George Glenn Jones (born September 12, 1931 in Saratoga, Texas), is an award-winning American country music singer known for his long list of hit records, his distinctive voice and phrasing, and his marriage to Tammy Wynette.
Over the past twenty years, Jones has frequently been referred to as "the greatest living country singer The country music scholar Bill C. Malone writes, "For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics, and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved."
Throughout his long career, Jones made headlines often as much for tales of his drinking, stormy relationships with women, and violent rages as for his prolific career of making records and touring. His wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones", but Jones never hid or denied his faults and now, with the help of his fourth wife, he has been "clean" for years. Jones clocked up scores of hits during his career, both as a solo artist and in duets with other artists.
Jones left home at sixteen and headed for Jasper, Texas where he found work singing and playing on a local radio station. Before he was out of his teens he married his first wife, Dorothy, but their union didn't even last a full year and Jones joined the USMC. Despite the Korean War being fought at the time, Jones never experienced active service overseas, instead he sang in bars near his base in California. After leaving the Marines his music career took off.
Despite being in his seventies, Jones is still an active recording artist and still tours extensively on the North American continent as well as overseas. His other projects include the George Jones "University" which is a twice-yearly training program for those wishing to learn about a career in the music business. He also endorses his own brand of sausages which are produced for him by Williams Sausage Company of Tennessee using Jones's own recipe. The product boxes feature stories from Jones's colorful life. Other food products he has brought out include a range of barbecue sauces.
Jones and wife Nancy run a diner in Enterprise, Alabama which is decorated with memorabilia from Jones's long career in the country music business.
Jones is also a partner in Bandit Records, an independent record company set up by Jones and others when Jones's former record company Asylum Records was closed down by its owners AOL Time Warner. Bandit Records philosophy is to "create unique, interesting projects with artistic integrity that can operate free from the constraints of the corporate music industry".
2008 marks Jones's 55th year recording country music (1954-2008, inclusive, according to all major biographies) and he first hit the charts in 1955, according to GeorgeJones.com. Additionally, it is his 39th year (1969-2008, inclusive) as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
This year, it was also announced that Jones will be one of the recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors
Perhaps the best-known story of his drinking days is tragicomic. While married to the former Shirley Corley, his second wife, Jones resorted to some desperate measures in getting alcohol.
Once, when I had been drunk for several days, Shirley decided she would make it physically impossible for me to buy liquor. I lived about eight miles from Beaumont and the nearest liquor store. She knew I wouldn't walk that far to get booze, so she hid the keys to every car we owned and left.
But she forgot about the lawn mower.
I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our 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.
The riding mower doesn't seem to be a one-time event. Wife Tammy Wynette told her own riding mower story in her 1979 autobiography.
About 1 am I would wake up and look over to find he was gone. 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.'
Jones later jokingly sang of the lawn mower incident in his 1996 single "Honky Tonk Song", and parodied his own arrest in the song's music video.
In the 1970s, Jones was introduced to cocaine by a manager before a show in which he was too tired to perform. This accelerated his already unpredictable actions. His self-destructive bent brought him close to death and to the inside of a psychiatric hospital in Alabama at the end of the decade. Although somewhat celebrated by some of his fans as the hard-drinkin', fast-livin' spiritual-son of his idol, Hank Williams, he missed so many booked engagements that he became known as "No-Show Jones." He was often broke and later admitted that friends Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came to his aid financially during this period.
Poking fun at his past, two country music videos would feature Jones arriving on a riding lawn mower. The first was Hank Williams, Jr's "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" in 1984 while the second was Vince Gill's "One More Last Chance" in 1993. In fact, Gill's song mentioned the riding lawn mower with the lines "She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere." At the end of Gill's video, he is leaving the golf course on a John Deere tractor and greets Jones with "hey possum." Jones, arriving at the golf course driving a John Deere riding lawn mower with a set of golf clubs mounted behind him, would reply back to Gill "hey sweetpea."