Updated: Jan 3
I love me some George Jones y’all, and was so fortunate to have seen him early in my years. I’ve often said that I feel my initial experience watching George perform live at the Strawberry Festival helped shape my love for traditional country music. There is definitely something to be said about George’s voice. There are many singers that can sing anything you put in front of them. But having vocal range ,and technical proficiency does not necessarily make someone a great singer.
Stay with me on this. I think there is a clear distinguishable difference between singing great, and being a great singer. A great singer is able to reach out with their vocal intonations, and raw honesty, and tug at your heart strings. A great singer let’s you know they’ve been there, but more importantly, you believe it. .You believe they’ve been there. Some might call it authenticity..
I can always step back into a George Jones song to help me navigate the turbulent waters of life. Some of the very best singers have that one thing that you can’t learn, barter or borrow. They have heart.. That’s why you feel it because they lived it, and like George said “ Who's gonna bare their heart, and soul to get to me, and you”..
You know who? The great singers, they are the ones that will leave their life in song at your feet for a spin on your record player. George certainly was a great singer, and he lived to tell. The following are 8 heartbreaking situations George experienced.. He knew hard times y’all, and some of these stories are outrageous. And some of these happenings are downright hilarious. At the end, I hope you’ll find what I did, that George Jones lived it!
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The Porter Wagoner Incident
I think by now, we all realize the disastrous results abusing anything can have on the brain, and body. Somehow, George, bless his heart, had gotten in his mind that Tammy was having an affair with Porter Wagoner.
George was under the chemical influence of diet pills, and alcohol. He followed Wagoner as he saw him enter the men’s bathroom and shouted “I want to see what Tammy’s so proud of!” and grabbed his privates and twisted it. George states this is the worst thing he’s ever done while drunk. Decades later, this story was the only one Wagoner could recollect when asked to recall his experiences with George Jones.
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George was fortunate, he had people that really did love him, and tried to help him along the way. The goal was to try to make it hard for George to get booze. George was rarely outdone, and found creative ways to slip away from his friend/handler Jimmie Hills. One particular instance had George paying the hostess of the Palomino Club in North Hollywood to go see Willie Nelson in Las Vegas with him. The plan worked until she got tired of Jones’s constant yammering and asked Jimmie to fill in for her instead!
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Waylon & George
Another unfortunate event happened at the house of one of George’s dearest friends Waylon Jennings. In the 80’s Waylon was at the height of his career, and at the height of his cocaine addiction consuming $1500 a day. Waylon however didn’t drink, but George sure did along with the cocaine, and pills.
George was a bit obnoxious, and Waylon decided to give him some alcohol with the thought that it would put George to sleep. Well, it just didn’t work out that way. Waylon, and his guitar player Jerry Gropp left George alone. That was a big mistake as the sugar in the alcohol energized George. Before you knew it, George was redecorating Waylon’s room by throwing, and breaking anything he could grab..
Waylon and Jerry heard the commotion, and came in to see what was going on. Jerry tried to confine George’s feet to keep him from moving. George kicked Jerry’s hands, and broke his thumb, which ended his playing days for awhile. George proceeded to throw a heavy picture frame at Waylon which he says could’ve killed him, if it had made contact. Waylon, and George both mention the incident in their respective biographies. George felt horrible about the incident. You are probably wondering how they finally stopped George.. Well, Waylon tied him, and left him on the couch, and that is all.
The Car Incident
George was rushing to catch a plane for a show, but could not find a parking space. Frustrated, he finally gave up. He ended up parking his car, on the sidewalk, right at the main entrance of the airport. He also left the key in the ignition turned on. For two whole days there the car remained.
The only reason the car was not towed was that George had the foresight to leave a note. “Please, To whom it may concern. I was in quite a hurry, this flight was very important. My name is George Jones with the Grand Ole Opry and I’ll be back tomorrow evening.”
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Peanut Montgomery, and his wife were good friends of George. Their house in Florence, Alabama saw the likes of George on many occasions especially when he was going through some trouble. Peanut was an old drinking buddy until he found Jesus.
One night George asked Peanut to meet him at the river. Peanut came, and proceeded to tell George that he would be going to hell, if he didn’t repent. George recalls that it was too much to take given the fact that he had partied with Peanut throughout his adult life.
Peanut did not let up, and George became outraged, He grabbed his pistol, and says he shot above the car roof. Peanut left, and went to the police. The charge was Attempted Murder. This was Peanut’s way of getting George some help. Of course, the charges were dropped. This was 1977, after Tammy, George had no real hits to speak of, and cocaine, and alcohol were his constant companions.
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Deedoodle, and The Old Man
By the late 70s, George's cocaine and alcohol addiction were so severe that two separate personalities started to emerge. One was named Deedoodle, and had a duck type voice. The other was of an old man. The personalities would berate each other and Jones, and attack his greatest insecurities and reflect his self-hatred.
The personalities were out of his control, making it hard for him to drive and even taking over during concerts, despite his efforts to get it to stop. This horrified him.
To make matters worse, Jones had to live in his car for some time because of his perpetual debt.
Peanutt Montgomery got so concerned at George’s clearly deteriorating mental and physical state, that he managed to gain custody of him in court and send him to a drug and alcohol treatment ward. But as soon as he came out, he “celebrated” his recovery by getting drunk and snorting cocaine.
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It’s Snowing In The Back Room
Nearing the late 1970’s, George’s addictions were so bad that he was in a state of perpetual confusion, and misheard things quite a bit. Not to mention that he had an overactive imagination. It was so bad that one day George ran out of his friend’s barbershop and poured a bag of cocaine he had in his pants leg onto the back room floor.
Why did he do this you might ask? Well, he thought the person Jimmie, his former handler, and barber had introduced him to was an FBI agent. George misheard the introduction, the gentleman was actually an IRIS worker. Jimmie’s wife had vacuumed up the spilled cocaine and everyone miraculously managed to avoid charges.
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By the beginning of 1980, George Jones had not had a number one song in six years. He had also filed for bankruptcy, and spent some time living in his car. But as George liked to say “A four decade career was salvaged by a four minute song”.. In his appearance at the Opry after the success of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” a well -meaning Barbra Mandrell went into the audience to give Jones the mic to sing his part in the song “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.”
However, George was so far gone in his state of inebriation courtesy of some former Nashville drinking buddies, he just was not able to sing his lines. In his acceptance speech for Male Vocalist of the Year, he thanked Johnny Wright and Kitty Wells...because they were the first people he was able to see when he was on stage.
George lived a rough, and tumble life, but was able to change his ways thanks to a strong support system
The stories we shared about George Jones is to drive a very important point home.
At the height of his career, he found himself lonely, stoned, and out of control.
Success does not guarantee happiness. But according to George, you do start feeling more confident when you take better care of yourself.
This is not the first time I've heard this. Jesse Ebaugh from The Tender Things also shared a similar narrative concerning his own path to sobriety. You can check the interview out here. In case the message is not clear enough take care of yourself, surround yourself with people that actually care about you.And of course resist extreme behaviors. Even George said he was truly embarrassed by some of his misadventure. At the end all you really have are your memories, so go out, and make some good ones, cheers!
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