A list of the most influential artists in history chosen by country stars themselves, another honoree is revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
Praised for an unequaled ability to inhabit the songs he sang, Jones has often been held up as the ideal country singer since his breakout hit “White Lightning” in 1959. He would go on to record what are recognized as some of country music’s greatest songs of all time, including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Grand Tour,” “Golden Ring” (with then-wife Tammy Wynette) and the incomparable “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Plagued with alcoholism throughout his life, Jones had just as many troubles as he had success stories. He earned a reputation as “No Show Jones” for failing to make some concert dates and famously drove a riding lawn mower to the nearest liquor store after his wife hid all of the keys to the family’s cars.
Despite his setbacks, Jones’ career stands as a truly legendary monument to country music as an art form.
Jones was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away in Nashville in 2013 at the age of 81.
“George Jones is one of two or possibly three of the most influential singers, style-wise, that ever came along in country music,” Daniels said. “I did a song with George one time, just an album cut we did with (producer) Billy Sherrill. George is the only person I’d ever seen make a five-syllable word out of ‘church.’
“A lot of kids try to sing like George in their own way, and when they do, they try to stretch a word out or make a lot of syllables out of it or something. It was an affectation. When George did it, it was natural. That was his vocal style. It belonged to him, and it didn’t belong to anybody else. No one ever sang like George Jones did.”
“He milked out every word,” the Oak Ridge Boys’ Duane Allen agreed. “If he was singing about hurting, I mean, it hurt. He drug those vowels and syllables out and wallowed around on them a little bit, and you could feel it. … He got the most out of every lyric of anybody.”
“He understood what he was singing about,” Bare explained. “He could make you feel the pain, and that’s what his songs are all about — pain. He knew how to put it to you.
“‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ … it doesn’t get any better than that. That’s as good as country music will ever get. They might talk about different subjects, but when you say country music, you think George Jones and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.'”
“I think he made no excuses. He made no apologies for however he wanted to sing,” said Vincent. “Of course, it was country music through and through, but he might step out and do something out of the ordinary a little bit. But it always stayed within the template of the voice of George Jones, no matter what song he sang.”
For Morgan, Jones’ gifts were almost otherworldly.
“George is just one of those extremely unique people who had an aura about him,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of those guys and, honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever have them again. … When George Jones came on the radio, even people that don’t listen to country music knew who that was.
“It was really weird because he’s the complete opposite of everything that I expected,” Morgan explained about getting to know Jones. “You’ve seen the movies, you’ve seen the shows, you’ve seen George and ‘No Show’ and the drinking and the partying … but the George Jones that I knew was a sweet, kind, loving, caring gentleman. Every time I ever talked to him, he hugged me and made me feel extremely comfortable. He always made me feel welcomed, and he was just very kind. I always felt like he spoke from his heart, and he was honest.”
Because of his musical gifts and that warm personality, it was almost as if Jones could do no wrong.
“George liked to have fun,” said Strait with a grin. “He was a free-spirited, happy-go-lucky, fun-loving guy, and I think that came out in his music. But his fans could never hate him, no matter what he did. If he ever did something wrong, everybody forgave George. I mean, if he was ‘No Show Jones’ or if he showed up and kicked everybody’s ass, he was still great.”