Ten George Jones career milestones

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In his younger years, country legend George Jones was assigned the moniker "No Show Jones." Tales of his hard drinkin' and drug abuse were epic enough to make Keith Richards seem tame, and as such, he had a habit of not showing up to a lot of his own shows. But all this is behind him -- it's said he's been sober for quite some time now -- and yet when he canceled his April appearance at Minnesota's Shooting Star Casino due to an upper respiratory infection, we couldn't say we were much surprised. Let's be honest; the poor dude's gettin' up there. When his November reschedule date at the same casino was canceled, this time with the announcement there'd be no second reschedule date, well, we figured things didn't bode well for the 81-year-old Jones.

But George Jones is still alive. And kickin', we reckon. Yet when he
announced this week that 2013 would bring his final tour, let's be
honest: we were relieved.
has passed along.
Here's an obit.

Considering how gosh darn run down he seemed when we saw him croak out the cutesy lines to "Why Baby Why" at the Freeborn County Fair a couple years ago, we're glad the Possum's finally allowed himself some quieter years to enjoy a retirement from touring.

His latest outing was going to be "The Grand Tour," which was aptly named - its title is imbued not only with the ceremony of a happy retirement, but marked with melancholy as it's also the name of his uber-depressing 1974 hit, which has been named one of the greatest songs... ever written about divorce.

Like his earlier career, Jones' latter years and slow progression toward retirement have had their own ups and downs, and the Grand Tour would have no doubt reflected that. For the uninitiated, here are ten important things to know about Jones, whose life more than any other has been a life lived like a country song: plumb full of drinkin', cheatin', and lovin'.

10. Early life
George Glenn Jones was born on September 12, 1931 in Saratoga, Texas, the last of eight kids to Mr. and Mrs. George Washington Jones, a Texas pipe-fitter with a drinking problem. Jones had a rough shake of it straight outta the womb - the doctor who delivered him promptly dropped him, and broke his arm. His father was a music fan who bought him a Gene Autry guitar, and his talent for performing grew from there. By nine, he was busking for money on the streets of Beaumont, Texas. But his family was poor and moved around a lot. His sister died of a fever, and his dad began drinking heavily. In his teens, George ran away from home and supported himself playing backup guitar on radio shows.

9. The Possum
Jones started his first professional band in 1947. They got themselves a radio show, and it was at the station that a worker noticed George Jones' facial structure reminded him of a certain marsupial. He called him "The Possum," and the name stuck.

8. Top Ten
Between 1955 and 1974, Jones placed at least one song in the country Top Ten each year, from "Why Baby Why" to "White Lightning," "Window Up Above" and "She Thinks I Still Care." All told, he's released a staggering one hundred-plus albums when live records and duets are counted, and scored over one hundred-fifty hits.

7. Golden Ring(s)
Jones said "I do" twice before he turned 24. His third marriage was to fellow country legend Tammy Wynette, and his fourth and final marriage was to Nancy Sepulvado in 1983 - that one's stuck. Of course, it was his marriage to Wynette, though, that was most famous. After touring together for a brief time, the two married in 1968. It seemed their marriage would be a hit - they even ended their concerts with a song version of their wedding vows - but Jones began drinking heavily, the two began fighting, and then divorced in 1975. They released an album together the year after called Golden Ring (its title song about divorce), then reconciled again in 1981 to release Together Again, then recorded one more together in 1995 called One. "We rediscovered our loyalty, and I think our patience and endurance speak well of both of us, after what we've been through," Wynette said in an interview that year. She died of a blood clot on May 14, 1998, at the age of 55.

6. Lawnmower
Alcoholism and drug abuse are as closely tied to Jones' identity as was his propensity toward failed marriages, but one anecdote about his drinking has stuck better than the rest. When he began drinking too much, his second wife Shirley would hide all the car keys when she left the house. Because they lived several miles from the nearest town, she figured that would keep him out of the liquor stores and bars. Jones would later recall sitting around feeling sorry for himself, when he saw a light from across their property. "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." In her 1979 autobiography, third wife Tammy Wynette recalled waking in the wee hours one night to find George wasn't home. "I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away. When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He'd driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she'd come after me.'"

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