In 1985, country music legend George Jones released a song called “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” asking what new singers would replace the veterans once they passed away. Well today, Jones became one of those who passed on himself – and it’s probably safe to say that nobody will ever fill his shoes.
The singer with a teardrop in his voice, that could be heard on classics like “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” lived a hard-drinking, hard-partying life filled with alcohol and cocaine for much of his career. He earned the nickname “No Show Jones” for sometimes failing to show up for his own concerts because he was too drunk or stoned. It’s probably something of a miracle that he lasted until he was 81 years old.
When Jones was interviewed by Scott Ross on “The 700 Club,” he was asked about this dark period of his life that came with fame. He answered:
“You are drowning in the business. You forget even that God exists or anybody does, as far as that. My first wives or family or any of those things didn’t matter any more. The only thing that mattered to me was the thrill and fun of what I was doing. You can get lost in all of that and go down the wrong road.”
Jones was married four times, most famously to fellow country singer Tammy Wynette. His demons, however, kept him from a stable life until his fourth wife Nancy used some old time religion to help him stop drinking.
Jones told Ross
“I got down to 105 pounds, and I met Nancy. The doctor told me that I wouldn’t last another two months if things didn’t change. I went into Birmingham to the hospital, and she was there by my side. I went through 30 days of reading the Bible, keeping my mind off of anything else, and the Bible was one of the books that I really believed in but never lived or read like I should have until I was in the hospital. I saw a different life. I didn’t know there was a way back. There was no way. But then I started reading the Bible, and I found that way back with the Lord’s help and Nancy staying by my side.”
Though the path for Jones wasn’t clear sailing – he was in a serious car accident in 1999 that finally put “the fear of God” into him – his faith and friendship with gospel singer Vestal Goodman kept him moving forward on the right path.
This closing section of Ross’ interview with Jones speaks to the man the singer had become:
SCOTT: Your latest album is perhaps an overall commentary on your entire life journey because it’s gospel songs.
GEORGE: I’m more proud of this one than anything I’ve ever done.
SCOTT: It’s going 360 degrees. You’re all the way back to where you started as a kid singing the gospel songs.
GEORGE: What goes around comes around.
SCOTT: And listening to them would rip your heart out listening to them now. What did it do to you as you’re recording those songs?
GEORGE: I never enjoyed doing anything as much in my life. I’ve always said that if I could have made a living someway in gospel music, I would have loved to had that break, but it never was offered to me, a job in that field, so naturally, I got lost on that other road. But now today, like you say, we’re back. We did 24 sides of the old standards and it’s doing better for me right now than anything that I’ve had in a long time.
SCOTT: I don’t want to get all mystical on you, but it would seem as you were singing those songs, you could almost hear the voice of God saying, ‘George Jones, that old rugged cross, that whispering hope.’
GEORGE: I think He kept me here for a purpose.
Rest in Peace, George Jones.