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“If we all sang like we wanted to/ we’d all sound like George Jones,” – Waylon Jennings, “It’s Alright”

Revered for his emotive baritone that belted tunes of heartbreak and referenced his own tumultuous lifestyle, the late country singer George Jones led a career that spanned more than 50 years. It was marked with 14 No. 1 country hits, excessive alcohol and cocaine use that led to several near-death experiences and included four wives, including a six-year marriage from 1969 to 1975 to the late country superstar and duet partner Tammy Wynette.

Jones died on April 26 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., at the age of 81, leaving behind four children and current wife Nancy Sepulvado, who lived with Jones in Franklin, Tenn., and helped keep Jones mostly sober throughout their 30-year marriage.

Born September 12, 1931 in the East Texas oil town of Saratoga, Jones first picked up the guitar before he was 10 years old. By the mid ’50s, he was discovered by record producer Pappy Daily, who co-owned Texas label Starday Records. Signing with Starday launched Jones’ career, and the country crooner went on to sing with other country legends like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He performed countless chart-toppers still held in high esteem in country music today, including 1962’s “She Thinks I Still Care” and the Grammy-winning 1980 heart-breaker, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Often temperamental and known to brawl sometimes and blow off performances at other times, the Country Music Hall of Famer’s habits – like driving himself to bars and liquor stores by lawn mower when his wives would confiscate the car keys – often got as much attention as his singing and songwriting. But in spite of his wild ways, Jones hit the right note in listeners time and again with the force and emotion with which he could deliver a line.

Which is why he is considered by both fans and fellow artists to be one of the greatest country crooners of all time.

Jones was planning to hang up his performing hat this year, announcing in 2012 that The Grand Tour, which began in late 2012 and picked up again in February 2013, would be his last. Jones’ May 2 funeral was held at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville and was open to the public. Famous faces included a who’s who of country royalty, including Alan Jackson, Wynonna Judd, Kenny Chesney, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Randy Travis and former first lady Laura Bush, among the many other country artists and celebrities who performed or spoke to honor the late singer. / Issue 146 - June 5545
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