There I was, sitting at my computer this morning when the CNN newsflash alerted me, “George Jones, Country Music Legend, Dead at 81.” I felt something similar to a kick in the stomach. Emotions! “The golden age of country music is slipping away.” “I thought these legends would never die.” But, then again, he was 81. Sometimes I don’t always see time passing by.
Now, don’t send me any nasty mail, but I was never really a George Jones fan. I admired him, of course, as a legend. I just had a thing for the women of country music. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton. And, of course, Tammy Wynette. To me, they were the Holy Trinity of Country Music Queens.
Then, when George married Tammy in the mid-1970s, well, they became Mr. and Mrs. Country Music.
When George and Tammy went through the big D-I-V-O-R-C-E, it felt like splitsville in my own family. I dreamed they would get back together one day. I still believed in fairy tales, I guess.
They had a “two-story” house, and I took Tammy’s side of the story.
Especially when she was found beaten on the side of the road.
I was just sure ole Jones was the culprit. Relax! That wasn’t true, but it seemed to be at the time, and I held a grudge against Possum Jones.
It didn’t help matters when, several years later, some friends and I went to see George in concert. This was during the time when they called him “No Show Jones.” He was notorious for pitching a drunk and disappearing, leaving his fans with worthless tickets in their hands. He did show up, but he was tanked! Too much white lightnin’. He rambled on a few minutes, slurred through a song or two, then he was gone. We did enjoy a foot-long chili dog and a bottle of Coke before we went away disappointed. George apologized and said he couldn’t perform, but would come back later and do it for free. (If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that line!)
Later, when I was a newspaper reporter, I interviewed Tammy before a concert. We sat together on the sofa in a tiny dressing room backstage in Greenville, South Carolina.
Her backup singers were competing for the mirror, teasing their hair for that night’s performance. The air was thick with FinalNet or some industrial strength hairspray. I managed to get out a few questions.
I got to ask Tammy about George and their trials and troubles. She had nothing unkind to say about George. She had plenty to say about her own mistakes and felt they could help my readers. How? I quizzed.
“Don’t do what I’ve done,” she joked. “That you learn from your mistakes and that you don’t stop with your mistakes. You just keep on going and try to be a better person. I think my mistakes and the things I have been through in my life have taught me to be a better person.”
In the mid-1990s, George and Tammy put their past behind them and reunited. It made the headlines, even The Enquirer. (Don’t tell anyone read it on occasion.)
They say George was devastated when Tammy died in 1998. I must have cried into my satin sheets for days myself.
One thing I have to say about George and Tammy. I admired them both because they had the courage and honesty to bring their ups and downs into their music. These two lived their songs.
I thought of George’s smash hit, He Stopped Loving Her Today, the tearjerker about a man who carries a torch for his former lover until the day he dies. Only then will he let go.
I’d rather think they have been reunited in Hillbilly Heaven. George and Tammy, together again!