George Jones

Indisputably one of the greatest singers across the whole canon of country music, George Jones was equally well-known for his hard-drinking bad boy image. His father, a shipyard worker and truck driver, played harmonica and guitar, his mother played piano in the local Pentecostal church and George grew up listening to country music radio shows, getting his first guitar at the age of nine. His first performances involved busking on the streets of Beaumont in Texas and he left home at 16 in search of a professional career, getting spots on different radio shows and managing to meet his hero Hank Williams. After a spell in the US Marine Corps, his emotional and expressive voice won him many fans as he found his way to Nashville, gaining session work and linking up with various contemporaries like Johnny Paycheck and Dan Schafer in the Jones Boys Band. However, Jones' heavy drinking and troubled private life was already proving a problem, while flavouring much of his most popular world-weary material, powerfully emphasised with his wailing, gospel-flavoured singing. He had his first country hit in 1955 with Why Baby Why, eschewing the rock'n'roll craze of the era in favour of hardcore country, with a string of Number 1 country hits, including White Lightning, Tender Years, She Thinks I Still Care and The Grand Tour. His marriage to Tammy Wynette became something of a soap opera as the couple became known as Mr and Mrs Country and their famously tempestuous relationship became the subject of many of the songs both sang. However, they continued to tour and record together, even after their divorce in 1975 - which was marked by the song Golden Ring - and Jones eventually overcame his drink and drug problems to score a series of heart-wrenching 1980s hits like Stopped Loving Her Today, Still Doin' Time and I Always Get Lucky With You. At one point he became known as No Show Jones due to his habit of disappearing, but learned to make fun of his own reputation in song, remained a huge influence on a new generation of singers and was regarded as country royalty right up until his death at the age of 81 in 2013.

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