“If we all sounded like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones” — Waylon Jennings
Country music has produced many legends, but one name in particular is at the top of nearly everyone’s list — George Jones. Frequently acclaimed as country music’s greatest living singer, we are proud to announce that he is our spotlight artist for the month of July.
George Glenn Jones was born in a log cabin in Saratoga, Texas, near Beaumont, on September 12, 1931, the youngest of eight children. The family got its first radio when George was seven years old, and when he was nine, his father bought him a guitar, and his lifelong love affair with country music began. He quickly learned that he could earn money through his music, often getting free bus rides in exchange for entertaining the other passengers. By age eleven, he was busking in the streets of Beaumont, earning as much as twenty-five dollars a day — and in what was to become a lifelong habit — blowing the money in an arcade as soon as it was earned.
When George was 17, he married Dorothy Bonvillion. The union lasted less than a year; they were divorced by the time their daughter Susan was born. In order to make the court-mandated child support payments, George joined the Marine Corps. He didn’t see combat, but he obtained some gigs singing on Saturday nights and continued to hone his craft.
After leaving the Marine Corp in 1953, Jones returned to Beaumont and got a job as a disc jockey at radio station KTRM. He caught the attention of Jack Starnes and H.W. “Pappy” Dailey, the owners of Starday Records. His earliest records didn’t have much impact beyond East Texas, but by 1955 he had his first bonafide hit with “Why Baby Why”, which peaked at #4 on the Billboard chart, and might have charted higher had it not been that Red Sovine and Webb Pierce recorded a cover version for Decca Records (their version went to #1). In 1956, Jones was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry.
Starday was eventually sold to Mercury Records, and George remained with the label until 1962. Pappy Dailey continued to be George’s manager and record producer (although Jones later said that Dailey had done very little in his role as producer and that Jones himself performed most of the production duties). While he was at Mercury, George had such hits as “White Lightnin'”,(his first #1), “Color Of The Blues” , and “The Window Up Above.” During that time, he developed a more polished vocal style, and his records’ production shifted from a raw honky-tonk style to the more sophisticated Nashville Sound of the day. In 1962, he followed Pappy Dailey to United Artists Records, where he scored such classic hits as “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On” and a number of memorable duets with Melba Montgomery, including “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds.”
In 1964, Pappy Dailey and former Mercury executive Art Talmadge bought out United Artists’ share in New York-based Musicor Records, and Dailey’s clients, including Jones and Melba Montgomery, were transferred to the new label. Jones’ first sessions at Musicor were duets with the label’s flagship artist, Gene Pitney. Their hit duets together included “Things Have Gone To Pieces” and “I’ve Got Five Dollars And It’s Saturday Night.” As a solo artist, George recorded almost 300 songs during his Musicor tenure, and scored 25 hits, including “Love Bug”, “Walk Through This World With Me”, “If My Heart Had Windows”, “Say It’s Not You”, “When The Grass Grows Over Me”, and “A Good Year For The Roses.”
George had remarried in 1954 to Shirley Corley. Although the marriage lasted fourteen years and produced two sons, the two were not well suited for each other. Shirley showed little interest in George’s career and opted to remain in Texas when he moved to Nashville. Her lack of support, combined George’s alcohol abuse took its toll on the marriage, and the couple divorced in 1968. Shortly thereafter, George met a young up-and-coming singer named Tammy Wynette.