Texan tearaway George Jones has survived battles with the bottle, cocaine and bad business deals to be a true survivor.

The singer's career began as a rockabilly and country singer on an indie Texan label Starday back in the fifties.

Although Jones, now 74, never reached the sales status of Johnny Cash a good woman rescued him.

The Possum's fourth spouse Nancy, like June Carter Cash, turned around his karma and health after his vitriolic split with singing spouse Tammy Wynette who later wed George Richey.

With supreme irony Richey was a writing partner of both George and the late Tammy whose movie Stand By Your Man was released long before her death.

Although Jones has been banished by country radio he has, like Cash, been honoured by former record labels with invaluable compilation discs that we detail below.

But, unlike Cash, there is no Jones tribute disc - none of his peers has the vocal chops to emulate the Possum.

Here is a review of Jones last studio album released in Australia - we also featured his two most recent compilations that haven't escaped from the chute.

The Rock: Stone Cold Country 2001 (BMG)


Cynics scoffed when Oklahoma born superstar Garth Brooks offered to win airplay for Texan legend George Jones by releasing a duet single of drinking song Beer Run.

Brooks also offered to perform the duet with The Possum on the CMA awards show.

But the beer went flat as Garth reneged on both offers and George's record company Bandit milked media mania from the fermented furore.

The fiery fracas has won Jones much needed publicity, sympathy and, ironically, some airplay for his new album The Rock: Stone Cold Country 2001 (BMG.)

Garth finally agreed to the duo appearing on the CMA Awards which also featured the Dixie Chicks performing Bruce Robison's Travellin' Soldier.

"He was always dubious about how Garth felt about him, because Garth had always shunned him," revealed Evelyn Shriver - joint owner of Bandit Records with George.

"And then he met Garth and Garth went on and on about how much he loved him and how much he was going to get him back on radio. Well, George believed it. And until the very end he believed it."

Jones, now 70 and "sober" since crashing his Lexus into a bridge, included Beer Run on his album with a disclaimer.

"George Jones does not in any way condone drinking and driving and the inclusion of the song Beer Run is not an endorsement of such behaviour."

Beer Run is a daft ditty on a disc steeped in the roots country of the Russell Smith-Jim Varsos penned intro and title track The Rock.

Wood And Wire - a variation on the Richard Dobson tune Piece Of Wood And Steel - depicts a factory slave acting out nocturnal dreams on his true love, a guitar.


But that's Jones strength - his choice of songs, especially 50,000 Names from Jamie O'Hara who penned previous album title track Cold Hard Truth.

The tune, cut as a single by O'Hara in 1994, was inspired by the Vietnam Memorial in Washington which also spawned an Iris De Ment tune.

But it's a chilling reading by Jones that elevates this to another level - an emotion of immense intensity even more relevant in the current climate.

The singer reaches deep within when he sings of the pilgrims "fatherless daughters and fatherless sons/ and there's 50,000 names carved in the wall."

Homage is paid to paternal pride in the single - John Wiggins-Harley Allen penned The Man He Was - and honky tonk hedonism in I Got Everything and Around Here.

Jones heart wrenching vocals, set in a rich bed of fiddle and pedal steel, are the vibrant vehicle for tear soaked ballads I Am, Karen Staley's Half Over You and the revamp of Tramp On Your Street from Billy Joe Shaver.

The Rock is a riveting reflection of a true legend whose career spans six decades and four marriages.

So what does George say about Garth - "I made (Garth) sing country for once," Jones told fans at a concert in Houston, not far from where he first drew breath 70 years ago.



"I got cuffed on dirt roads/ I got sued over no-shows." - The Blues Man - Hank Williams Jr.

George Jones kept refusing to record the Hank Williams Jr. penned song The Blues Man for many years when it was pitched to him.

Maybe it felt too personal with lines about drinking and drugging and missing shows. Bocephus reportedly wrote the song about Jones when he was in a drug and alcohol-induced haze and nicknamed No-Show Jones.

"If it's true, then he hit the nail on the head," says Jones, who drove off on his rider mower in search of booze after then-wife, Tammy Wynette, took his car keys to keep him from carousing.

The scene was depicted in the Stand By Your Man movie, a latter day Jones video clip and Bell & Shore song I Want A Mower Like The One George Jones Rode To Town.

Jones is over the booze and cocaine and pills and his aversion to The Blues Man.

He recorded it as a duet with Dolly Parton for his latest album, Hits I Missed And One I Didn't.

"Every time I'd heard the song it always came into my mind as a duet," said Jones who heard it frequently after Alan Jackson made it a Top 40 hit in 2000.

The tune also fits the theme of the album - a collection of some of Jones' favourite country songs plus a few like The Blues Man that were offered to him but which he declined only to see them become hits for others.

"A lot of times they pitched them in a bar or something where I used to hang out years ago. The music was going and all the noise from the people in there. It was a bad time to be pitched a song," he recalled.

Other times, though, it was just poor judgment. "It's like having a bad day. Sometimes, you should stay in bed and sometimes you don't."


Jones sings Willie Nelson's Funny How Time Slips Away, Merle Haggard's Today, I Started Loving You Again, Bobby Bare's Detroit City and the Harlan Howard song Busted - a hit for singing Kentucky born mortician John Conlee and late Ray Charles.

But not everything on the record is vintage.

He covers Randy Travis' On the Other Hand, Jackson's Here in the Real World and Mark Chesnutt's Too Cold At Home.

And there's the more obscure Skip A Rope that Henson Cargill popularised in 1967 that talks about how children learn stuff from their parents that they shouldn't, things like racism and dishonesty.

The one hit that didn't get away that Jones refers to in the album title is his mournful 1980 gem He Stopped Loving Her Today.

The Bobby Braddock-Curly Putman song is about a man who loved a woman until the day he died - literally, with the Today being the day of his funeral.

The song - the biggest of Jones' career - was chosen the #2 country song of all time in a Country Music Television poll of industry insiders a couple years ago.

Ironically it was behind Stand By Your Man that Tammy penned with producer Billy Sherrill in 20 minutes.

Jones re-recorded He Stopped Loving Her Today for this record but kept it true to the original.

The song was redone for business reasons - not artistic ones.

He got tired of having to pay his old label, Epic Records, every time he wanted to use it for a project.

"We decided, 'Why not just record it and have our own version of it,'" he said. "It's hard to tell the difference from the first one."

Country Music Hall of Fame member Jones is among an elite group of aging country stars who form the last links to early figures like Hank Williams.

The Saratoga, Texas, native got his start on radio with husband and wife team Eddie & Pearl in the late 1940s.

After the first of his four marriages failed, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1951 and served three years.


He cut his first record when he got out - an original fittingly called No Money in This Deal.

The following year he had his first hit with Why Baby Why, beginning a remarkable streak that lasted through the 1990s.

His output included a rockabilly period in the '50s under the pseudonym Thumper Jones, several duets with Wynette, his third wife, and duets with pop and rock stars including Ray Charles and James Taylor.

Jones' recovery from drugs and alcohol began with marriage to Nancy Sepulvada in 1983.

Gradually, she helped him clean up and revive his career.

Today, he continues to do about 95 shows a year.

"I'm trying to cut down next year to 65 or 70. I don't want to completely quit because I don't know what to do with myself," he said.

"I'll be out there as long as the people want me to be out there. Country music is my life."


EXPANDED DUETS - (Columbia/Legacy)

Jones disc is an expanded version of his trend-setting 1979 duets album of the same name.

Compiled by the acclaimed reissue producer Gregg Geller, the two-disc sets adds to the original album's 10 songs with 27 duets recorded during the '80s and '90s.

The original release was helped kick off the vogue for veteran singers teaming up with other singers for album collections.

Jones performs with Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and late Waylon Jennings and Tammy Wynette, with whom he recorded many duets during the 1960's and 1970's.

He also sings with new country legends Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless, and Randy Travis and peers Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens and late Johnny Cash.

Jones also reaches beyond Nashville with B.B. King, Shelby Lynne, and the late Ray Charles.

1. Night Life - with Waylon Jennings
2. Bartender's Blues - with James Taylor
3. Here We Are - with Emmylou Harris
4. I've Turned You To Stone - with Linda Ronstadt
5. It Sure Was Good - with Tammy Wynette
6. I Gotta Get Drunk - with Willie Nelson
7. Proud Mary - with Johnny Paycheck
8. Stranger In The House - with Elvis Costello
9. I Still Hold Her Body But I Think I've Lost Her Mind - Dennis & Ray of Dr. Hook
10. Will The Circle Be Unbroken - with Pop and Mavis Staples
11. A Few Ole Country Boys - with Randy Travis
12. It Hurts As Much In Texas (As It Did In Tennessee) - with Ricky Van Shelton
13. You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine - with Patti Page
14. All I Want To Do In Life - with Janie Fricke
15. Wonderful World Outside - with Ralph Stanley
16. You Can't Do Wrong And Get By - with Ricky Skaggs
17. You Don't Seem To Miss Me - with Patty Loveless
18. Patches - with B.B. King

1. A Good Year For The Roses - with Alan Jackson
2. Yesterday's Wine - with Merle Haggard
3. Our Love Was Ahead Of Its Time - Deborah Allen
4. We Sure Make Good Love - with Loretta Lynn
5. Size Seven Round (Made Of Gold) - with Lacy J. Dalton
6. I Got Stripes - with Johnny Cash
7. Fiddle And Guitar Band -with Charlie Daniels
8. We Didn't See A Thing - with Ray Charles, featuring Chet Atkins
9. The Love Bug - with Vince Gill
10. Love's Gonna Live Here - with Buck Owens
11. If I Could Bottle This Up - with Shelby Lynne
12. If You Can Touch Her At All - with Lynn Anderson
13. All That We've Got Left - with Vern Gosdin
14. This Bottle (In My Hand) - with David Allan Coe
15. Talking To Hank - with Mark Chesnutt
16. Never Bit A Bullet Like This - with Sammy Kershaw
17. The Race Is On - with Travis Tritt
18. I've Been There - with Tim Mensy
19. Traveller's Prayer - with Sweethearts Of The Rodeo

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