George Jones: An Interview With an American Icon

 

The following is a wonderful interview with George Jones conducted a couple of years ago by Raul Tejeiro. Thanks to Raul for sharing with us at Outlaw Magazine.

AMCU – How did you come up with the nickname “Thumper Jones” way back in your rockabilly days?
George Jones – Well that is a long story. When my career began, Country Music wasn’t selling very well so my manager at the time decided I should record some “Rockabilly” tunes under the name Thumper Jones. I didn’t like the name or the recordings.

AMCU – When many stars are here today and gone tomorrow, you have been an icon in the music industry for more than 50 years. How do you feel about that?
George Jones – Well I feel very fortunate to have had the career I have had, doing what I love to do.

AMCU – Billy Sherrill once said that you were reluctant to cut “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and it eventually became one of your signature songs. What made you change your mind?
George Jones – He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He just kept pitching the song until I finally gave in. I told him, nobody will buy this song because it is too sad.

AMCU – You have recorded many duets throughout the years. Which of the following artists would you have liked to cut a duet with?
George Jones – Definitely Hank Williams, who I idolized and Patsy Cline. I really liked Elvis Presley but our style was nothing alike.

AMCU – With the exception of Tammy Wynette and Melba Montgomery, which other female artist do you think that best suits your voice and style?
George Jones – Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack.

AMCU – We have recently seen the release of “The Unreleased Duets”, an album of previously-recorded material. Is there more previously-recorded material that you would like to release?
George Jones – I don’t know of any.

AMCU – When you started your career, you sounded a lot like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Roy Acuff and then you started developing your own musical style. . Travis Tritt once said that “more than being influenced by him, we STEAL from George Jones”. What was the process that turned you into the most influential vocal stylist in the country music field?
George Jones – I just started being myself and singing from the heart. I think you can emulate someone briefly but eventually, your true style comes out, and I do everything my way, even our National Anthem. I was so proud that Travis Tritt heard my version of the National Anthem at an Atlanta Falcons pro football game and requested a copy of my rendition that he used at the beginning of his shows for a long time.

AMCU – Many older artists like Lynn Anderson, Janie Fricke or Bill Anderson, have re-recorded their hits in bluegrass format. Have you considered doing this to show us a new side of your classics?A
George Jones – No I haven’t. I love Bluegrass but it really isn’t my style.

AMCU – Once you recorded “Billy B. Badd”, a very ironic look at today’s country stars. How do you see today’s country music? Do you have any favourites or follow the career of any of today’s new stars?
George Jones – I love a lot of the new artists. I would say Alan Jackson is one of my favorites because he has kept it “Country” through his career.

AMCU – You cut an album with “hits that you missed”. Are there any other songs that you wish you had recorded?
George Jones – There are too many to list. There are so many talented song writers that write great songs you could never record all of the ones you love.

AMCU – Which of the countless songs that you have recorded do you consider your personal favourites?
George Jones – Obviously, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, “Why Baby Why”, “White Lightnin”, “Window Up Above”, “She Thinks I Still Care”, “Walk Through This World With Me”, “Take Me”, “The Grand Tour”, “Once You’ve Had The Best”, “Bartender’s Blues”, “The One I Loved Back Then”, “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes” and “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”.

AMCU – In 1998 you came face to face with death. What changes took place in your life after that accident?
George Jones – I quit drinking and smoking and started taking better care of my overall health.

AMCU – You had in incident with the CMA when they didn’t let you play your song “Choices” and Alan Jackson performed part of it unexpectedly, as a way of protesting against the CMA’s decision. What did you think of his decision then? What’s your relationship with Alan Jackson today?
George Jones – Nancy and I were watching the show and we both became very emotional. For Alan to step up and take on the CMA as it were, on my behalf was pretty overwhelming. I will never forget he did that for me.

AMCU – Which of these nicknames do you feel more comfortable with?
”The Possum” – ”The Rolls Royce of Country Music” – ”No Show Jones”
George Jones – “The Possum”

AMCU – Who’s gonna fill your shoes?
George Jones – There are many talented artists that can fill my shoes.

AMCU – Could you give us a few words about the following personalities?
Nancy Jones – Tammy Wynette – Billy Sherrill – Merle Haggard – Johnny Payckeck

George Jones – Nancy Jones-The BEST thing that ever happened to me. She is my rock, my wife, my best friend.

Tammy Wynette-A great singer, and in the end a good friend.
Billy Sherrill-One of the greatest producers ever and a dear friend.
Merle Haggard-Great singer and a good friend.
Johnny Paycheck-A very talented man that had a great deal of success and a great deal of heartache. When he was released from prison, Nancy and I hosted a party and press conference at our home to welcome him back. His health had deteriorated so much at that time that we lost him soon after.

AMCU – What are you planning to do to celebrate your 60 years in music?
George Jones – I will probably be working.

AMCU – Thank you very much!!
George Jones – Thank you for your interest. I appreciate it.

 

Questions by Raul Tejeiro & Julio Cavallaro, President and Vicepresident of AMCU (Asociacion de Musica Country de Uruguay – Country Music Association of Uruguay)

 

 Raúl Tejeiro has been President of the Country Music Association of Uruguay (Asociacion de Musica Country de Uruguay, AMCU) since 2005. He is producer and host of Top Country Hits, a weekly Country Music show which is aired in Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico and Spain. He has been into Country Music since 1980 and has one of the largest collections of the genre in South America. He has also written articles and reviews for magazines and websites in Uruguay, Argentina and Spain and the US. In 1991 and 1992, he travelled around the US, visiting cities rich in musical heritage (New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, New York, Chicago, etc.)

 

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