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
The Silver Eagle Cross Country radio series recorded George Jones and his group, the Jones Boys, nearly a dozen times between 1981 and 1985, and this performance from the Sundance club in Bayshore, Long Island is among the finest of all of them.
After opening with an instrumental version of "San Antonio Rose," George Jones and the boys give an irresistible performance that includes many of his staple classics. "No Show Jones," a name he had been given by the concert industry after his much publicized bouts with alcohol and cocaine is a crowd favorite, as is "Once You've Had the Best," and "The Race Is On," which he has performed at nearly every show for the last twenty years.
Another highlight is "Bartender's Blues," written for Jones by his longtime friend and huge fan, James Taylor. Jones' forlorn voice takes several of the tracks to another plateau, among them, "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)," which easily could have been written about his bitter divorce to Tammy Wynette.
1982, when this show was cut, was the last year Jones was an acknowledged drinker. The following year, he married his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvada, who finally got Jones to commit to a detox program. Although he had a slip in 1999 when he crashed his car and injured himself, Jones has essentially remained drug and alcohol free since.
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 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.