George Jones - lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Merle Counts - fiddle, vocals; Mark Dunn - drums; Ron Gaddis - bass, vocals; Kent Goodson - keyboards, vocals; Terry McMillan - harmonica; Clyde Phillips - guitar; Tom Killem - pedal steel; Guest: Ron Haggard - vocals; Guest: Linda Ronstadt - vocals on track 11; Guest: Johnny Paycheck - vocals on track 9
Recorded at New York's legendary Bottom Line club in 1981, Jones was recorded yet again for the Silver Eagle Cross Country radio series when he performed this show to a packed room. By the time he did this show, Jones had cleaned up his life considerably and was no longer "No Show Jones," a moniker he was given during his years of excessive alcohol and cocaine use.
Opening with "Ragged But Right," "The Race Is On," and the uplifting "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms" Jones has no trouble getting the always tough NY crowd deep into the palm of his hand.
He does a moving rendition of "Bartender's Blues," a country ballad written for him by one his biggest fans, James Taylor. With hundreds of hits to choose from, Jones usually plays a different setlist from show to show. On this one, the highlights include: "Grand Tour," "Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong," White Lightning," and the Hank Williams classic, "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)." He closes the show with "He Stopped Loving Her Today," regarded by many as the greatest country song ever.
Nobody sings songs about heartache and regret like George Jones does. He has endured a tumultuous career, recurring bouts with alcoholism, and a nasty public divorce from his former partner and ex-wife, the late Tammy Wynette. Still, Jones has been able to get back on his feet and move on.
Jones career in country music dates back to 1949 when he backed the legendary Hank Williams on rhythm guitar for a sole radio broadcast. Jones, who was working at the station at the time, was so awestruck by Williams and his legacy, that he later claimed he didn't playing a single correct note, the entire show.
By the late 1950s, he was making his own records, and when he married his third wife, singer/songwriter Tammy Wynette, in 1969, the duo became country music's king and queen. But under the glamour, the center was crumbling. Jones had already been a closet alcoholic when he married Wynette, and during their five-year marriage, it only got worse.
Among the many legendary stories of Jones' alcohol and drug abuse (he became a coke addict in the '70s, as well) is a classic story of his second wife's attempt to keep him from getting to the closest liquor store—which was eight miles away from his Franklin, Tennessee home. His wife took all the keys to their many cars and trucks, but forgot about their rider mower. Jones, determined to have a drink, rode the mower 90 minutes to the liquor store and immediately bought a case of bourbon. He missed many performances during his "lost weekend" period, thus the country music industry's nickname for him, "No Show Jones."
As a country artist, he ranks as the most charted singer-songwriter ever with 167 charting songs. He has had the most Top 40 country hits (143) and only Eddy Arnold has had more Top 10 hits (Jones has had 78). Superstars from Johnny Cash to Frank Sinatra have called him the greatest country singer.
Jones has been clean and sober since the 80s, and today he continues to record, perform and collaborate with artists as diverse as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello (both massive fans). 2008 marks Jones' 53rd year in country music, and his 39th year at the Grand Ole Opry.