My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Georgette Jones

Spotlight Artist: Tammy Wynette (1942-1998)

tammy-wynette-200-030612One day in 1966, a receptionist was absent from her desk and the course of country music was forever altered. It sounds like an unlikely scenario, but an unattended receptionists’ desk is what prompted Wynette Byrd, an aspiring singer and divorced mother of three, to knock on the office door of producer Billy Sherrill.  Sherrill tried to brush her off, telling her to leave a tape that he would listen to later.  She didn’t have one, so she offered him a live audition, right then and there.  He listened to her and then politely dismissed her, but shortly thereafter had a change of heart.  He had been trying to obtain the rights to an independent label recording of “Apartment No. 9”, a tune written by Bobby Austin and Johnny Paycheck.  When his efforts failed, he decided to have one of his own artists record the song instead.  He offered it to Wynette, who, having been turned down by every major label in Nashville, was about to return home to Birmingham, Alabama and abandon her dream of becoming a singer.

“Apartment No. 9”, produced by Sherill, was a modest hit for Tammy Wynette, as she was now known, reaching #44 on the Billboard country singles chart.  It performed well enough to secure her a contract with Epic Records.  Her second single, “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”, reached #3, was followed by a string of #1s, and a star was born.  Tammy Wynette was eventually credited by her label as the first female country artist to have a million-selling album and became known as The First Lady of Country Music.

She was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942 in Tremont, Mississippi.  Her father died from a brain tumor when Wynette was nine months old.  She was raised by her grandparents when her mother obtained work in a Memphis defense plant. After World War II ended, her mother remarried and returned to Mississippi.  Like many mother s and daughters, they did not always get along.  The desire to get out from under her mother’s control played a large part in Wynette’s ill-advised decision to marry Euple Byrd a month before she was to graduate from high school.  Unsurprisingly, the union was not a happy one and Wynette left him prior to the birth of their third daughter.  Shortly after obtaining work as a hairdresser in Birmingham, Alabama, she began to pursue her dream of becoming a country singer.

After securing her deal with Epic, success came quickly for Tammy.  “I Don’t Wanna Play House” became her first #1 hit in 1967.  That same year, “Take Me To Your World” also chopped the charts, as did “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” in early 1968.  Then, one day in the recording studio she helped Sherrill finish a song that he had been writing.  She had some reservations about the final product, but he convinced her to record “Stand By Your Man”, which became her signature hit and one of the most recognized songs in country music.  In 2003, CMT ranked it at #1 on its list of top 100 country songs of all time.

Although very successful professionally, Wynette’s personal life continued to be tumultuous.  She married her childhood idol George Jones in 1969, shortly after her brief second marriage to songwriter Don Chapel was annulled.  She and Jones had a daughter together, Tamala Georgette Jones, who was born in 1970, and they also recorded a number of successful duet records.  They divorced in 1975, primarily because of Jones’ alcoholism.  Another brief marriage to Michael Tomlin ended after only 44 days.  In 1978 Tammy married producer and songwriter George Richey, to whom she remained wed for the rest of her life.

Beginning in the 1970s Tammy was frequently plagued with ill health, which began with complications from a hysterectomy that she underwent shortly after Georgette’s birth.  She was frequently hospitalized for bile duct infections and underwent dozens of surgeries, which led to a dependency on prescription painkillers.  She entered the Betty Ford Center in 1986 to overcome her addiction.

Tammy’s hits began to taper off in the early 1980s, although she remained a concert draw.  She continued to work a grueling schedule despite her continuing health problems.  She landed a role on the CBS daytime soap Capitol in 1986.

The entire nation mourned when Tammy Wynette passed away peacefully in her sleep on April 6, 1998, at age 55.  The initial cause of death was said to be a blood clot in her lung, but like her life, her death was shrouded in drama.  Her daughters alleged that Wynette’s husband George Richey had overmedicated her and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him.  Wynette’s body was disinterred and an autopsy cited cardiac arrythmia as the cause of death.  The lawsuit against Richey was subsequently dropped.

In 1998 the Country Music Hall of Fame voted to induct her into its hallowed halls. Wanting to keep the decision a surprise, her family kept the news from her. Sadly, she passed away shortly before her induction, unaware of the honor that had been bestowed on her.

Along with Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette was a trailblazer for women in country music during the 1960s and 1970s.  While we cannot do her rich legacy justice in a single month, we are attempting to cover at least some of the highlights as we spotlight her career during the month of November.  Keep the Kleenex at hand.

Album Review: Sammy Kershaw – ‘Do You Know Me? A Tribute to George Jones’

Do You Know MeIt would be futile to attempt to quantify the number of male country singers over the past 40 years or so that have cited George Jones as a major influence on their careers, so it was inevitable that tribute albums would begin to appear following the Possum’s death last year. There is perhaps no one more suited to singing an album of Jones covers than Sammy Kershaw, who not only is among the more sincere of the self-proclaimed Jones proteges, he is also the one who sounds the most like Jones.

Do You Know Me? A Tribute To George Jones was produced by Kershaw himself and released last week on his own imprint Big Hit Records. It consists of twelve songs that span the most successful stretch of Jones’ long and distinguished career, from 1955’s “Why Baby Why” to 1985’s “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”. Casual fans of both Jones and Kershaw could easily and understandably be duped into thinking that Jones himself is the performer on these recordings. More serious fans won’t have any problem distinguishig the difference, but the comparison is a bit unfair, if only because Jones made most of these recordings when he was in his vocal prime, while Kershaw is at a point where the wear and tear on his vocal chords is beginning to show. He sounds the most like Jones on uptempo numbers such as “Why Baby Why”, “White Lightnin'” and “The Race Is On”. The ballads are well done and mostly faithful to the originals, but Kershaw can’t quite match the magic that Jones and Billy Sherrill achieved on numbers such as “The Grand Tour”, “Once You’ve Had The Best” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” It should be pointed out, however, that nobody could and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing more justice to these songs than Sammy does.

My favorite track is “When The Grass Grows Over Me”, a song written by Don Chapel that Jones took to #2 in 1968. That same year Jones repaid the favor by running off with Chapel’s wife Tammy Wynette. Georgette Jones, the only child that resulted from George and Tammy’s six-year marriage joins Sammy on “Near You”, an old pop standard that dates back to 1947. It woas originally recorded by its composer Francis Craig, and later covered by the likes of The Andrews Sisters, Roger Williams, Andy Williams, and several others. George and Tammy recorded it in 1974 when their marriage was in the midst of crumbling. Released in 1977 after the couple had divorced, it reached #1 on the Billboard country singles chart. Georgette is not the singer her mother was, but she sounds enough like Tammy to make her an ideal duet partner for Kershaw. With a little background noise and if one doesn’t listen too closely, one could almost believe that it’s George and Tammy singing.

In addition to the covers of Jones’ classic material, Do You Know Me? contains two new songs, including the title track, which is biographical ballad written for Jones by Johnny Holland and Billy Lawson, which he never got around to recording. Nobody could sing this song as credibly as Kerhsaw does, and had he not recorded it for this album, it likely would never have seen the light of day, which would have been a shame. The album closes with another ballad “The Route That I TooK”, a “Choices” -like number written by Sammy himself which talks about the Possum’s tendency not to do things the easy way.

Nothing on this album is likely to ever find its way to mainstream country radio airwaves, but it is a labor of love that truly deserves to be heard and it’s a must-have for any George Jones or Sammy Kershaw fan.

Grade: A

Album Review: Georgette Jones – ‘Till I Can Make It On My Own’

georgette jones till i can make it on my ownGeorgette Jones’s third Heart of Texas album features her best vocals to date, but her least imaginative selection of material, as this album has been conceived as a tribute to mother Tammy Wynette. She does not sound much like either illustrious parent, but her light airy vocals have a very attractive tone which makes her worth listening to on her own merits. Her phrasing is also excellent with a natural, unforced feel. Like all Heart Of Texas records, this is impeccably produced (by the label’s Justin Trevino) in traditional country style, so it makes pleasant listening even if the repertoire is over-familiar.

Georgette’s voice works particularly well on the title track, which has a wistful air to it distinguishing it from the more impassioned original. A languid take on ‘Til I Get It Right’ with tasteful string accompaniment is also a highlight, with a subtle vocal interpretation. ‘Take Me To Your World’ is sweet and sincere, with very pretty harmonies. She sounds resigned on an understated ‘Stand By Your Man’, which I liked. The less well known ‘Stayin’ Home Woman’ and ‘Run Woman Run’ are also both quite enjoyable

There are several duets. Producer Justin Trevino helps out on the George Jones-penned ‘Take Me’, which is nicely done although it pales rather compared to the original. Billy Yates guests on ‘Golden Ring’, which is pleasant but again lacks the original’s force.

Veteran Tony Booth enjoyed a minor career on Capitol in the 70s, before backing Gene Watson for some years, and his deep, grizzled voice makes an interesting contrast with Georgette’s insubstantial sweetness on ‘My Elusive Dreams’, and one which suits the song quite well.

Someone called Keith Nixon shares the vocals on the playful ‘Something To Brag About’; this one is fun. A duet with Amber Digby on ‘Run, Woman, Run’ is repeated from Georgette’s last album, Strong Enough To Cry.

Georgette’s voice is a little too sweet and gentle for ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’ to have its full impact, although she is convincingly vulnerable. Her resolve to lose her respectability does not however convince on ‘Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad’. ‘Apartment # 9’ is delivered plaintively, but didn’t make much of an impact on me.

The CD liner notes comprise several family photographs of Georgette with Tammy, so if you want Tammy’s recipe for banana pudding (topped with meringue) this is the place to find it.

While not an essential purchase, I rather enjoyed this record.

Grade: B

Album Review: George Jones – ‘Still The Same Ole Me’

If George’s career had ended in 1979, he would still be regarded as one of the greatest singers in country music history. But 1980’s award winning ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ became his signature song and the biggest hit of his career. I Am What I Am, the album from which it came, remains his best selling studio album. Our review of that album has been unavoidably delayed, but keep reading.

Still on a high after the massive success of I Am What I Am and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’, George’s follow-up record was released in 1982. Although not quite as good as the latter, it sold well and has been certified gold, and continued his run at the top of the charts. The vocals are outstanding, and Billy Sherrill’s production is more restrained than it sometimes was. The material is pretty strong, with some oustanding tracks, although it probably suffers in comparison to its predecessor.

The dramatic opening track ‘Still Doin’ Time’, written by John Moffatt and Michael P Heeney, was George’s first #1 after ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’. A downbeat admission by a man metaphorically paying for his sins by drinking away his life, “Still doing time In a honky tonk prison”. It’s pretty much vintage George Jones, but is the only track to reference alcohol. In real life he was approaching the turning point when with the help of his fourth wife Nancy he was able to stop drinking.

The title track, ‘Same Ole Me’, was the only other single released to promote the album, and reached #5. Featuring the Oak Ridge Boys on harmony vocals, it is an older man’s tribute to long lasting love, although it was written by a young one, winning Paul Overstreet one of his first cuts. George also finally included ‘Someday My Day Will Come’, his single from a few years earlier, which had been left off I Am What I Am, no doubt because of its relatively poor chart performance.

One of my personal favorites here is ‘Good Ones And Bad Ones’, a plaintive survey of women the protagonist has loved, which George later covered in duet with Mark Chesnutt:

A good one will love you for all that she’s worth
A bad one will take you for more
A good one will cherish the key to your heart
And a bad one a key to your door

A good one will love you for richer or poorer
Bad makes bad even worse
A good one will love you till death do you part
And a bad one makes sure you go first

The delicately mournful ‘Couldn’t Love Have Picked A Better Place To Die’ This is my other favorite. This is quintessential sad George Jones, as he bemoans the fading of love with a masterly vocal, comparing his loss to that of “lovers who want to be free”. The Jordanaires provide harmony vocals on this track, and on ‘I Won’t Need You Anymore’, a romantic declaration of eternal love (written by Troy Seals and Max D Barnes), which George elevates with his vocal to something special.

The mid tempo ‘Together Alone’ (another featuring the Jordanaires) takes a sardonic look at a couple with disparate tastes and interests and no apparent common ground (save their eventual side-by-side graves). It’s a rather depressing picture of loveless lives, which he suggests is far from uncommon. Also looking at the grim realities of life is ‘Daddy Come Home’, a melodic song about the impact of divorce on the children involved. The use of a child (in fact his and Tammy’s daughter Georgette, aged nine) to sing the chorus solo makes it feel rather manipulative, but it is the only track I have reservations about on this record.

‘You Can’t Get The Hell Out Of Texas’ is a rare (and enjoyable) venture for George into western swing as he pays light-hearted tribute to his home state as “the hell raising center of the earth”. Also good is the rueful surprise of ‘Girl, You Sure Know How To Say Goodbye’, where she sweetens the blow of leaving him:

You kissed me in a way you never did when love was right
You hypnotized the hurt right out of me
I stood and watched you walk away
Oh honey, and I couldn’t even cry
Girl, you sure know how to say goodbye

It remains one of George’s highest selling albums, being certified gold in 1990. Although sales figures fell, his success continued for the next few years. He only scored one more #1 single, 1983’s ‘I Always Get Lucky with You’, but a string of top 10s, including classic hits like ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’, kept him commercially relevant all through the pop-influenced years of the early to mid ’80s.

The album is easy to find on budget CD or digitally.

Grade: A

Spotlight Artist: George Jones (Part 2 of 3)

George Jones and Tammy Wynette met in 1966 when they were part of the same package show. They first performed together in 1967 when they were part of a package show with country star David Houston, who had a hit duet with Tammy (“My Elusive Dreams”) on the charts at the time. Tammy had been the opening act; one night Houston’s manager had asked her to allow Houston to go on first, since the singer had something else he’d wanted to later that evening. They wanted Tammy to come on stage during Houston’s segment of the show to perform their duet, and then come back and do her own segment later. Tammy objected and an argument ensued. She had been using Houston’s band because she couldn’t yet afford one of her own. Her refusal to change the sequence of the program resulted in Houston’s manager refusing to allow her to use the band. George Jones quickly came to the rescue; he allowed her to use his band, and also performed Houston’s part of their duet with her.

George had been Tammy’s childhood idol, but although there was a mutual attraction, both were married to other people, and their relationship remained platonic — at first. George’s second divorce was finalized in 1968, and one day he stopped by unannounced at the home of Tammy and her second husband Don Chapel. The couple were having an argument, and when Chapel insulted Tammy, a drunken George took offense. He angrily overturned the dining room table and declared his love for Tammy, who responded in kind. Jones left the house with Tammy and her three children. Shortly thereafter, the Chapels’ marriage was annulled on the grounds that Tammy had violated Alabama law by not waiting a full year after her first divorce before entering into another marriage. George and Tammy announced that they had eloped, though they did not actually get married until the following year.

It was the beginning of a stormy, made-for-the-tabloids relationship, which produced a daughter (Tamala Georgette, born in 1969) and a series of hit duets after Jones signed with Epic Records and Tammy’s producer Billy Sherrill, his 18-year association with Pappy Dailey having deteriorated beyond repair. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Jones acknowledged in his 1996 memoirs that his alcohol abuse was largely responsible for the breakdown of the relationship, though he disputed many of the claims that Tammy made in her 1979 memoirs.

Though his marriage to Tammy lasted only six years, his relationship with Epic Records and Billy Sherrill endured for two decades. Many industry insiders were skeptical that Sherrill — who had a reputation as a control freak in the studio — and Jones would be able to get along. Not only did they get along, together they raised George’s career to new heights with classic recordings such as “A Picture Of Me (Without You)”, “The Grand Tour” and “Bartender’s Blues.” But their greatest moment on record came in 1980 with “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, the biggest record of Jones’ career, which earned him another #1 hit, his first platinum album, and a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Country Performance in 1980. It was also named Single of the Year and Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 1980 and Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in both 1980 and 1981. It ended a dry spell that had begun as Jones’ alcoholism and drug abuse worsened in the aftermath of his divorce from Tammy. Jones stated that “a four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.” Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam, it has frequently been named as the greatest country song of all time.

Jones continued to abuse alcohol and cocaine, often missing concert dates, which earned him the nickname “No Show Jones.” Although his recording career had been revived, he continued on a downward spiral personally until 1983, when he met Nancy Sepulveda, who would become the fourth Mrs. Jones, and the woman that George credits with rescuing him from drug and alcohol addiction.

Album Review: Georgette Jones – ‘A Slightly Used Woman’

I was intrigued when I heard that the only daughter of two of country music’s greatest singers, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, was finally embarking on a music career and releasing an album on traditional country specialist indie label Heart Of Texas. With her genetic heritage, Georgette Jones ought to be a spectacular vocalist herself. She does have an airy sweetness in her voice which is all her own, owing nothing to copying her parents’ styles, but it is one which at times tends to skate prettily over the surface of her material, and is not entirely suited to the hard country songs she has picked, many of which really need a bigger voice.

Georgette first appeared on record as a small child with a cameo on the chorus on the post-divorce ‘Daddy Come Home’, a track on his 1981 release Still The Same Ole Me. An early marriage distracted her from any thoughts of a music career. She had a development deal with RCA in the mid 2000s, which did not come to anything, and there seems to have been some involvement with Curb. She re-emerged last year on the opening track on her father’s recent duets album, Burn Your Playhouse Down, with a rather sweet song which she co-wrote with one-hit-wonder Mark McGuinn, apparently about their real-life father-daughter relationship. ‘You And Me And Time’ reappears here, together with a pleasant cover of George’s hit ‘The Race Is On’. But it is Tammy Wynette who casts by far the bigger shadow on their daughter’s record.

The title track is a cover of one of Tammy’s songs which sounds potentially autobiographical, about a woman who is wealthy but lonely and possibly abused; living “in a mansion fit for a queen”:

But inside there’s a slightly used woman
On her body there’s scars and there’s dents
She’s just waitin’ for someone to love her
And ignore all his deep fingerprints

Georgette herself wrote (along with Ernie Rowell), a deeply touching letter in song addressed to her mother:

Now I wish that I could tell you
All the things you said were true
I wanna thank you for your love
And the little things you used to do

I know God took you for a reason
And I’m sure heaven welcomed you
I still want to say I love you but I can’t
I hope you knew

The delicate, almost fragile vocal on these two songs make Georgette sound vulnerable in a way which make the emotion feel very real and at these moments she really convinces as an artist. Her voice isn’t quite strong enough to convey the unfettered heartbreak of much of the material.

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