Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Farewell Possum.

George Jones wasn't a murder ballad type of guy, he was more of "drinking whiskey and crying 'cuz she left me" honky tonk guy.  But looking at his life, it's almost surprising that he didn't become the topic of a murder ballad: violence, drug addiction, divorce, occasionally singing like a duck on stage, more divorce, and a lot of booze.

I'm not kidding about the duck thing either:

In his autobiography "I Lived to Tell It All," country legend George Jones describes a mega-bender of booze and drugs that continued until his brain snapped and he found himself locked in a Donald Duck voice that he couldn’t stop using when he spoke. Let me reiterate: George Jones got so wasted that he was only able to speak in a Donald Duck voice for days on end. He performed several entire concerts in his Duck impression and, at one point, to make matter worse, he locked himself in his dressing room and wouldn’t hit the stage until he was introduced as Hank Williams.  - Holy Taco 

There's also this legendary tale:

Once, when I had been drunk for several days, Shirley decided she would make it physically impossible for me to buy liquor. I lived about eight miles from Beaumont and the nearest liquor store. She knew I wouldn't walk that far to get booze, so she hid the keys to every car we owned and left. 
But she forgot about the lawn mower. I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our property. There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-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. -  George Jones, "I Lived to Tell All"1

But that voice:

I've been racking my brain trying to find words to describe it that haven't already been used.  Pure  heartbreak in a voice.  A national treasure. How about, "goddamn, that voice"?

Only a voice like that, could lyrics like this seem poinant:

I pulled the head off Elvis
Filled Fred up to his pelvis
Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone
And so are you

Eventually, with the help of his 4th wife Nancy, Jones cleaned up.  With the exception of a few stumbles (and one huge car crash) he pretty much stayed out of the news.  

He died April 26th 2012 at the age of 81.  With all the slick, pop driven, sugar coated crap that's being passed off as country music,  I can't help but thing that so much of the real thing has died with him.


1.  Jones, George with Tom Carter.  I Lived to Tell it All. Dell Publishing, 1996

2.  Ferris, Roger. D. The King is Gone and So Are You 

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