He’s one of the greatest country artists of all time – and depending on who you ask, THE greatest voice in the history of the genre. I know for me, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” will probably always be the greatest country song of all time.
“When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, ‘You mean besides George Jones?'”
But almost equally as legendary as his talent was the trouble he got into during his wilder days.
It’s no secret that the Possum struggled with alcoholism and addiction for much of his life, being admitted to the hospital for his drinking as early as 1967.
His drinking and partying earned him the nickname “No-Show Jones” after causing him to miss so many performances. And then of course there’s the legendary lawnmower story, when his wife took the keys to his car to keep him from driving to the liquor store, so Jones took off down the road on his lawnmower to get his fix of booze.
But through it all, one of Jones’ best friends was the outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings.
Despite having his own drug problem, Waylon once came to George’s rescue when he was nearly broke and living out of his car. And it was a group of friends, including Waylon, who convinced Jones to seek treatment at Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, an intervention that Jones one said was “the best thing that ever happened” to him.
But the Possum didn’t always make it easy for Waylon.
In his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography, Jennings recalls one night that started with Jones showing up to Waylon’s house shitfaced drunk – and ended with Waylon having to tie Jones up to get him to finally calm down.
As the story goes, Jones showed up in the middle of a bender and started “flailing” around the living room – even yelling at Waylon’s wife Jessi Colter’s mom.
When it seemed like Jones was about to settle down and go to sleep, Jennings decided to give Jones a little something to help put him to sleep: A glass of whiskey.
Probably not the best idea, right?
Well Waylon’s plan backfired (shocker) and Jones began to tear up the living room, throwing a metal picture frame at Jennings that “just missed” his head. Waylon tried to calm George down, but with George kicking at him, the only thing that Waylon could do was sit on him to hold him down.
Jennings says that at one point Jones played “possum” on him, joking that it “shows you how he got his nickname.” According to Waylon, George pretended he was choking until Waylon let go – and then Jones punched him in the face.
Joking about the incident in his book, Waylon said that he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep up with the Possum, because he too was on drugs and “cocaine doesn’t last that long.” So with the help of his guitar player (who got his thumb broken by Jones during the scuffle), Waylon had no choice but to hog-tie George Jones and throw him on the couch.
According to Waylon:
“I never felt so bad in my life, thinking ‘Here’s the greatest country singer that ever lived and I’m tying his ass up.'”
With Jones finally subdued, Waylon told him that he was calling George’s manager to take him home. But Jones still wasn’t ready to settle down just yet – despite being tied up on the couch – telling Jones:
“I’ll get you you Conway Twitty-acting son of a bitch.”
Waylon admits he found the situation humorous, trying to hold back a laugh as he asked George:
“What do you mean by that? You hit me in the face and you kicked me in the nuts, you cussed the ladies in my house, you break my guitar player’s thumb, and now you call me a Conway Twitty-acting son of a bitch? I’m the one that’s going to do the getting.”
Well Jones finally did pass out and Waylon sent his ass back to his own home.
The Possum, of course, finally sobered up (sort of) in the ’80s after meeting his fourth wife Nancy – and then finally giving up the bottle for good after his arrest for DUI in 1999.
And despite some bumps (and punches) in their relationship, Jennings and Jones remained friends until Waylon’s death in 2002. Waylon even mentioned Jones in his 1980 song “It’s Alright,” calling George “the greatest of them all” and saying:
“If we all sounded like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”
It’s good to see a little fight couldn’t come between two country music legends.
I mean, who among us hasn’t had to hog-tie a friend after getting punched in the face?
God bless George Jones. There’ll never be another like him.