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George Jones’ had risen from a talented youngster performing on the street corner with his father to a superstar climbing the Top Ten charts in the 50′s. But soon his personal and professional life took a turn for the worse and was headed to a downward spiral in the 60′s and 70′s. It wasn’t until the 80′s with help from his fourth wife Nancy Sepulvada that Jones got back on track both in his life and with his music. Remembering George Jones comes to a conclusion with his comeback and final years.
Musically, Jones began making a comeback in 1980 with a Top Ten duet with Tammy Wynette, “Two Story House,” early in the year. However, the song that pushed him back to the top of the charts was the dramatic ballad “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The song hit number one and started a new series of Top Ten hits and number one singles that ran through 1986. They were so successful it rivaled the peak of his popularity in the ’60s. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was followed by the Top Ten hit “I’m Not Ready Yet” and the album ‘I Am What I Am’ in the fall of the 1980, which became his most successful album, going platinum.
From 1981-83, Jones had eight Top Ten hits. Although he was having hits again, he was still struggling with his personal demons. Jones was going on crazed, intoxicated rampages, which culminated with a televised police chase of Jones, who was driving drunk through the streets of Nashville. With the help of his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvada, whom he had married in March 1983, he was able to shake his drug and alcohol addictions. By the end of the year he had completed his rehabilitation.
Jones continued to have hits on the Top Ten regularly until 1987, when the onset of newer artists dominated and kept Jones’ music off the charts. Interestingly, these same artists were heavily influenced by Jones himself. In 1987 Jones and his wife moved back to Nashville where he recorded his final album with Billy Sherrill in 1988 titled ‘One Woman Man’. This album was Jones’ final solo Top Ten hit as well as his last record for Epic Records.
Despite no longer having a huge presence on modern country radio in 1990’s, Jones continued to record and tour. After the release of ‘One Woman Man’, Jones recorded a duet with Randy Travis, “A Few Ole Country Boys,” that was a Top Ten hit in the fall of 1990. Jones had signed with MCA and released his first record for them in 1991 titled ‘And Along Came Jones’. In 1995, he reunited with his ex-wife Wynette to record ‘One’. In April of 1996, Jones published his autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All. In the book, he devoted a full chapter to the changes in the country music scene of the 1990′s. In his later years Jones was also very vocal about his disappointment for the direction country music has taken in the last two decades. In 1998, he released another studio album titled ‘It Don’t Get Any Better Than This’.
Following the release of ‘It Don’t Get Any Better Than This’, Jones left MCA and moved to Elektra/Asylum, who signed him on the condition that he would record hardcore country music.
While Jones was completing work for his debut album for the label, he crashed his car into a bridge in Nashville on March 6, 1999. Though he was critically injured, he pulled through and recovered. However, the investigation revealed that Jones had been drinking and driving. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, DWI, and entered a rehab program. The release of his debut album, ‘Cold Hard Truth’, went on as scheduled in the summer of 1999. He then went on to release the albums ‘The Rock: Stone Cold Country’ in 2001 and in 2005 ‘Hits I Missed…And One I Didn’t’, which found Jones looking back over the years and picking songs that he originally declined to record, but were hits for the other artists. On the record, he recorded a duet with Dolly Parton titled “The Blues Man.” In 2006 he released the album ‘God’s Country: George Jones and Friends’. His final album was released by Vanguard Records in 2008 titled ‘Burning Your Playhouse Down’.
Jones has received many honors during his long career, from Most Promising New Country Vocalist in 1956 to being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and being named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. In 2012, he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. At the ceremony, his longtime friend Merle Haggard paid tribute to him. His many awards include Billboards, Grammys and CMA’s.
In popular view, George Jones was the finest vocalist in the recorded history of country music. He started out as a hardcore honky tonker in the tradition of his idol Hank Williams and developed effective subtle ballad style while staying closer to the roots of hardcore country. Throughout his career, he never left the top of the country charts and overcame his personal struggles. Many others have paid tribute to Jones while expressing their love and respect for his legacy. George was a true country legend who paved the way for many country stars’ success. He will always be remembered by music fans.
Image credit: George Jones via Facebook