RIP George Jones, country legend (1931-2013)
To begin a remembrance of George Jones, one need look no further than his song lyrics. "He stopped loving her today, they placed a wreath upon his door." "Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone, and so are you." Jones died this morning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after being hospitalized there last week for treatment of a fever and irregular blood pressure. He was 81.
Nikki Miller-Rose George Jones at the Freeborn County Fair in 2010.
George Jones was and is peerless, his place in and influence on country music unmatched. When he was dealing in heartache, as his songs often did, his emotive and distinctive voice absolutely oozed sadness, clawed at the heart, lumped the throat. But it wasn't all sad ballads; Jones could hiccup his way through an upbeat honky-tonk song with the best of them, in a way that would give his own idols Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams an absolute run for their money. And he was one of the few country artists who could be described as totally inimitable; for as many musicians who cite him as an influence, none has successfully recreated his sound.
Jones had a hard start from the get-go. He entered the world on September 12, 1931 in a log cabin in Saratoga, Texas. He was the last of eight kids born to Mr. and Mrs. George Washington Jones, a pipe-fitter with a drinking problem, and the doctor who delivered Jones dropped him, breaking his arm.
His father was a music fan who bought him a Gene Autry guitar, and demanded young Jones perform for his drinking buddies. By the age of nine, Jones was busking on the streets of Beaumont and before long, he ran away from home and made a living playing backup guitar on radio shows.
After flirting briefly with rockabilly as many of his era did, he became a mainstay of country music. He performed both on Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry, and between 1955 and 1974 placed at least one song in the country Top Ten each year, with hits like "Why Baby Why," "White Lightning," "Window Up Above" and "She Thinks I Still Care." Over the course of his illustrious six-decade career, he released over 100 solo, live and duet albums, and clocked in over 150 hits.