Country icon begins "The Grand Tour" on Feb. 2, is working with Dolly Parton on a final album: "I'm just waiting for her to tell me what to sing and when to sing it!"
Over the past six decades, George Jones has performed to countless fans. On February 2 in Tunica, Miss., that story will begin to come to an end with the launch of "The Grand Tour," Jones' final series of concerts -- named after his classic 1974 chart-topper. The singer tells Billboard that while there are no regrets about his decision to retire from the road, his emotions are running high.
"It is a little bittersweet," says the 1992 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. "I have been blessed to do what I love for all these years and when I return to places that I know I will be performing for the last time it makes me a little nostalgic and sad. I will surely miss my fans and the good people I have met along this journey."
In addition to the fans, Jones' mind also goes back to the many artists he has shared a stage with over the years. When asked about a few tours that stand apart from the others, "The Possum" didn't miss a beat. After recalling fond memories of touring with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, he singled out the late Tammy Wynette, his wife between 1969-1975.
"We had been divorced for many years and each had different spouses but we came together for a five month tour in 1995," he recalls. "The fans loved it and just about every show was sold out. They especially liked it when we would sing a duet and my wife Nancy and her husband George Richey would walk out on stage."
Jones is also bringing the curtain down on his recording career, as well. After making records since the 1950s, (His first Billboard top ten was 1955's "Why Baby Why") and placing more singles on the country chart than any other artist, he is also starting work on his final release, with the help of Dolly Parton.
"I love Dolly, always have and I am so honored to be doing a project with her," he says. "She is writing most of the songs and we all know what a great songwriter she is. I am just waiting for her to tell me what to sing and when to sing it!"
Jones has worked with Parton before. Actually, he was the original artist to sing with her on 1991's "Rockin' Years" before Ricky Van Shelton.
Jones has also shared the microphone with several artists outside the country format -- ranging from Harry Connick, Jr., James Taylor, Elvis Costello and Linda Ronstadt. What were some of his favorites? "All of the above," he states. "Ray Charles, Keith Richards and Leon Russell also come to mind." Jones' 1962 classic "A Girl I Used To Know" was once cited by Charles as his favorite country song.
With so many artists calling him the world's greatest country singer, how does Jones want to remembered? He has a simple answer. "I would like to be remembered as a singer who stayed true to country music and did it my way."