Before we leave Ft. Worth and head for Upstate New York, via Burnsville, AL, I must dwell on country music for just another moment.
First of all, I am, unashamedly, an “old fart or a jackass.” I LOVE TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC with a deep, burning and abiding passion. A steel guitar sends me ! (Anybody know the the song and artist where a pedal steel was first used on a recording ?) And “you’ve gotta have a fiddle in the band.” THAT is honky tonk music. And that honky tonk piano intro or interlude ? Thank you Jesus !
Now bear with me as I list a few of my favorites… Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Gene Watson, Verne Gosdin Conway Twitty, Buck Owens and Charley Pride.
How about the ladies ? Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, “Pretty Miss” Norma Jean, Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Donna Hall Foster and Patty Loveless.
Now an aside on the “Miss” club. When there is a female artist of ANY genre that truly rolls our socks up and down, Me and Paul will nominate said artist for the “Miss” club. Then we’ll have a discussion on the artist and decide, whether, or not, they belong in the “Miss” club. These ladies are goddesses in our humble opinion.
All of the above listed ladies are in the “Miss” club. Dolly Parton was our latest inductee. Her bluegrass stuff, recently purchased, put her over-the-top and into our Hall of Fame, albeit much too late.
The goddesses, who are not traditional country artists, in the club are Patti Smith, Lucinda Williams (pretty darn close to traditional but probably Americana), Joan Jett, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.
There are some omissions, you will say, but those artists have probably never struck us both simultaneously or overwhelmed one of us. Some examples of great ones lurking out there, but never inducted, would be Bobbie Gentry, Kitty Wells, Susan Tedeschi, Whitney Houston, Joni Mitchell and Carole King.
You get the picture.
Now back to traditional or “real” country music.
You might have noticed that there is a gaping hole or one HUGE omission to the list of male artists. That would be the greatest singer in the history of country music, the legendary George Jones. George Jones is our favorite singer from ANY genre.
When you talk about someone who can make you cry and/or give you chill bumps on the fist line of the first verse of most any song he sings, that would be Jones. I’m getting misty writing about him.
It truly saddens me to know that Me and Paul will never be sitting in an audience eagerly anticipating these words, spoken by Ron Gaddis of the Jones Boys, again… “Ladies and gentlemen, America’s greatest country singer, the living legend… GEORGE JONES !!!! And at this time the Jones Boys would break into “No Show Jones” “High Tech Redneck” or “Ragged But Right.” That would often be followed by “The Race Is On” which would then give way to one of my favorites, that I relate deeply and emotionally to Me & Paul, “Once You’ve Had The Best.”
I think back and thank God for the times I have come in, often on a Friday, off a long stint on the road and played this song for us on our Saturday night setlist. “I’m so glad to have you back within these arms of mine. I can finally close my eyes and get some rest. Never once did I think of finding someone new. Cause there’s nothing better ONCE you haaayaayad the best. Within your arms I’ve had the best and I want the world to know that I don’t care what you’ve said or done, I’ll always love you so. You’ve got more love in your little finger than all the rest. And there’s nothing better once you’ve had the best. ” WDE !
We would, often, also be anticipating whether or not The Possum would show up. There were two occasions when that happened. One was in Chatom, Alabama in the middle of a pasture in 1981 and the other was in Birmingham at Boutwell Auditorium in 1982.
The first time we saw George was at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Ft. Worth. He opened for Tammy. This was in 1980. It was a Sunday afternoon. He had been really hit of miss over the past few months and, I suppose, there was concern that “No Show” might do just that. But show he did and sing he did. He was sober, but rather thin, and he just completely swept us away with that baritone voice that could scale the heights of the high notes and plummet right down to the lows of the low notes. Wow !
The last song Jones did, before Tammy came on, certainly impressed us on that warm afternoon in April. He said, “Before I go I would like to do a song that will be on our new album which has not yet been released. I hope you like it. And then the lines that every true music fan of any type knows by heart, “He said I’ll love you till I die. She told him you’ll forget in time. And as the years rolled slowly by, she still preyed upon his mind… ”
My dear God. What a talent ! Now let me toss this Kleenex and continue.
As beloved a classic as “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is, it is not my favorite Jones song. Can there really be a FAVORITE Jones song ? I don’t know. But I do think “Bartender’s Blues” captures the pure essence of a Jones song as well as any he ever did.
All that being said, if I had to name ONE favorite George Jones tune that would be “The Grand Tour.”
Now a quick “Grand Tour” story and I am out of here…
I was driving a short bus, oddly enough, for the Ft. Worth Independent School District back in the fall of 1979 and the winter and spring of 1980. Oh my the blog I could do on those times and those kids !
Anyway, Kimberly was the last student off my bus which was number 454. Also I was known to break into song more than once when it got toward the end of my route. On this particular day it was just me and Kimberly and I busted “The Grand Tour” wiiiiiiiiiide open. Wearing my cowboy hat and black Justin 10D boots I came to the line, “Over there sits the chair…” And I heard Kimberly from the back croon, ‘Where she’d braaaang the paper to me” and WE continued , “Sit down on my knee and whisper, Oh I love you.”
That fills my heart with great great joy !
God bless George Jones. May he rest in peace.
The answer to today’s trivia question, on the first time a pedal steel guitar was used on a recording, is “Slowly” by the late great Webb Pierce.