NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Now It’s Professor George Jones

The Possum Launches His University and Its Fightin' Possums

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Well, I must say that I never imagined that I’d see this day. I knew there was a George Washington University, a George Mason University, even a George Fox University. But I never thought I’d live to see a George Jones University.

When I read the announcement, I envisioned an elegant, leafy university campus with Jeffersonian limestone buildings. Then, I read on and figured it out. The school’s mascot is the Fightin’ Possum. The school emblem features a possum and banner flying the words “E Pluribus Possum.” The school colors are black and blue.

This will be a fairly low-cost music career instructional program, designed to teach what can’t be gotten elsewhere. The school’s mission is “to enlighten and educate participants” on the ABCs of the music industry and how to succeed in it.

The Middle Tennessee area is blessed with good university music and music business programs, mainly at Belmont, Trevecca Nazarene and Middle Tennessee State universities. I’ve been affiliated with Belmont as an advisory board member, and I can testify to the quality of that institution’s educational experience. But George Jones University (may I call it GJU, for short?) won’t be competing with those programs. It’s aimed at the nuts and bolts of a country music career, at life’s lessons, at mistakes and the ways to avoid or correct them.

It is a very good idea. And it could just as well be called the School of Hard Knocks, for that’s what I sense these students will learn about. Nobody knows that side of the business better than Jones, who has been through it all and come out on the other side.

The practical, everyday side of being a country performer has really never been taught. How do you get your money from a nightclub owner who promised cash right after the show and then just laughs at you? I have seen artists and artists’ managers collect their hard-earned bucks in that kind of situation with the help of Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. You hope that GJU can teach you how to avoid ever getting into that kind of pickle, in the first place.

There are all kinds of everyday issues. How to decipher a royalty statement (and how to get one). How to translate a management contract. How to read a recording contract. How to lease a bus and find dependable drivers. How to navigate the waters of booking agents. How to find an honest manager and an honest lawyer.

Obviously, Jones will bring in different experts to lecture on their expertise on country music careers. And there are plenty of good such teachers around.

Tandy Rice, who will be the dean, has long been prominent in country music and has taught at Belmont. Rice mentioned longtime broadcast personality Ralph Emery, songwriter Tom T. Hall and Hank Williams Jr. as possible teachers.

But, if I may, I would like to humbly recommend some expert adjunct professors from outside the immediate country music field. First would be the great Keith Richards, to lecture on the dangers and lures and quality, or lack thereof, of various chemical and alcohol career aids and boosters. And also on extracurricular activities to avoid, as in tree climbing.

Maybe Jerry Lee Lewis, to explore the importance of humility and also the sanctity of marriage.

Perhaps Michael Jackson, to talk on money management and the importance of keeping one’s private life private. Britney Spears on the importance of modesty. Madonna on methods of career change and image control. Nick Nolte on grooming tips. Barbra Streisand on managing media relations.

Naomi Judd has a new book out on aging gratefully — very important for those artists fortunate enough to get to grow old — and she seems always eager to address a crowd.

I figure that sales of George Jones University T-shirts alone can fully endow GJU, and I wish the school the very best.