George Jones served as the voice behind some of the most iconic and memorable country songs. His fans know all about his several hit songs, accomplishments, and awards. They even know about his various relationships, including his highly-publicized marriage to fellow country royalty, Tammy Wynette.
But what most fans didn’t know is that the “He Stopped Loving Her Today” singer lived a quite eventful life full of surprising moments and facts.
Here are our top five things you probably didn’t know about George Glenn Jones.
5. He Grew Up Performing On The Streets Of East Texas
George Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, on September 12, 1931. He is one of eight children in a low-income family. But despite the hardships, the Jones’ household was one filled with music. His father played the harmonica and guitar while his mother played the piano each Sunday in the Pentecostal Church.
When Jones was nine, his father bought him his first Gene Autry guitar. He quickly picked out the melodies to his favorite songs on the instrument that he became so attached to it he would often fall asleep with the guitar in his arms.
This led to Jones skipping school to roam the streets of Beaumont with his guitar hanging over his shoulder. He would sing for anyone who would listen. One Sunday, Jones set up a shop at a shoeshine stand singing songs of Roy Acuff. Pretty soon, a crowd had gathered, and at the end of the day, Jones earned about $24. “I’d never seen so much money in my life,” the country singer later recalled.
From that moment on, music dominated George’s life. Formal education could no longer hold his interest, and after repeating the seventh grade, he dropped out of school. By his early teens, Jones found himself playing in the dive bars of Beaumont, Texas. When he turned 16, he already left home for Jasper, Texas, where he worked as a singer at local radio station KTXJ.
4. He is A Big Fan of Hank Williams
And he finally got the chance to meet him during one of his radio station stints. Hank Williams came by the KRIC radio station, where Jones used to work, to promote his show. Jones was supposed to play electric lead for Williams; however, he couldn’t play a note.
“I was so intimidated at the sight of Hank Williams and the thought that I was in his presence that I was paralyzed with fear. I simply stood there and watched him arch his back and let that haunting voice coming from his skinny frame fill the room,” Jones wrote on his autobiography.
When Jones heard Williams died on New Year’s Day of 1953, he cried a lot. “You could say he was the biggest part of my life at that time. That’s how personally I took him and his songs,” he said. Little did he know that he would be one of the few singers that could fill the void left by Williams.
So at the peak of his music career, it’s no longer a surprise when Jones released two albums dedicated to Williams, “George Jones Salutes Hank Williams,” and “My Favorites of Hank Williams.”
3. People Call Him “The Possum” And “No Show Jones” For A Reason
“When you’re called ‘The Possum’… it stays with me. There’s no way I can ever live it down,” Jones once said. But did you know how he earned that nickname? Apparently, it was because of his looks when he was young.
“I had an album out with a side view of me with a crew cut. I was very young, and my nose looked more turned up, and I’ve got little beady eyes, so I guess I did look like a possum! So they both laid into me and called me ‘Possum,’ and it got everywhere. There was no way I could stop that, so (I thought) I’ll just have to live with that!” Jones revealed.
“No Show Jones,” on the other hand, was a nickname that stuck with Jones for several years, due to his failure to show up to a number of his concerts. He missed 54 shows in 1979 alone. The country icon has admitted that alcohol and drugs became a bad habit, which he let overshadow his career.
2. He Professed His Love For Tammy Wynette During A Dinner With Her And Her Husband
Before George Jones and Tammy Wynette were married, Jones went over to Wynette’s house one night to have dinner with her and her then-husband, songwriter Don Chapel. While fixing dinner, Wynette and Don Chapel got in a heated argument. Don called Wynette a “son of a bitch” in front of Jones. Jones, who was secretly hiding his admiration with Wynette, lost it.
“I felt rage fly all over me,” Jones recalled. “I jumped from my chair, put my hands under the dinner table, and flipped it over. Dishes, utensils, and glasses flew in all directions. Don’s and Tammy’s eyes got about as big as the flying dinner plates.”
1. He Recorded The First And Most Well-Documented Lawnmower Incident
In the late 60s, George Jones was living eight miles from Beaumont, Texas, and the nearest liquor store. When he had been drunk for several days, his then-wife Shirley Ann Corley made it actually impossible for him to buy another liquor. So she hid all the keys to every car they owned and left.
However, she forgot about the lawnmower. “There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat, a key glistening in the ignition,” Jones recalled. “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.”
The lawnmower-riding-incident happened again when he was married to Tammy Wynette. Guess our beloved George Jones has always been up for a little adventure.