The Ol’ Possum.
King of Hard Country.
Whoa Charlie…”HARD Country? I’ve heard of Hard Rock, but Hard COUNTRY?”
That’s how George Jones was classified back-in-the-day…not Traditional Country, but Hard Country. Thanks to a voice that, even when young, sounded well-traveled and road-weary, like a friend who’d been through a thousand heartbreaks, yet gets back up and dusts himself off to live another day.
Anyone who knows George Jones’ story knows one particular heartbreak well…
Tammy Wynette. Married in 1969, the union went sour quickly and disintegrated after six years…although they still performed together. “Golden Ring” became a hit after the divorce, er, D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
Jones was legendary for his alcoholism…the lawn mower incident saluted in Vince Gill’s “One More Last Chance” happened twice. Once while married to second wife Shirley Ann Corley, the second time with Tammy (wife number three if you’re counting).
If the alcohol wasn’t enough, Jones was introduced to cocaine during the 70′s by new manager “Shug” Baggott, attempting to arouse the ol’ Possum out of a drunken stupor so he could go on stage and perform.
By the end of the decade Jones was broke and alone, having earned the moniker “No-Show Jones” for a slew of missed performances. He also came close to death and found himself in a psychiatric hospital in Alabama.
For many of these tumultuous years, CBS/Epic Records house producer Billy Sherrill stood by his side, and in fact played a pivotal role in Jones’ turnaround…thanks to one song.
Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock are the writers of this tale, described by Jones in his autobiography: “The song is about a man who loved a woman so much, it killed him when she left…he said he would love her until he died, and only on his deathbed did he stop…”
Sherrill liked the concept but felt it needed some tweaking. After Putman and Braddock got the lyrics to Sherrill’s satisfaction, George Jones was brought into CBS Studio B…a long-gone quonset hut in Nashville, to record.
And record…and record.