married briefly to a woman named Dorothy Bonvillion and fathered a child with her before divorcing her before the child's birth. A year later, he enlisted in the United States Marines during the early beginnings of the Korean War, having been stationed in California during his three year stint.

And in 1954, George Jones began pursuing a career in country music, having signed a record deal with Starday Records. He released his first hit in 1954, the very same year he married his second wife, Shirley Corley. One year later, he enjoyed his very first charting single on the country music charts with “Why Baby Why”. That single peaked at #4, but it certainly wasn't the only hit he had...nor would it be the last we would hear from him.

In fact, over the course of his 81 years on this planet, there have been a lot of stories, a lot of rumours, and I have decided to take the opportunity to clarify some of these stories. If anything, he has lived a rather interesting life.

In fact, why don't I do this next part like a true/false quiz? I'll do a statement, and reveal whether it is true or false. Are you ready? Here we go!

01 - George Jones was once married to another country music superstar.

ANSWER: True. Tammy Wynette was Jones' third wife. The couple tied the knot in 1969, and divorced in 1975. Funnily enough, Wynette released “Stand By Your Man” in 1968, a year before marrying Jones.

02 – George Jones was married a grand total of three times.

ANSWER: False. George actually had four wives. The fourth Mrs. George Jones is Nancy Sepulvado. The couple celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary just one month ago, in March 2013.

03 – George Jones was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1998.

ANSWER: False. Although George DID get the honour, it wasn't until a decade later, in 2008.

04 – One of the last awards that George Jones won was a Lifetime Achievement Award.

ANSWER: True. George Jones was honoured with the award at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony, presented to him by his long-time friend Merle Haggard.

05 – George Jones had at least two nicknames when he was in his prime.

ANSWER: True. He was affectionately known as “The Possum” due to his facial features kind of resembling a possum. He was also given the nickname of “No-Show Jones”, and unfortunately, that nickname was given to him under less than flattering circumstances. He was dubbed that following his failure to show up for concert gigs due to being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. And, this kind of leads to the next statement...

06 – George Jones was once so determined to get alcohol one day that he decided to drive to the liquor store on a ride-on lawn mower.

ANSWER: Believe it or not, this was one hundred per cent true! This would be around the time that George was married to his second wife. By that time, his addiction to alcohol had been firmly established, and his wife hid all the keys to every car to prevent him from driving to the liquor store. Of course, she neglected to hide the key to the lawn mower, and a determined George took the lawn mower to the liquor store EIGHT MILES AWAY!

07 – George Jones was in the middle of his farewell tour when he passed away.

ANSWER: Sadly, this was also true. In fact, I do believe that he was scheduled to perform in Watertown, New York (which isn't too far away from where I live) later this summer. The tour was announced in the summer of 2012, and would have lasted until November 2013, in which Jones would retire to spend time with his family.

But as we all know, that sadly didn't pan out. On the eighteenth of April, Jones was hospitalized in Nashville, Tennessee with abnormal blood pressure and a high fever. Eight days later, he was dead of acute hypoxia, with the world not realizing that his farewell tour would be his last ever.

So, to close this tribute to George Jones of his biggest hits.

ARTIST: George Jones
SONG: She Thinks I Still Care
ALBUM: The New Favorites From George Jones
DATE RELEASED: Spring 1962

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