George Jones: Portraits of the artist as an old man

“Early on during his Saturday night show at Durham Performing Arts Center, George Jones paused to offer up a bit of philosophy from The Gospel According to Jones. He allowed as to how he didn’t much care for ‘hot young country radio’ nowadays, especially the fact that it shies away from cheatin’ and drinkin’ songs. Surveying the crowd, he added the punchline with a standup-comic’s timing.

“ ‘I wouldn’t a had a job!’ ”

“Even though time and former vices have robbed Jones of most of his voice (he’ll turn 81 years old next month), he still has impeccable timing and a way with a one-liner. Not to mention fierce fashion sense, as evidenced by a dark plaid sharkskin jacket that appeared to date from the Carter administration.”

— From “Voice weak, but spirit strong as George Jones plays DPAC” by David Menconi in the News & Observer (Aug. 19, 2012)


“After George Jones’ show Friday night, the Ovens Auditorium crowd would have been no less amazed if Muhammad Ali had tottered onstage and knocked out Mike Tyson.

“Stunningly, Jones proved that — even at age 64 — he is still one of the best singers on the planet. When he laid into one of his classic country ballads, people by the dozens bawled like they were watching the end of a two-hankie movie.

“Jones can’t run the long race anymore — he could only sing for eight or 10 minutes at a stretch. Every so often his band would play a fiddle tune while Jones caught his breath.

” ‘The Race Is On’ sent him from a deep bass to a high whine in the space of a chorus. ‘Bartender’s Blues’ (written by N.C. native James Taylor) forced him to bend nearly every line….

“But the 2,000 or so in the house — one of the most fired-up crowds I’ve seen at a country show — gave him a second wind. When it came time for ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ one of the finest country songs ever written, Jones pushed on the ‘h’ in ‘her’ so hard you could feel your heart bruise.

“Within an hour he was off the stage. But on this night, an hour of George Jones was worth all the hats in Nashville.”

— From “Even at 64, Jones is among the best” by Tommy Tomlinson in the Charlotte Observer (April 13, 1996)

George Jones, 81, died today at a hospital in Nashville. His next performance in North Carolina had been scheduled for July 27 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.


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