George Jones Almost Didn’t Record “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Told His Producer: “‘Nobody Will Buy That Morbid Son Of A B*tch”

George Jones country music
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There’s no debating that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is one of, but probably the, saddest and best country songs of all time.

And in fact, it was so sad that George Jones didn’t even want to record it.

A co-write by by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, who also penned Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” producer Billy Sherrill liked the song enough to take it to Jones.

At the time, he was in a bad downward spiral in the wake of his divorce from Tammy in 1975 (mostly due to his drug and alcohol abuse problems), and he hadn’t had a hit song in six years, because his career was stalling because of everything going on in his personal life.

On top of that, he was beginning to fall out of love with playing country music, and was in a lot of debt due to his legal issues and battle with addiction. Needless to say, he was at a crossroads in both his career and life.

When George headed into CBS Studio B in Nashville to eventually record “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” they could never get it in one try, and actually wound up putting different bits of different takes together.

He had a hard time because, apparently, he was mixing up the melody with Kris Kristofferson’s hit “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” and also slurred his word during the spoken-word section, which was actually recorded 18 months from the first verse of the song.

In Bob Allen’s biography about George, George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend, he recalled Billy saying George wouldn’t even attempt to learn the melody because he hated it, and Billy told him that Kris would love it, because he was the one “who wrote it”:

“He thought it was too long, too sad, too depressing and that nobody would ever play it. He hated the melody and wouldn’t learn it.”

And actually, George thought it was such a bad recording and such a dark song, that he told Billy no one would even to listen to it.

It’s a wonder how they ever got him in the studio for this at all…

They ultimately released it as the lead single from his 1980 I Am What I Am album, and he wrote in his 1996 autobiography I Lived To Tell It All,:

“I looked Billy square in the eye and said, ‘Nobody will buy that morbid son of a bitch.’”

Of course, he was dead wrong, as it became his first #1 single in six years, and ultimately, one of the greatest country songs of all time.

He famously admitted himself that it wound up saving his career:

“To put it simply I was back on top. Just that quickly.

I don’t want to belabor this comparison, but a four-decade career was salvaged by a three-minute song.”

Pretty wild that his signature song, and one of the all-time classic country standards (which is probably even an understatement), he didn’t even like at first and didn’t want to record.

As a result of the wild popularity of the hit, CBS Records renewed his contract, and it earned him the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980.

He also won the ACM for Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 1980, as well as being the CMA’s Song of the Year in both 1980 and 1981.

His very first TV performance of it is incredible, too, if you haven’t seen it before… just grab a few tissues before you hit play:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock