George Jones, considered by many to be the greatest country singer of all time, died Friday morning at the age of 81. Fellow country singer and friend Trisha Yearwood shared her memories of the singer with Billboard this afternoon.
One of the very first gigs I ever did was when George was opening up a souvenir shop on Music Row. I was brand new. I hadn’t even been on the road. I didn’t even have a band. I ran into Nancy Jones at the label and she asked me to come down. And of course I went. When I got there, she announced that I was going to perform. I didn’t even know how to play ‘She’s In Love With the Boy’ on the guitar. I had nothing going on and George invited me on the bus, made me feel welcome, and said, ‘Well, you gotta sing something. Why don’t you sing something of mine?’ and I said ‘How about ‘Bartender’s Blues?’ So he loaned me his guitar and I sang with his band playing his guitar with his name written on the guitar strap. That was such a nice gesture. It was a surreal moment.
(Editor’s note: A few years later, Yearwood recorded “Bartender’s Blues” with Jones for 1994’s duets album, “The Bradley Barn Sessions”)
When we sang that together, he was about three feet from me and what I remember about that, he would comment -- if I would do a lick he’d like -- he’d go like, ‘Oh yeah!,’ and so they had to edit a lot of that out and I kind of wish they hadn’t because it was so surreal to be standing there and do some lick that George Jones thought was cool. And then, vice versa, they had to edit me out a lot too. I just thought he got better with age. His voice when he started was amazing and as his voice matured, he sounded better and better.
I feel like his gift in his music is making you believe every word that he says. That’s what every artist wants to do, but some people have an ability to take it way beyond that and to communicate on a level that is impossible to even talk about and I truly think Jones is one of those artists.
I was lucky enough to be on the same label as George for a while, so I got the chance to be around him at a lot of different functions. I never got an arrogance from him or a ‘I’m George Jones.’ I don’t think he ever really understood his impact and just how great he was.”