Music News & Reviews

Jones' legend keeps growing

You might have heard about the brouhaha over George Jones' comments a few months ago.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jones, 78, opined that country-pop singers like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift had "stolen (the) identity" of country music.

"So what they need to do really, I think, is find their own title, because they're definitely not traditional country music," Jones said.

Jones later clarified his statement, saying he didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings.

"I'm just old-timey, I guess," he said. "I like the country sound, the real country sound, and I'm not a fan of the new stuff.

"The big dollar people have come in and changed (things). What I call country music is Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson and George Strait.

"Country music is simple, but it's real. It's not phony. It's right there where the heart is, and the soul. Without that, you don't have country."

Jones is one of country's most legendary figures, with a voice considered among the best and a hard-living reputation to match. He'll headline a concert on Saturday in Greensburg to benefit the Twilight Theatre, which was destroyed in the May 4, 2007, tornado that leveled most of the town. A group of Greensburg residents is raising money to rebuild the theater.

These days, Jones runs into himself in odd places.

His most iconic hit, the 1980 weeper "He Stopped Loving Her Today," was named the best country song of all time on "Good Morning America" last fall. He was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2008. He was pleasantly surprised to find his music on an episode of "C.S.I." last year.

But between the brawling, the car and tour bus accidents, the various illnesses, the decades of cocaine and alcohol abuse, the frequent gunplay and that one time he was stabbed, Jones is frankly surprised to find himself anywhere.

He is a country song made flesh, his exploits so vivid, so legendary, they have occasionally threatened to eclipse The Voice: The wives (four, including Tammy Wynette); the missed shows (it's why they called him "No Show Jones," much to his regret); his famed adventures in lawn mower misappropriation (Jones drove his mower down the highway to the local bar after being denied the keys to the car). He may wish otherwise, but "I don't know of any stories told about me that aren't true," he admits.

"It was true about the lawn mower, but when people told it they said I was married to Tammy Wynette. That part of the story wasn't true. I was married to my first wife at the time."

These days, contemporary Nashville prefers its superstars less ornery. Jones doesn't know what would happen to him if he was a young artist starting out today.

"I don't know if I would be (successful) or not because traditional country music is not embraced as much as the newer version. However, Alan Jackson has done very well sticking to true country music, and this new guy Jamey Johnson is having a lot of success as well. So maybe there would be a market for me."

Jones plays two or three days out of most weeks at an age when many artists have retired to front-porch rocking chairs. These days, he lives outside Nashville with his fourth wife, Nancy, though he doesn't get home as much as he'd like.

"I have a couple fishing ponds that are stocked real good," Jones says. "I haven't been down there yet."

If you go

george jones

What: The country singer will perform a concert to raise money for the Twilight Theatre in Greensburg.

Where: Greensburg Municipal Airport

When: 9 p.m. Saturday. A lineup of opening acts will start at 5 p.m.

How much: Advance tickets $23; $25 at the gate. Charge by phone at 580-273-8044.

For more information, go to www.greensburggrows.com.

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