Was there ever any doubt that George Jones would be in the Country Music Hall of Fame?
He’s one of the greatest country singers of all time, with iconic hits like “She Thinks I Still Care,” “White Lightning,” “The Grand Tour,” “Bartender’s Blues,” and of course maybe the best country song of all time, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Jones had a career that spanned for an incredible five decades, with his first #1 hit coming in 1959. But in 1992, when he was finally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, it came as a shock to Jones – even if nobody else was surprised.
The moment came during the 1992 CMA Awards. Jones was in the middle of a career resurgence of sorts, with the success of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” in the ’80s propelling George back onto the charts for a run of hits, and a new record label in the ’90s with MCA.
One of his biggest hits of the ’90s was “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” a strong statement about shunning retirement and keeping up his career into his later years.
And at the CMA Awards in ’92, Jones took the stage along with his collaborators on the song to perform the rockin’ hit.
Alan Jackson, T. Graham Brown, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Mark Chesnutt, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie, and Clint Black all took the stage for the triumphant performance. But after the song, another country star made his way to the stage with a surprise for George Jones.
Randy Travis walked up behind George as the song ended, and delivered the news to George Jones and the crowd at the Grand Ole Opry House that Possum would become the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame:
“I have the best job in the house tonight.
You know, there’s nobody sitting at home watching tonight or nobody in this audience that wants to see you retire to your rocking chair by any means. But we do want you to enjoy being the next member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Jones was clearly caught off guard by the honor, taking a minute to compose himself before addressing the audience that was on their feet giving him a standing ovation:
“I don’t know what to say. Only thing I can say is that country music has been awful good to me throughout a whole bunch of years, and I’ll tell you what, I’d like to just thank a few people.
I’d like to thank the good Lord above first of all, because He made it all possible, surely. And I naturally gotta thank all the fans in the whole wide world, especially the country music fans.
It’s been a great career and I ain’t over it yet and I ain’t through and I ain’t givin’ up and I don’t need no rockin’ chair, but I’ll tell you what, I want to thank one more person for making it real possible for me being able to be on this stage tonight to receive this award. Between her and God she’s been one of the greatest ladies in the whole wide world. She saved my life, and I’d just like to acknowledge my wife Nancy if you’ll do it.
You know I’ve won a lot of awards, I’m not bragging, a lot of awards over the period of years, and each and every one of them was fantastic. They made you feel great and they kept you going and made you try harder and work harder. But this has got to be the greatest one in the world.
It’s made my day. It’s made my whole life. Thank you so much. I love you.”
Jones was officially inducted into his rightful place in the Country Music Hall of Fame a few weeks later. But this moment from the 1992 CMA Awards was a chance for George to get the recognition he deserved on one of country music’s biggest nights.
God bless the Possum. There will never be another like him.