George Jones would have been 89 years old today. The country music legend was born on September 12, 1931. He passed away in 2013. Jones was known for skills both with the guitar and behind the microphone. Jones had a calming voice that elevated his honky-tonk ballads and made his slower, sadder songs sound like great tragedies.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” was one of the singer’s most famous songs. Initially, the singer hated the song. He thought the song would flop because of its sad theme. Jones performed the song live on The Ronnie Prophet Show back in 1980.
George Jones first started playing the guitar when he was nine.
According to Biography.com, Jones had seven siblings, and his father was an alcoholic. Jones grew up listening to programs from the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. His father bought him his first guitar when he was nine. He sent Jones to play on the streets to earn money. As a teenager, he found early success playing in dive-bars before leaving his hometown.
While working at a radio station, Jones met his idol Hank Williams. Williams stopped by the station to record a performance. Later in life, Jones performed a duet with the singer’s son, Hank Williams Jr., on “I Don’t Care If Tomorrow Never Comes.”
In 1950, Jones married his first wife Dorothy Bonvillion. The singer married four times over his life. Jones had issues with alcohol and substance abuse, which complicated his relationships with women.
Jones’ first big hit came after a four year stint in the U.S. Marines. His first hit “Why Baby Why” made it to No. 4 on the country music charts. At the end of the 1950s, Jones released his first No. 1 single called “White Lightning.” The song proved popular with both country and pop fans alike.
In the 1960s, Jones became one of America’s most celebrated country singers. He released several hit songs during this decade such as “Tender Years,” “The Race is On” and “She Thinks I Still Care.”
Jones professed his love to his future third wife while she was at dinner with her husband.
For several years, Jones and his third wife Tammy Wynette were the iconic duo in country music. They had met at a recording studio. Later, Jones actually professed his love for Wynette when she was out with her husband Don Chapel. He witnessed a fight between the two while they were at dinner.
Nicknamed the President and First Lady, the two hit the road performing together. Their songs “The Ceremony” and “Take Me” reached Top 10 on the charts. The two continued to perform together after they divorced in 1975, producing No.1 singles “Golden Ring” and “Near You.”
Jones battle with drugs and alcohol strained the relationship between the two. While Jones continued to struggle with his demons off and on, he considers his fourth wife to be his savior. He married Nancy Sepulvado in 1983, and the two remained married until Jones’ death.
Merle Haggard was George Jones’ favorite country singer.
Jones and fellow singer Merle Haggard were good friends for most of their careers. Jones first heard Haggard play at the Blackboard Cafe in Bakersfield, California in 1961. The two performed several duets together including “The Way I Am” and “Yesterday’s Wine.”
“It was one of the greatest compliments of my entire life when George Jones said I was his favorite country singer,” Haggard wrote in a Rolling Stone article.
Jones continued to record music and perform concerts even into his later years. He established himself as an iconic presence in the music industry. Throughout his career, Jones won seven CMA awards. He was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2002, Jones received the National Medal of the Arts for his long and storied career. In 2012, a year before he passed away, Jones accepted the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After he died, Jones’ funeral was held at the Grand Ole Opry, a place he had performed at throughout his life.
“When you’re happy you enjoy the music,” Jones once said. “When you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.”