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
This show, recorded for the Silver Eagle Cross Country radio show from a live broadcast on WXBQ FM 24 Carat Country, is almost a carbon copy of the setlist from George Jones' 1982 Sundance club show recorded the prior year in Long Island. Still, there are some surprises, and the sonic quality of this recording is far superior.
As always, the show opens with his back-up band, the Jones Boys, performing two tracks of their own, "Your Memory" and "Would You Catch A Falling Star." Then, it's show time, as George Jones walks on stage singing his classic, "No Show Jones," the song about his "lost weekend" years, where he missed nearly as many shows as he played.
Recorded at an outdoor drag strip, Jones tells the audience he is sure they won't get rained on. He jokes, "I use to bring the rain with me, but lately, it's been a lot better." In 1983 when this show was performed, 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.
He is clearly having a blast during this recording, and does spectacular versions of "Once You've Had the Best," "The Race Is On," "Bartender's Blues" (written by James Taylor), and the up-tempo country rocker "Who's Gonna Chop My Baby's Kindlin' (When I'm Gone..)."
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.