Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
George Jones, a legend in country music and a native of Southeast Texas, died Friday at the age of 81.
Jones, whose career spanned nearly 60 years, died Friday morning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after being hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure, according to his publicist Kirt Webster in an article by the Associated Press.
Jones, who was currently in the middle of his farewell tour, was hospitalized on April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure. He experienced numerous cancellations and postponements in 2012 due to illness as well, including his last concert performance in Southeast Texas, which was held on Nov. 23, 2012, at Nutty Jerry’s Entertainment Complex in Winnie.
A final, all-star concert had been scheduled for Nov. 22, 2013 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Artists including Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore and the Oak Ridge Boys were set to perform.
Jones has recorded over 150 hit songs, both solo and duets, during his storied and often newsmaking career. This includes 14 No. 1 singles during a span of five decades such as “White Lightning,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “The Door” and more.
He was idolized not just by fellow country artists, but by Frank Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and countless others. “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones,” Waylon Jennings once sang.
His impact as a musician is undeniable. Many of those same musicians and key people in the local music industry were saddened by the loss of Jones on Friday.
“When we first built Nutty Jerry’s in 2010, there were four legends in country music we were determined to have on stage - Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis and George Jones. The last living legends that were the root of country music. That’s a fact!” stated Jerry Nelson, owner of Nutty Jerry’s Entertainment Complex in Winnie, Texas, through the venue’s Facebook page. “The world of country music will never be the same. Just as George sang ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,’ nobody will fill the shoes of this legend from East Texas.”
Along with recent performances over the past few years at Nutty Jerry’s, Jones has also performed at Ford Park in Beaumont. John Hughes, the general manager of Ford Park, issued a statement Friday as well following Jones passing.
“We were honored to have hosted this legendary performer twice,” Hughes said. “Once with Merle Haggard in a standing room only, or should we say dancing room only, crowd on March 24, 2006, and again on June 15, 2007 with Loretta Lynn.
“Hailing from Southeast Texas, he had not only fans but friends in the area. Many came out to see him and shared funny and poignant stories with us about the ‘old days.’ He touched us all with his songs and will be remembered, referred to and missed. His influence on country music is indelible.”
Vidor-native and country music star Clay Walker posted a short but straightforward message on his Facebook page Friday after learning of Jones death.
“George Jones was an icon to a lot of singers, especially to me, growing up in his home town,” Walker said in his post. “We will miss him.”
Mark Chesnutt is a fellow Southeast Texan and country music star in his own right. It wasn’t uncommon to hear Chesnutt sing a Jones classic, “White Lightning,” at one of his shows. Jones passing on Friday touched Chesnutt deeply.
“I have no words to express my admiration and love for George Jones,” Chesnutt said in statement. “To say he was my ‘hero’ does not do justice to the life-time impression he made on me, both personally and professionally. George Jones is the foundation of country music and he’s the reason I wanted to perform. He’s the reason I’m still here in this business and out there on the road. He was my mentor and my teacher; George was my friend.”
Chesnutt credits Jones with helping pave the way for so many aspiring country musicians through the years, including himself, and was thankful for his guidance and friendship.
“When I was just starting out, we toured together and he was the headliner. After a few shows, he told me that I was going to close the shows (because he wanted to watch Andy Griffith.) For a newcomer, it was intimidating to open for him, but there was even more pressure to close for him.
“George gave me strength and encouragement,” Chesnutt continued. “He kept telling me, ‘You can do it, son.’ George Jones is the ‘Father of Country.’ We will all miss his voice, and I will miss his voice call me ‘son.’”