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Five Lesser-Known Facts About the Legendary George Jones

Five Lesser-Known Facts About the Legendary George Jones
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
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George Jones was the soulful voice behind many beloved country classics, etching his name in the annals of music history. His fans are well-versed in his chart-topping hits, illustrious achievements, and accolades. They’re even privy to the intricacies of his personal life, including his much-discussed union with country luminary Tammy Wynette.

Photo: augustachronicle.com

However, beyond the spotlight, George Glenn Jones led a life brimming with unexpected twists and turns. Here, we unveil five intriguing facts that may surprise even the most ardent George Jones enthusiasts.

Growing Up, He Performed on the Streets of East Texas

George Jones entered this world in Saratoga, Texas, on September 12, 1931, amid humble beginnings as one of eight siblings in a family struggling with limited means. Yet, within the walls of the Jones household, music permeated the air. His father’s harmonica and guitar, coupled with his mother’s piano hymns every Sunday in the Pentecostal Church, formed the backdrop of his childhood.

At the tender age of nine, Jones received his first Gene Autry guitar from his father, igniting a passion that would shape his destiny. Enamored with the instrument, he spent countless hours mastering its chords, often drifting off to sleep with it cradled in his arms.

>>READ ALSO: Relive the last performance of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones

His devotion to music led him down unconventional paths, including skipping school to roam the streets of Beaumont, guitar slung over his shoulder, serenading anyone who would lend an ear. A pivotal moment occurred when he set up a makeshift stage at a shoeshine stand one Sunday, belting out tunes by Roy Acuff. The mesmerized crowd’s generosity left young Jones astounded, as he pocketed a whopping $24 – an unimaginable sum at the time.

With his sights firmly set on a musical future, formal education ceased to captivate him. After repeating the seventh grade, Jones bid farewell to academia, plunging headlong into the vibrant music scene of Beaumont. By his early teens, he was already a fixture in the local dive bars, honing his craft.

At the age of 16, Jones embarked on a new chapter, leaving behind the familiarity of home for the bustling town of Jasper, Texas. There, he secured a job as a singer at the esteemed local radio station, KTXJ, setting the stage for his meteoric rise in the world of country music.

He’s an avid admirer of Hank Williams

The long-awaited encounter between George Jones and his idol, Hank Williams, finally materialized during one of Jones’s stints at KRIC radio station. Williams, the legendary country music icon, graced the station to promote his upcoming show. Jones, slated to play electric lead for Williams, found himself in a state of awe and disbelief at the proximity of his musical hero.

In his autobiography, Jones candidly recounts the overwhelming moment when faced with Williams’s presence. “I was so intimidated at the sight of Hank Williams and the thought that I was in his presence that I was paralyzed with fear,” he recalled. As Williams effortlessly filled the room with his haunting voice, Jones stood transfixed, unable to summon a single note on his instrument.

>>READ ALSO: Hank Williams: Remembering The Death of “The Hillbilly Shakespeare”

The news of Williams’s untimely demise on New Year’s Day of 1953 hit Jones like a thunderbolt, prompting an outpouring of grief. “You could say he was the biggest part of my life at that time. That’s how personally I took him and his songs,” Jones reflected, revealing the profound impact Williams had on his life and artistry.

Little did Jones realize that he would eventually step into the shoes of his idol, becoming one of the few singers capable of filling the void left by Williams’s passing. Thus, it came as no surprise when, at the pinnacle of his music career, Jones paid homage to Williams with the release of two heartfelt albums: “George Jones Salutes Hank Williams” and “My Favorites of Hank Williams.” These tributes stand as a testament to Jones’s enduring reverence for the musical legacy of his idol.

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He’s Earned the Nicknames “The Possum” and “No Show Jones” for Good Reason

“When you’re called ‘The Possum’… it sticks with you. There’s no escaping it,” George Jones once remarked, reflecting on the moniker that became synonymous with his name. But how exactly did he earn such a unique nickname? Surprisingly, it stemmed from his appearance during his youth.

“I had an album out featuring a side view of me with a crew cut. I was quite young, and my nose appeared more upturned, coupled with my small, beady eyes – I suppose I did bear a resemblance to a possum!” Jones explained. His distinct features prompted friends to affectionately dub him “Possum,” a title that quickly gained traction and became inseparable from his identity. “Once it caught on, there was no stopping it. I simply had to embrace it,” Jones acknowledged with a hint of humor.

In addition to “The Possum,” Jones also found himself tagged with another less flattering nickname: “No Show Jones.” This label stuck for several years, a testament to his notorious reputation for missing scheduled concerts. In 1979 alone, Jones was a no-show for a staggering 54 performances. The country music icon openly admitted that his struggles with alcohol and drugs had spiraled into detrimental habits, overshadowing his illustrious career.

Acknowledging his shortcomings, Jones confronted the demons that threatened to derail his legacy, ultimately reclaiming his status as a revered figure in the world of country music.

He Openly Declared His Love For Tammy Wynette During Dinner With Her and Her Husband

Before the romantic entanglement between George Jones and Tammy Wynette blossomed into matrimony, a memorable incident unfolded one fateful evening at Wynette’s abode, where she resided with her then-husband, the songwriter Don Chapel. As Wynette busied herself in the kitchen preparing dinner, tensions between her and Chapel reached a boiling point, culminating in a heated exchange.

In a moment of unchecked emotion, Chapel directed a derogatory remark towards Wynette in Jones’s presence, igniting a fierce reaction from the usually composed country crooner. “I felt a surge of fury coursing through me,” Jones recounted. “In a flash of anger, I sprang from my seat, seized the edge of the dinner table, and sent it crashing to the floor. Plates, cutlery, and glasses scattered in all directions, leaving Don and Tammy wide-eyed in astonishment.”

The dramatic scene not only shattered the tranquility of the dinner table but also served as a pivotal moment in the budding romance between Jones and Wynette, laying bare the intensity of Jones’s hidden affection for the woman who would eventually become his beloved wife.

He Recorded The First And Most Well-Documented Lawnmower Incident

In the late 1960s, George Jones found himself living just a short distance from Beaumont, Texas, with the nearest liquor store seemingly a world away. During a stretch when he’d been hitting the bottle for days on end, his then-wife Shirley Ann Corley decided it was time to take action. She gathered up all the keys to their cars and left, hoping to put a stop to his drinking spree.

But in her haste, Shirley overlooked an unconventional solution: the lawnmower. “There it was, bathed in moonlight, that old ten-horsepower rotary engine tucked beneath the seat, a key dangling in the ignition,” Jones reminisced. Undeterred by the absurdity of the situation, he set off on a slow and steady journey to the liquor store, the rhythmic hum of the lawnmower’s engine accompanying him through the quiet Texas night.

This humorous yet remarkable escapade came to epitomize Jones’s unwavering determination and thirst for adventure, traits that endeared him to fans and became part of his enduring legend in the world of country music. As life would have it, similar escapades continued, even during his time with Tammy Wynette, proving that George Jones was always ready for a bit of excitement, no matter how unconventional the means.

>>READ ALSO: Here Are Some Intriguing Facts About Gene Watson, “The Singer’s Singer”

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