(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
It seemed only a matter of time until the Crown Princess of country music’s reigning superstar couple would achieve her certain destiny.
However, as Georgette Jones, the couple’s now-grown child, writes in her new memoir, fairy tales don’t always come true. For Tamala Georgette Jones, her pedigree has been very much a mixed blessing. The book, The Three of Us: Growing Up With Tammy and George, details her dealing with the blessings and the curse of that pedigree.
Much of her childhood was about divorce. Tammy and George divorced when Georgette was 4. They were living in Florida, where George was busy restoring an old plantation house and building a country music theme park around it. His dream was to be able to stop touring, get off the road for good and stay home and play shows there.
Unfortunately, his business sense and acumen never kept pace with his dreams. And although he and Tammy continued to love each other and to tour and play concerts together, they were unable to remain a couple. The main reasons, writes Georgette Jones, were “his nippin’” and “her naggin’.”
All George really wanted in life was to be able to be left alone to pursue his interests, writes Georgette. And all Tammy ever sought throughout her life was a Prince Charming of her own, a strong champion to take care of and protect her. Neither of them was able to achieve those goals. Tammy died of an apparent prescription drug overdose before she could, and George seemed to finally get his wish after his marriage to his wife Nancy.
After Tammy divorced George, she ran through a number of unhappy marriages — disastrously for Georgette and her sisters from previous marriages.
Growing up for Georgette meant she seldom saw George and didn’t really know him as a father until she was grown. After she discovered that Tammy’s last husband, George Richey, had been siphoning off the child support payments George Jones had been sending her — money she thought Jones had not been providing — she realized her father really did love her.
She remained close to her mother, even through the bad marriages. But she has few kind words to say about those other husbands, especially Richey, who took over Tammy’s life and career as her Svengali. And also apparently as her drug facilitator. There are many Richey episodes in the book, including her bankruptcy, his role in Tammy’s “kidnapping” and his threat to ruin her with a tell-all book about her being “a f*****g druggie and a whore” if she ever tried to leave him. And then there is the mystery still surrounding Tammy’s death.
Georgette was finally able to reconcile fully with George and know him as a father again after Tammy’s death. Georgette’s life at that point had taken on some of the worse aspects of a country song. Tammy’s last wishes for her daughter were never honored by Richey, as administrator of the estate.
For her, she writes that Richey’s actions at the time of Tammy’s public memorial service at the Ryman Auditorium were particularly galling.
“For anyone who has ever asked me what being the child of a celebrity was about, let me say that Mom’s public funeral combined what constitutes the lowest and highest points,” she writes. “First, there is no doubt that it warmed my heart to see the people who came from all over the world to pay tribute to Mom. Those fans truly loved her, and that meant a lot to me and my sisters. But the flip side was hearing Richey on the telephone, bragging about the event being as big as Princess Diana’s death. The difference between him on those phone calls and him when he sobbed to the stars in attendance or for cameras was obscene.”
Georgette, divorced with two children and caught up in a fierce custody battle, was barely able to make ends meet. Her mug shot had been splashed all over the tabloid Star, when she was charged (falsely) with attacking a police officer. She was facing trial on that charge and then was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
But after Tammy’s death, Nancy Jones put George and Georgette together again and they began a rapprochement that continues to this day.
Growing up, Georgette loved music and sang in public from age 3. Later, she toured with Tammy and often sang with her onstage. But she had seen too much of the realities of country music, she felt, to ever pursue such a career herself.
“I loved singing backup for Mom,” she writes, “the feeling of being a part of her world, the screaming crowds. But I knew what that applause was about. I understood that people wanted to see Tammy Wynette and George Jones’ daughter up there singing, and I never once mistook my talent for that of my parents.”
Georgette chose nursing as her profession.
These days, Tammy Wynette is mainly remembered for “Stand by Your Man” — a song she hadn’t wanted to record at all. George Jones is mainly remembered for his legend as the greatest singer in country music. His name is often dropped in songs by young male country singers who want to show just how musically hip they are.
This book is a poignant reminder that real, very mortal human lives exist or existed behind those public perceptions.
Meanwhile, Georgette is now pursuing a solo music career. She made the decision after taking part in a Country’s Family Reunion show made up of the children of various country stars.
“For the first time, I knew that others felt exactly as I did!” she writes. “I wasn’t the only insecure child of a star.”
She gradually tried her hand at music until the point in 2009 when she gave up her nursing job to pursue music full time.
But, just as Tammy kept her beautician’s license up to date throughout her career in case she ever needed it, Geeorgette has kept her nursing credentials valid.