George Jones Part Three
I hope you didn’t forget about George Jones, or to forget to do a blog called George Jones Part Three, well I haven’t, and to prove it, here’s George Jones Part Three, please enjoy his album.
Commercial breakout (1959–1964)
In 1959, Jones had his first number one on the Billboard country chart with “White Lightnin'”, ironically a more authentic rock and roll sound than his half-hearted rockabilly cuts. In the Same Ole Me retrospective, Johnny Cash insisted, “George Jones woulda been a really hot rockabilly artist if he’d approached it from that angle. Well, he was, really, but never got the credit for it.” “White Lightnin'” was written by J. P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper. In I Lived To Tell It All, Jones confessed that he showed up for the recording session under the influence of a great deal of alcohol and it took him approximately 80 takes just to record his vocals. To make matters worse, Buddy Killen, who played the upright bass on the recording, was reported as having severely blistered fingers from having to play his bass part 80 times. Killen not only threatened to quit the session, but also threatened to physically harm Jones for the painful consequences of Jones’ drinking. On the final vocal take used on the recording Jones slurs the word “slug”, something he would mimic in live performances of the song along with using his southern drawl.
One aspect of Jones’ early career that is often overlooked is his success as a songwriter; he wrote or co-wrote many of his biggest hits during this period, several of which have become standards, like “Window Up Above” (later a smash for Mickey Gilley in 1975) and “Seasons of My Heart” (a hit for Johnny Cash and also recorded by Willie Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis). Jones wrote “Just One More” (also recorded by Cash), “Life To Go” (a top five hit for Stonewall Jackson in 1959), “You Gotta Be My Baby” and “Don’t Stop The Music” on his own and had a hand in writing “Color of the Blues” (covered by Loretta Lynn and Elvis Costello), “Tender Years” and “Tall, Tall Trees” (co-written with Roger Miller). Jones’ most frequent songwriting collaborator was his childhood friend Darrell Edwards.
Jones signed with United Artists in 1962 and immediately scored one of the biggest hits of his career, “She Thinks I Still Care”. His voice had grown noticeably deeper during this period and he began cultivating the singing style that became uniquely his own. During his stint with UA, Jones recorded tribute albums to Hank Williams and Bob Wills and cut an album of duets with Melba Montgomery, including the hit “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds”. Jones was also well on his way to gaining a reputation as a notorious hell-raiser. In his Rolling Stone tribute, Merle Haggard recalls:
- “I met him at the Blackboard Café in Bakersfield, California, which was the place to go in ’61. He was already famous for not showing up or showing up drunk, and he showed up drunk. I was onstage – I think I was singing Marty Robbins’ ‘Devil Woman’ – and he kicked the doors of the office open and said ‘Who the fuck is that?’ It was one of the greatest compliments of my entire life when George Jones said I was his favorite country singer…In 1967, I released a ballad called “I Threw Away The Rose” and he was so impressed he actually jumped ship and left his tour, rented a Lear Jet and came to Amarillo, Texas. He told me my low note changed his life. He also folded my steel guitarist Fuzzy Owen in a rollaway bed and rolled him out on the street. That was the pinnacle.
Former president of Starday Records Don Pierce told director Mark Hall in 1989 another story about Jones after Pappy Daily bailed him out of the drunk tank and got him a gig in Houston for $2,500. The next day Jones came to Dailey’s office broke again. According to Pierce, an irritated Dailey said, “Well, George, you just made $2,500 but I talked to some of the guys you were out partying with and they said you went and flushed it down the toilet.” “Pappy, that’s a damn lie!” Jones shot back. “It wasn’t but $1,200.” Jones explained to Country Weekly in his last ever interview two months before his death, “I started on Cokes and it just got the best of me. It’ll do that to entertainers if you’re not strong. I’m in a business that can’t keep away from people drinking.
On tour Jones was always backed by the Jones Boys. Like Buck Owens’ Buckaroos and Merle Haggard’s Strangers, Jones worked with many musicians who were great talents in their own right, including Dan Schafer, Hank Singer, Brittany Allyn, Sonny Curtis, Kent Goodson, Bobby Birkhead, and Steve Hinson. In the 1980s and 1990s, bass player Ron Gaddis served as the Jones Boys’ bandleader and sang harmony with Jones in concert. Lorrie Morgan (who married Gaddis) also toured as a backup singer for Jones in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Johnny Paycheck was the Jones Boys’ bass player in the 1960s before going on to his own stardom in the 1970s.