Sign up for newsletter

George Jones dies at 81

Friday, April 26, 2013 – George Glenn Jones, considered by many to be the greatest country singer ever, died today at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. He was hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.

The man with the golden baritone and colorful life was the singer behind such hits as She Thinks I Still Care, The Grand Tour, Walk Through This World With Me, Tender Years and He Stopped Loving Her Today, the latter of which is often at the top of industry lists of the greatest country music singles of all time.

"A singer who can soar from a deep growl to dizzying heights, he is the undisputed successor of earlier natural geniuses such as Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell," wrote Bob Allen in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's "Encyclopedia of Country Music."

Jones, known as "The Possum," was born in Saratoga, Texas on Sept. 12, 1931. He played on the streets of Beaumont for tips as a teenager. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Texas and recording for the Starday label in Houston. In 1955, his Why Baby Why became his first Top 10 country single, peaking at number 4. That was the first of more than 160 charting singles, more than any other artist in any format in the history of popular music.

Jones' first number 1 hit came in 1959 with White Lightning, a Mercury Records single that topped Billboard country charts for 5 weeks. He moved on to United Artists and then to Musicor, notching hits including She Thinks I Still Care, The Race Is On, A Good Year for the Roses and Walk Through This World With Me.

Jones signed with Epic Records in 1971 and worked with producer Billy Sherrill to craft a sound at once elegant and rooted, scoring with The Grand Tour and Bartenders Blues. Sherrill also produced duets between Jones and his then-wife Tammy Wynette, and in the 1970s they scored top-charting hits including "We're Gonna Hold On, Golden Ring and Near You.

By the time Golden Ring and Near You hit in 1976, Jones and Wynette were divorced, and Jones was battling personal problems. He was considered unreliable in showing up for concerts, earning the moniker "No Show" Jones, something he would later joke about when he pulled his life back together.

His solo career cooled until 1980, when he recorded He Stopped Loving Her Today, a ballad penned by Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock that helped Jones win Country Music Association prizes for best male vocal and top single. The song revived a flagging career, and Jones won the CMA's top male vocalist award in 1980 and 1981. He also earned a Grammy for best male country vocal performance.

In 1983, Jones married the former Nancy Ford Sepulvado. The union, he repeatedly said, began his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol and prolonged his life. He signed with MCA Records in 1990 and began a successful run, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. His guest vocal on Patty Loveless' You Don't Seem To Miss Me won a CMA award for top vocal event in 1998, and it became his final Top 20 country hit.

In 1999, Jones nearly died in a car wreck, but he recovered and resumed touring and recording. He continued touring and collected the nation's highest arts award, the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement, in 2008.

In late 2012, Jones announced his farewell tour, which was to conclude with a sold-out, star-packed show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 22. Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore, The Oak Ridge Boys and many others were set to perform at Jones' Bridgestone show.

Jones is survived by his loving wife of 30 years Nancy Jones, his sister Helen Scroggins, and by his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

More news for George Jones

CD reviews for George Jones

The Hits CD review - The Hits
George Jones tends to rely on his past these days, so it's not surprising that "The Hits" is his new CD. The 24-song set does include a few previously unreleased songs, but that may not be enough to persuade all but the diehards to buy this. Jones recorded Eddy Raven's I Should Have Called and Al Anderson-Steven Bruton's I Ain't Ever Slowing Down about five years ago with Keith Stegall producing, and both appear here for the first time. The former is a bit poppy, »»»
Step Right Up 1970-1979: A Critical Anthology CD review - Step Right Up 1970-1979: A Critical Anthology
As retrospectives go, this new 28-track collection of George Jones' work from the 1970s is a bit of an anomaly. While most other compilations present chart-topping singles in chronological order, this single-disc set from the Australian reissue specialists at Raven Records provides an overview of Jones' total artistic output for the entire decade, regardless of chart position. This approach works well in this case because it covers songs not usually included on George Jones compilations. »»»
George Jones: Burn Your Playhouse Down, the unreleased duets CD review - George Jones: Burn Your Playhouse Down, the unreleased duets
There are few revelations in this George Jones duets collection culled primarily from "The Bradley Barn Sessions" (1993 recordings). Producers have their reasons. Perhaps the biggest surprise is when Jones is outsung by one of his duet partners, Georgette Jones, the only child of his marriage to Tammy Wynette. Georgette may have the best singing genes in history, but it is time as much as anything that pushes Dad into a subordinate role on You and Me and Time. The revelation, then, is a »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: For McCoury, Grisman, music still matters – One condenser microphone, a music stand, a mandolin, rhythm guitar and more than 100 years of bluegrass experience: that's all David Grisman and Del McCoury need to put on a show. It's quite a show, too. The artists' backstories are well known: McCoury was a logger in Lancaster County, Pa., who came to New York City to see Bill... »»»
Concert Review: Ely wears well – Joe Ely is the prototypical rambler. It comes through in his music and in his life. There are lots of elements in the music about travels, riding the rails, small town scenery and getting away from it. In fact, after playing "I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty" as the first song of his encore, Ely opined, "The only thing I got out of... »»»
Subscribe to Country News Digest Country News Digest      Follow Country Standard Time on twitter CST      Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook CST

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Whoops, Bottle Rockets create an album Since the inception of the Bottle Rockets in the early '90s. the three basic constants have been the presence of guitarist/vocalist/primary songwriter Brian Henneman and drummer Mark Ortmann, a relatively consistent output schedule and a steady stream of great reviews for those releases.... »»»
Cox Family gets back to business On the eve of the first new release by the Cox Family in nearly two decades, "Gone Like The Cotton," Sidney Cox reflects on the national media frenzy over "Back To The Future" and the date Michael J. Fox would materialize from 1985, and the parallels to his own family's story haven't escaped his notice.... »»»
Fortune has Statlers covered The Statler Brothers were an iconic vocal group in country music. They began by backing Johnny Cash (not a bad early gig, for sure), and went on to win the CMA award for Vocal Group of the Year an astounding 8 years in a row between 1972 and 1980. The group is in both the country music and gospel music halls of fame and has won three Grammy Awards. Tenor Jimmy Fortune replaced Lew Dewitt in 1983, and continued with the group for 21 year... »»»
Ely rambles on With the cover of "Panhandle Rambler" showing a vintage Airsteam, standing solitary out on the flatlands of the Texas Panhandle, one might think Joe Ely's latest offering would be a sedentary affair. One would be wrong. Instead, the 12 songs are more a Flamenco-accented travelogue of Texas. Streaming from the Panhandle, winding through the Hill Country, deep into Big Bend and across the Rio Grande... ... »»»
First Comes the NIght CD review - First Comes the NIght
Chris Isaak is something of a renaissance man. In addition to being a talented singer and songwriter, he's an actor, guest-starring in popular television shows like "Friends" and "Hot in Cleveland"; he even had his own series on Showtime in the early 2000's. He's been in movies with Michelle Pfieffer, Jodie Foster and Tom Hanks. »»»
I'm Comin' Over CD review - I'm Comin' Over
Chris Young has enjoyed steady success from his previous four releases, and there's no reason to suggest that "I'm Comin' Over" won't do the same. But that doesn't mean that Young is doing anything all that different from what's au courant. Young's go to has always been his full-sounding, big-bodied voice, and that remains intact here throughout these 11 songs, 9 of which he had a hand in writing. »»»
Meat and Candy CD review - Meat and Candy
Old Dominion may be releasing its full-length debut, but this quintet is not filled with newbies. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey co-wrote "Chainsaw" for The Band Perry and with band mate Trevor Rosen penned Craig Morgan's "Wake Up Lovin' You" and Dierks Bentley's "Say You Do." Rosen also co-wrote Chris Young's "Neon," Blake Shelton's "Sangria" and The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two"... »»»
Mr. Misunderstood CD review - Mr. Misunderstood
When listeners were introduced to Eric Church on his debut, they heard an artist who could balance strong song writing with a bit of a rebellious edge to the music. The surprise release of his latest continues that tradition, being quietly released to his fan club before even being officially announced. The music, written and recorded over a short period of time with an unheard of fast turnaround, has a raw edge that bridges the gap... »»»
Buy Me A Boat CD review - Buy Me A Boat
After years of toiling in the trenches in Nashville, Chris Janson had faced his share of hardships and rejections. He'd worked with an impressive roster of artists (Tim McGraw, Justin Moore, Lee Brice), but failed to score any significant attention as an artist himself. Then he followed his wife's advice and self-released a single, "Buy Me a Boat," which became a surprise radio hit. After years of playing country, Janson finally became an "overnight sensation"... »»»
Gone Like the Cotton CD review - Gone Like the Cotton
The title of this new release from the Cox Family - their first in close to two decades - is a testament to their own hard experience that, especially in the music business, you can be riding high one day, then the next you're yesterday's news. Throughout the 1990s, the Coxes (father Willard, daughters Evelyn and Suzanne and son Sidney) from Cotton Valley, La. were among the hottest acts in bluegrass and the emerging country-based genre now known as Americana. »»»