The Possum obviously lived quite the colorful life, with his well-publicized addiction to drugs and alcohol often getting him in trouble – and resulting in some wild stories.
But behind the scenes, Jones was, by all accounts, a soft-spoken and even shy gentleman to everyone he met.
And one guy who got to know him well during Jones’ later career was Tracy Lawrence, a newcomer at the time who was embraced by Jones, who even took Tracy out on tour with him after his second album, Alibis.
In an interview with Whiskey Riff, Tracy speaks fondly of his time getting to know the legendary George Jones – and that while he heard all the stories, he got a different impression from his time with Jones:
“I love George. I learned so much from that time with him. And probably the biggest thing I took from George…I heard all the stories, but I never saw any of that.
I saw a sweet old man that was still extremely talented, that was always great to me. I had dinner with the family, and I was always welcome to go on the bus with him and Nancy.”
Tracy says that Jones was willing to embrace the young guns like him, at a time when some of the old guard of country music wasn’t so eager to help them out:
“I think what I took most from that as I’ve gotten older and I’ve reflected back on it, I’ve really taken it to heart: You’ve got to realize, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when all this young country movement was happening, you had guys like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and all those guys that had been the kings of the charts forever…and all of a sudden they weren’t getting airplay anymore.
And they weren’t happy with us. They blamed us, blamed us young kids.
The only one that I never felt that from was Jones.”
But Tracy also learned another lesson from his time spent with George Jones: Always walk on his left side.
During an interview on The Justin Moore Podcastawhile back, Tracy told Justin a hilarious story that really shows the personality – and sense of humor – of George Jones:
“We did a group meet and greet every night. I learned real quick not to get too close to him.
Because George, if you were walking beside him, especially if you were on his right side, you’d be walking along, everything fine, having a conversation, and he’d just take his hand and he’d backhand you right down in the cod.
And he’d say, ‘Take a bow son.’
I mean, it would double you over right there in hall now. And he’d just laugh. I’m like, ‘You old fool!’
So you learned to kind of guard yourself when you was close to him because he’d catch you off guard and pop you boy.”
Imagine getting sack tapped by George Jones. You couldn’t even be mad about it.
But despite George keeping him on his toes, Tracy has nothing but respect for the country legend, especially the way that he handled his later career:
“I really appreciated the way that George approached it without bitterness and without the regret. He had a whole other career on the backside, and I think it was wise the way that he did it. And I hope I can carry that on and be a friend and a mentor to some of these younger artists.
Because nobody’s going to last forever. We all got a shelf life.”
And if you want to hear Tracy talk more about his time spent with George Jones, check out his interview on The Justin Moore Podcast: