George Jones Was King of the Country Charts

George Jones in 1970.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

From the time his second single became his first chart entry in October 1955 until his final appearance on Billboard's Hot Country Songs as a featured artist on Aaron Lewis' "Country Boy" two years ago, George Jones distinguished himself as a peerless chart force with 166 charted songs (Eddy Arnold has the second-most with 145). 

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Although many of Jones' other singles are cited more frequently as fan favorites—and other singles were bigger commercial successes—his biggest single came relatively early in his career when the plaintive "Tender Years" logged 32 chart weeks and spent eight weeks at No. 1 in 1961.

The only Jones single with a longer chart run was his self-penned 1962 hit, "The Window Up Above" which stayed 34 weeks in 1960-61, but peaked at No.  2.

Rivaled only by Buck Owens in terms of chart success during the 1960s, Jones achieved three of his 13 No. 1 singles during that decade on three different labels. He tallied 78 Hot Country Songs top 10s, the third-best total all-time, after Arnold's 92 and George Strait's 85.

While still under contract to Musicor, Jones met his future wife and duet partner Tammy Wynette in 1968 (they married in 1969). By the end of 1971, he'd ended a 28-year association with his manager and producer H.W. "Pappy" Daily (to whom he reportedly assigned his royalties as a condition of his departure from Musicor), became Wynette's label mate at Epic under the direction of producer Billy Sherrill, and the two singers entered Hot Country Songs on Christmas week with "Take Me."

Although Jones' personal life began to spiral out of control shortly after opening this new and prolific chapter in his career, he scored five more chart toppers before the end of the decade -- three of those were duets with Wynette -- leading up to the song that would alter the course of his life and career, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which topped Hot Country Songs in 1980. Jones thought the song too maudlin, but Sherrill was convinced it would be a major hit. After finishing up the last vocal session, Sherrill and Jones made a bet on the song's ultimate potential -- Jones lost.

He scored the last of his No. 1 singles with "I Always Get Lucky with You" in 1983, but continued to have top 10 hits on Epic through the end of the decade. He left the label in 1990 for MCA Nashville, where his best solo showing was "High-Tech Redneck" in 1994. He returned to the chart (coincidentally on Epic) as the featured artist on Patty Loveless' "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," which reached No. 14 on Hot Country Songs in 1997. That track won the Country Music Assn. vocal event of the year award that fall, but Jones wasn't quite finished at the awards podium.

After signing with Asylum in 1998, Jones released the haunting "Choices," which stopped at No. 30 on Hot Country Songs, but went on to win the Grammy Award for best country vocal performance by a male artist. He returned to the spotlight in 2001 with "Beer Run," a duet with Garth Brooks which peaked at No. 24.

Jones was present and accounted for when Billboard launched the Top Country Albums chart in 1964, where he peaked at No. 3 with The Best of George Jones.  Although he'd been active for nearly a decade by the time Top Country Albums was launched, Jones has placed 96 titles on that chart, outpaced only by Johnny Cash's 103 charted albums (Jones has one more chart entry that Willie Nelson, who placed his 95th title on the May 4 chart).