In life there are two different breeds of people. Ones that follow the mold and the ones who follow dreams, no matter how crazy it seems. George Glenn Jones was one of those who followed his dreams with a price. He was born September 12, 1931 in Texas to a large, dirt poor family with five sisters and a brother. When he turned seven years old, his calling would begin as the family purchased a radio and music entered his life. This was the dream that he began to follow and at age sixteen he left home to venture out in the world to try to get his name known in Music.
George married his first wife at nineteen, divorced her a year later and enlisted in the Marines. He was stationed in California for his whole term and a little bit after that his music career got off the ground and would eventually earn him the title Greatest Country Singer of All Time.
I went to a karaoke bar just last weekend and sang a classic George Jones song (written by my good friend Dennis Knutson and his partner Doodle Owens) entitled “Wine Colored Roses”. The song was a gold record that was released in 1986. Last night, I was at the Nu-way in Spartanburg, South Carolina at the Jam and sang that song (along with few other George Jones songs) in a set. I don’t know what made me do it but it felt like the thing to do.
My good friend April-Britt Kelly (from Mother Shutter Photography) and I had planned to see him on what would be his last tour in my hometown of Spartanburg, SC. I was excited to see “The Possum” as for years I grew up on his music and events later in my life had me relating to his music.
The thing is – in a age of whistles, bells and Walmart country, the soul has been taken out of the music. George in life had demons with alcohol and reckless behavior. He was called “No-show Jones” for missing many shows in the past due to alcohol. It says in the bible “those without sin cast the first stone” and I for one didn’t judge his personal journey. And it was these events that would create the legend that he became. For example, 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 eight 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.” That Cub Cadet riding lawn mower would become synonymous with the growing legend.
George was married four times – once to singing recording partner and country music icon Tammy Wynette, and they had many big hits together. Songs like “Golden Ring”, “We’re Gonna Hold On” and “Southern California”. Waylon Jennings once said “If we could all sing like we wanted to, we’d all sing like George Jones.”
I woke up this morning and heard the news that one of my all time heroes had passed from this life at the age of 81. This is a hard one to swallow and it’s right up there with Waylon and Cash’s passing. His song”Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” has more meaning now than ever as I type this and try processes it all.
The power of a George Jones song has got me through some rough patches in my life. He was relatable with all of the high times and the low. It is now official that he lived his life his way and followed that dream. I don’t know too many people who, when its all over and done, can say that. This is a hard one to swallow and is going to take awhile. My thoughts are with the family as I plan on listening to George Jones songs the rest of the day and celebrate the Man and Legend. So many songs are running through my head at the moment, such as “Still Doing Time”, “Tall Tall Trees”, “Choices”, “The Grand Tour”, “She Thinks I Still Care” and many more (sigh).
Thank you George for all you did in life. Godspeed.
~ Jason Robinson
Jason Wallace Robinson hails from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He’s a writer, storyteller, philosopher, single father raising two children, music lover, dreamer, joker. He writes to speak for the Common Man. He enjoys football and driving around in his ’96 Chevy Lumina adorned with an American Flag and decorative bird offerings.
Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.