Not sure how I missed mentioning country legend Mr. George Jones with my last Track Tuesday post. But this time, it is all for him. George Jones died last week at the age of 81. His life was full of music, drinking, wives and riding lawn mowers – pretty much the usual country stuff.
For the last 20 years of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as the greatest living country singer. Country music scholar Bil 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.” Waylon Jennings, in his song “It’s Alright” expressed a common jealousy when he said, “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”
He was married four times but his most well-known marriage was to country singer Tammy Wynette. But one of his best drinking stories happened when he was married to his second wife, Shirley Corley. Jones recalled Shirley making it physically impossible for him to travel to Beaumont, located 8 miles away, and buy liquor. Because Jones would not walk that far, she would hide the keys to each of their cars they owned before leaving. She did not, however, hide the keys to the lawn mower. Jones recollects being upset at not being able to find any keys before looking out the window and at a light that shone over their property. He then described his thoughts, saying: “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.
Poking fun at his past, three 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 Lst Chance” in 1993. Gill’s song mentioned the 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, replies to Gill “Hey, sweet pea.” The third is John Rich’s “Country Done Come to Town” and shows George mowing grass on the rooftop on a zero turn mower.
Sounds like quite the life! George Jones had several top hits over the years, “White Lightning”, “She Still Thinks I Care”, “Golden Ring” (with Tammy Wynette) and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” (with Barbara Mandrell). But my favorite is the video below – “He Stoppped Loving Her Today”. This video shows a much younger George Jones from 1980. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.