20 Reasons George Jones Was Country’s Ultimate Rock Star

Let’s all celebrate the hardcore life of the country music legend.

Let’s all celebrate the hardcore life of the country music legend.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

It was announced today that George Jones has passed away, but the fact that he lived to see 81 is pretty amazing, given how hard he lived life. All things considered, he could well have gone the way of his music idol, Hank Williams, who died at 29. But over a 50+ year career of battling the law, booze, drugs, and women, Jones staked his claim not only as the greatest voice in country music, but the personification of its bad-boy side. And while he never really crossed over from country to rock, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more rock & roll than George Jones. Let’s look at the evidence:

– In 1959, his first No. 1 hit, “White Lightening,” took 83 takes because of Jones’ drinking throughout the session.

– On the other hand, he held on to the title of “Greatest Living Country Singer” for half a century. 

– A legend needs an nickname, and Jones had the weird but still-pretty-cool, and totally Texas nickname “Possum,” for his close-set eyes and sharp nose.

– He scored 143 top 40 country singles. You read that correctly: 143!

– … And that includes 14 number ones. To put that in perspective, Michael Jackson had 13 number one hits. 

– He got hitched for the first of four times at the ripe old age of  17. Country legend Tammy Wynette was wife number three.

– Jones served in the Marines for three years, though he never saw active combat. But still, he was a Marine. Semper Fi, motherfuckers.

– He was arrested for attempted murder in 1977 after shooting up a buddy’s car. The charges were later dropped.

– Frank Sinatra called him “the second greatest singer in America.” That’sso Frank.

– Keith Richards called him a national treasure. Really though, he was more like Keith Richards plus Mick Jagger. Plus Hank Williams. But yeah, Keith’s right, he was a national treasure.

– When shit got really weird in 1979, Jones entered an Alabama psychiatric institute. 

– But apparently it didn’t really work, as he led Nashville police on a high-speed chase in 1980. 

– According to Waylon Jennings, “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”

– The guy gained a reputation for using any means necessary to get his booze, including riding his tractor to the liquor store and local bar when his wives hid the car keys. According to his memoir: “There, gleaming in the glow, was that 10-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.” That’s pretty stupid, definitely dangerous, but also…kind of awesome? The lesson: if you’re going to drive drunk, do it at five miler per hour. (But don’t drive drunk!)

– At his worst, Jones missed so many gigs he earned the nickname “No Show Jones.”

– No, really. In 1979 alone he missed 54 concerts. Take that, Axl!

– His manager, who’d gotten Jones hooked earlier in the decade, was arrested for dealing cocaine in 1979.

– Two decades later, he nearly died in a car crash after crashing into the side of a bridge. A half-full bottle was found in the car. 

– Still, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2008, he was named a Kennedy Center honoree. And last year, he received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. It’s pretty amazing he lived long enough for any of these.

– His father’s name was George Washington. GEORGE WASHINGTON. Just like America’s father. Is it possible that George Jones was America?

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