I am sure that everyone by now knows that Grand Ole Opry member and Country Music Hall of Fame member George Jones passed away early this morning. His biography is well known and has been printed elsewhere. He was a country music icon who influenced so many others, as he was influenced himself. He said on numerous occasions that Roy Acuff was his favorite singer growing up and that he wanted to sing like Ray. In many ways, George copied Roy's style.
This weekend's Grand Ole Opry performances will be dedicated to George Jones, and the following is the tribute that will be read before the performances tonight and tomorrow:
"This performance of the Grand Ole Opry is dedicated to Grand Ole Opry member George Jones, who passed away in Nashville this morning at age 81.
For countless country fans and fellow country artists, George Jones was, simply put, the greatest country singer who ever lived. His career achievements are as impressive as anyone else's in country music. George charted more singles in his extraordinary career than any other artist in any other format. In 1992, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and won the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award. Ten years later, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence.
George has given us countless songs that will live as long as there is a Grand Ole Opry and as long as people everywhere are singing country music. Among his enduring standards are "Why, Baby, Why?", "White Lightnin'," "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Race Is On, "Walk Through This World With Me," "The Grand Tour," "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," and so many more. Another of his classics is often named by fans the world-wide as the best country music song of all time, the unforgettable "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
As if his body of work as a solo artist was not enough, George added to his repertoire work as part of duo teams, including some of the most popular duets in country music history with Tammy Wynette. Their signature releases include "We're Gonna Hold On," "Near You," and "Golden Ring."
George was known by his many friends as "The Possum", was a matchless influence on the artistss who came after him. Among the many, many Opry members who have cited George as a major career influence include Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Joe Diffie, Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, Brad Paisley, and Randy Travis, to name just a few. Virtually everyone who will take the Opry stage this weekend and for years to come have been inspired by the music of George Jones.
One of the many gifts that was bestowed on George during his time with us is that he lived to an age in which he was able to see the legacy he would one day leave country music. He lived to know what an impact he had made on the music he loved.
We are honored that George chose to spend his 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays with us here at the Opry. On those very special nights, George was surrounded by an Opry House packed with loyal fans. On stage, some of his best friends sang several of George's biggest hits, told great George Jones stories, and shared what the songs and their dear friend meant to them.
Tonight, we're even more thankful for those songs and stories....and for the man who made them an indelible part of our lives. Tonight we think of George's wife Nancy, his family, and friends. Tonight, the Grand Ole Opry salutes our dear friend, Opry member George Jones."
George's history with the Grand Ole Opry is mixed at best. He originally joined the Opry on August 11, 1956. He stayed for a while and then he left, rejoining the show on January 4, 1969. Some say he left again right after that, rejoining the show for a 3rd time on March 31, 1973. What I do know is that he never did the Opry more than a couple of times each year. It is interesting that in their dedication, the Opry highlights his birthday appearances. It should be noted that for each of those years, those were George's only Opry shows. Understand, I agree that George was a country music icon, just not a great Opry member.
I never met George Jones, although I did meet his wife Nancy, who was kind enough to have George autograph his biography to me. Like many others, I saw him several times at the Opry and he was always well received. I just wish that he had been there more often. I also saw him in concert several times and they were great shows. I am sorry that his great voice left him over the past several years. What I find most amazing about George Jones is the fact that he lived to age 81. When you consider his life, the drinking and drugs, the marriages and business failures, that is truly amazing.
I would expect at some point the Opry will have a special show dedicated to the music of George Jones. They are good at doing shows such as that, and they should. His life and legacy should be celebrated and the success he had should be highlighted.
Prayers and thoughts go to Nancy and his entire family.