George Jones - lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Merle Counts - fiddle, guitar, vocals; Ray Hayes - fiddle; Hank Singer - fiddle; Mark Dunn - drums; Ron Gaddis - bass, vocals; Kent Goodson - keyboards, vocals; Terry McMillan - harmonica; Clyde Phillips - guitar; Tom Killem - pedal steel
The Silver Eagle Cross Country radio series once again captured George Jones & The Jones Boys when they performed the firsts of two shows in Owensboro, KY, in 1987. Opening with his classic "No Show Jones," he rips through a set of hits, traditional country standards, and some newer material, among them "Once You've Had The Best," "Race Is On," "Who's Gonna Chop My Baby's Kindlin'?," "I've Always Been Lucky With You," and "The One I Loved Back Then." A poignant moment comes when Jones does "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," a beautiful ballad that pays tribute to the great country music stars of that time, such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings.
Early in the show, he does a moving rendition of "Bartender's Blues," a country ballad written for him by one his biggest fans, James Taylor. He takes time to sing "Happy Birthday, Edwina," to the mother of a waitress at the venue, before closing with his greatest song, "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
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 to 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 play 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 the 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 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. She took all the keys to their cars and trucks, but forgot about their rider mower. Jones, determined to have a drink, rode the mower 90 minutes to liquor store and immediately bought a case of bourbon. He missed so many performances during his "lost weekend" period that the country music industry gave him the moniker, "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.