I didn't really want to write about George Jones, as he is too personal for me..which I am sure will come out as I write this. I didn't really WANT to write this, but all day long folks who know me have been reminding me Mr. Jones passed away. That is one of the strangest things about Facebook. People have some odd compulsion to immediately rush to their device and share a celebrity death. I don't know why that is. Citizen journalists.
I will cry at some point about George Jones. Maybe as I write this.
It is no secret to my friends or folks who have read my material over the years that I had a drinking problem, and I loved George Jones. I've been sober 24 years, fortunately, but I quit to save my life. It was that bad.
Being drunk is nothing exceptional. Quitting is and I know how lucky I am. A few folks over the years I have counseled have not been as lucky, and today they are gone. As one put it to me, "It has a powerful draw" and that I understand. I have empathy many of you won't ever have, and that is good for both of us.
You will be given You Tube links to George whether you want them or not. Three minutes won't do it. I lived intimately with George Jones in my head for decades. I heard them all. Not a clunker in the bunch, and even the INTENTIONAL clunkers were great. If you know his body of work, you'll know what I mean. If you don't, it is too late to start now.
Frank Sinatra once called George Jones the second greatest singer in America, and he was wrong.
George Jones was the greatest singer this country has produced, and he did it (as I read somewhere) singing through clenched teeth the whole time. George Jones could tear anything out of a song he felt like. The word used most often to describe his voice is ethereal. That means a voice too good to describe. That means a voice which hurts.
Here is another reason I am a lucky man. I worked quite a while in Manhattan on 6th Avenue midtown. Across the street was a record store. Yes. A record STORE. You won't find one now, nor will you be seeing as many "in-stores" as there used to be. One afternoon I walked out of the office for lunch, and there was George Jones outside the record store having just finished an appearance. 1991 I believe. He was alone except for an assistant. I didn't even know he was going to be there.
No one likes country music in Manhattan. A friend who ran the ticket office at Radio City Music Hall once told me "I can't get you any free tickets...except I can for any country act. Those, you can have whenever you like." Needless to say, Mr. Jones wasn't mobbed.
I walked right up to him and shook his hand. I leaned in and said "Mr. Jones, I would like to thank you for what your work has meant to me over the years. You and Bob Dylan are just about the only things I have kept from my drunk days." The entire time I fumbled it out, Mr Jones was staring right into my eyes, holding my hand, and he said "Thank you son. That means a lot to me."
I saw George perform a few years later at Tramps, a slutty nightclub just off the Hudson river. A room full of drunks were shouting the whole time. He was good, of course, and he churned through 25 great songs in less than an hour. By this time, his act was virtually an hour long medley of hits. Mr. Jones was no stranger to Honky-tonks, having practically invented them. He played them fifty years. But It was a particularly loud crowd, and an unusual place for a George Jones gig.
Willie Nelson will turn 80 this weekend. I was all prepared to celebrate for Willie, but George opened and stole the show.
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