At 75, George Jones is sober, happy and touring
At 75, George Jones says he has plenty for which to be thankful. He's touring the country and he has a new album in the stores. "Kickin' Out the Footlights...
The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y
At 75, George Jones says he has plenty for which to be thankful. He's touring the country and he has a new album in the stores.
"Kickin' Out the Footlights ... Again," released Oct. 24, pairs Jones with old country-music pal Merle Haggard. Jones sings five of his favorite Haggard songs. Haggard sings five of his favorite Jones songs. And they duet on four tunes.
"We had a lot of fun doing this album in the studio," Jones says by phone from his tour bus. "Merle came in from California and we had a couple, three days together."
They recorded in Nashville with some of Music City's finest country-sessions players.
"Who knows how much longer that either of us will be recording," Jones says. "We would like to hope that our true fans will have the album, will put it away."
Jones' true fans are thankful they still have Jones around.
He almost died in a car accident in 1999. He was on a ventilator for 11 days after the crash. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
And he gave up drinking and smoking upon his recovery.
"The wreck put the fear of God in me," Jones admits. "When I opened my eyes and came out of the coma, I started wanting to hear gospel music, and the first person I thought of was Vestal Goodman, from those shows with the Goodman Family.
"And they came to visit me when I could talk and see visitors," Jones says. "I right then made up my mind that enough was enough. I made up my mind to quit smoking and drinking.
"I smoked for 60 years. If I could give it up, anybody could. With no help but from the good Lord and my wife, I gave them up," Jones says.
His reputation for living hard — for instance, his celebrity marriage in 1969 and well-publicized divorce in 1975 with country star Tammy Wynette, who died in 1998 — gave him plenty to sing about.
Does he think he had to do all that running around to experience the kind of life that sells songs?
"That is a hard question to answer," Jones says. "Who knows? ... Just being on some of that Jack Daniel's whiskey will get you in certain moods that will give you more of that pain feeling in a ballad or sad song," Jones says.
"We only know it one way. We don't know what would have happened if I hadn't drank at all.
"I wish I hadn't. I can tell you that much," Jones says. "If I had my preferences today, I would have never had a bottle touch my lips."
Yes, it's fun for George Jones to travel the country with his wife, Nancy, and a clear head.
"It's just great to know what you're doing for a change," he says. "What a different life it is. So many times, I'd given up on life itself.
"To wake up sober, not sick and dying of a hangover. What a wonderful feeling it is to sit down at the breakfast table and not gag on your food," Jones says. "To have a wonderful wife and grandkids. A whole new life. This life has only been going on for less than 10 years," he says. "I tell you what, if you're having problems, give the clean way a try."
Don't think that a sober Jones won't speak his mind.
"I'd rather cater to the old people than do what's going on today," he says. "What happened to Nashville, too many people found out that in country music you can make some money. That's what they've done, made some money and go like rock stars and cater to teens only. But it's not country. They should come up with a new title, stop using the word country."
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