Dies At 81

Cowetans remember George Jones as music legend, kind man

by W. Winston Skinner

Country singer George Jones died Friday – leaving several Coweta residents with memories of the music legend.

“Heaven better get ready for some great country music,” said country star Alan Jackson, who is from Newnan. “While George was known for his wild and crazy days, I’ve known him for 25 years as a friend. He had grown into a real good man.”

Jackson said Jones “will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music – there’ll never be another.”

Jackson’s sister-in-law, Coweta resident Jane Johnson, said Jones and his wife, Nancy, are special people who were particularly kind to her father, W. Dan Jackson.

“George would ride him around his farm in the golf cart,” Johnson said. She remembered that her father was invited to sit on the side of the stage at the last Jones’ concert he was able to attend.

Jones “walked over to him when he sang ‘I Don’t Need No Rockin’ Chair,’” she said. “The next year, Momma and I went… and George talked about Daddy during the concert.”

Jones reached out to the family when Dan Jackson was ill. “He called when Daddy died and said he wanted to come to the funeral, but did not want to cause a disturbance,” Johnson said.

Newnan resident Sharon Harrison remembered meeting Jones several years ago when she worked as a waitress at a Golden Corral in Jonesboro. “They were doing a festival down at the racetrack on 19/41,” she said.

Harrison told Jones that his hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” was the favorite song of her parents, Tom and Judy Shaw. “He was really nice,” Harrison said, recalling Jones was seated in a quiet area in the back of the restaurant.

Jones was 81 when he died at a Nashville hospital after a year of ill health. Johnson said she had learned of his worsening health about a week ago. “I just didn’t have a good feeling about it,” she said.

In a 2011 interview quoted by the Associated Press, Alan Jackson reflected on Jones’ genius. “He just knows how to pull every drop of emotion out of it of the songs if it’s an emotional song – or if it’s a fun song he knows how to make that work. ...He was a big fan of Hank Williams Sr. like me. He tried to sing like Hank in the early days.”

While Williams was a singer and a great songwriter, “he didn’t have that natural voice like George,” Jackson said. “Not many people do. That just sets him apart from everybody.”

Jones recorded number one songs in five separate decades. In his half century-plus career, Jones evolved from young honky-tonker to elder statesman as he recorded more than 150 albums and became the champion and symbol of traditional country music.

Jones survived long battles with alcoholism and drug addiction, brawls, accidents and close encounters with death, including bypass surgery.

In song, like life, he was rowdy and regretful, tender and tragic. His hits included the the foot-tapping “The Race is On,” the foot-stomping “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” the melancholy “She Thinks I Still Care,” the rockin’ “White Lightning,” and the barfly lament “Still Doing Time.”

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