Backbeat: George Jones Turns 80 With Star-Studded Nashville Bash
Backbeat: George Jones Turns 80 With Star-Studded Nashville Bash

George Jones
Nancy Jones, George Jones and singer/songwriter Travis Tritt celebrate at George Jones' 80th birthday party at Rippy's Bar & Grill on Sept. 13, 2011 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Rick Diamond, Getty Images)

A packed house of artists, industry professionals, and a few fans turned out last week (Sept. 13) at Rippy's in downtown Nashville to celebrate the 80th birthday of "The Possum," George Jones.

The Country Music Hall of Famer, who has placed more entries on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart than any other, was in attendance with his wife Nancy, and took time to chat with reporters before heading over to the Grand Ole Opry for a birthday celebration that included performances by Alan Jackson and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Jones, whose actual birthday was Monday Sept. 12, was visibly moved by the number of artists and fans that were there. "It means everything," he told Billboard.biz. "I'm just overwhelmed. It's great. Everybody has been so wonderful."

Jones said he doesn't have any plans to return to the studio for a solo project anytime soon. However, he didn't rule out any future collaborations with other artists.

"I would love to do a few albums with some different artists. As far as any singles go, I'm not really looking forward to that. I would love to do some duets again."

There would probably be a long line of artists who would love to take part. Tuesday's party was attended by such Music City heavyweights as Travis Tritt, country-gospel singer Guy Pennrod and rising country trio The McClymonts, as well as industry professionals like RFD-TV's Keith Bilbrey and journalist Robert K. Oermann.

Many in Nashville are probably pleasantly surprised that Jones has reached this personal milestone. After all, his struggles with alcoholism and drugs in the 1970s and 1980s are well-documented. Is Jones surprised that he is still here today -- almost six decades after his first single, "There Ain't No Money In This Deal?"

"I don't know what I would have said because I never thought about dying," he admits. "You just wake up one day and look in the mirror and go 'What happened,' he says sheepishly. "That's just the way it works."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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