Sammy Kershaw Fast-Tracks His Second Christmas Album
Sammy Kershaw Fast-Tracks His Second Christmas Album

When it comes to his favorite singers, Sammy Kershaw says he has a very short list. “I have four heroes – Hank Williams,  George Jones, Mel Street, and the late Ronnie Van Zant,” he admitted to Billboard, though he stressed “If someone made me put them in order, it would be George Jones at the top.”

That love and admiration for Jones shines brightly on Kershaw’s new disc, "Do You Know Me? - A Tribute To George Jones." The singer said that the title cut stopped him in his tracks. “Billy Lawson and Johnny Holland wrote the song for George to cut a few months before he passed away. He never cut the song. I called Billy one day and told him I was  going to do a tribute record, and I sent him a song I wrote called ‘The Route That I Took,’ to listen to. He said he had one too, so I asked him to send it to me and let me hear it. When I heard it, I cried like a little baby. It hit me so hard. I just had to cut it.”

In addition to the pair of new cuts, the disc contains twelve of Jones’s biggest hits – though Kershaw says narrowing the set list down was a tough task. “I was sad because I had to start scratching off songs. There were so many. What finally entered my mind was that when people come to hear me, they come to hear the biggest records I’ve had. So, I decided that I was going to have to go for Jones’s biggest hits.”

One song that made the cut was the 1968 hit “When The Grass Grows Over Me,” which left quite an impact on Kershaw, “That is my favorite George Jones song ever. I remember hearing the song, and thinking ‘That is so final. When you stop loving someone, that means you’re dead and in the ground. That’s when I’m going to stop.”

Kershaw worked with Jones going back to his teenage years, and charted a hit with “The Possum” in 1994 with their duet of “Never Bit A Bullet Like This.” The song brings back a flood of memories to Kershaw, who says “That was one of the highlights of my career. I remember he and I went in the studio, We were standing in the middle of the room, and we both sang in the microphone together. There was so much energy in that room that we could have lit up Nashville for a month. We were friends for forty-two years, and we got closer over time, but I never really thought I would get into the studio with him. I wished it, but I never brought it up. Buddy Cannon and Norro Wilson were producing me, and they were working with him at the same time. They found the song, and asked if I would do it as a duet with him. I said ‘That’s a stupid question. Call him up!’ So, he did. It was a dream come true.”

The singer shares the spotlight with Georgette Jones on the classic “Near You,” a Billboard number-one hit for her parents in 1977. “I hadn’t thought about doing a duet on the album, but at the last minute, I thought it don’t seem right if I don’t put a George & Tammy duet on there. I was trying to figure out who to ask, but all of a sudden, Georgette came to mind. Who better to sing Tammy’s part than her and George’s daughter? We were in the studio cutting, and we called her up. I asked her to come do a duet for the album. She said ‘OK,’ and then asked what song. She thought I was going to say ‘Golden Ring,’ because everybody assumes that because it’s a classic. I told her I wanted to do ‘Near You.’ That made her happy. We cut that in about a hour and a half.”

The singer also covered what has become one of the most recorded songs of the Jones catalog - “She Thinks I Still Care.” In addition to Jones’ 1962 original, the song also was made a hit in 1974 by Anne Murray and Elvis Presley three years later. “I wish I had written that one,” says Kershaw light-heartedly. “That one is a song that everybody has covered. He was a hero to so many musicians and singers. Knowing him for so long, I know what that meant. I understood his being a hero to so many. He lived everything he sang, and that’s one of the biggest things I loved about him. You could hear it when he sang them. It’s called country soul. That’s the kind of singers I like.”