It may be dependent on who you talk to but ask anybody with half a lick of sense about country music, and they’ll tell you that George Jones belongs on the Mount Rushmore of country music. Just an all-time country music legend.
And approaching 11 years ago this spring, country music icon George Jones took the stage for the final time.
A career that spanned nearly 60 years, and produced some of country music’s most memorable hits like “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “White Lightning,” “Tennessee Whiskey” and more, George wanted to die on stage… and he nearly did.
At 80 years old, fresh off a vicious respiratory infection, George announced his farewell tour knowing full well that he probably wouldn’t make it to the end of it. Dubbed The Grand Tour, the 60-city tour was supposed to culminate in a big farewell performance at Nashville’s Bridgestone Area.
In an old interview with The Tennessean, George’s wife Nancy said begged him to come off the road and stop performing, but he wouldn’t.
“I said, ‘Why are you agreeing to everything?’ and he said, ‘’Cause I’m not going to be here. I’m going to agree to anything they ask. Promise me you’ll make a tribute show out of it, and I’ll see it from heaven.’”
And then after his final show in Knoxville, Tennessee, April 6th, 2013, George knew he was done:
“I just did my last show… And I gave ’em hell.”
George was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter, where he stayed until he passed away on April 26th, 2013, at the age of 81. He closed out his final performance with his signature song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Below is some rare footage from that final night.
His final performance of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
And of course, Alan Jackson performed at Jones’ funeral, a moving rendition of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Dolly Parton’s “Big Heartache” Over Never Recording An Album With George Jones
I’m pretty sure Dolly Parton could essentially snap her fingers and record with just about any artist on the planet that she wants to. I mean, she’s the queen of country music, a national treasure, and I think any artist, country or not, would jump at the change to do a song or album with her.
She once sat down with Kelly and Amber on Amazon’s Country Heat podcast to talk about her ACM hosting gig, as well as some of the other projects she had going on at the time, like her new book with James Patterson Run, Rose, Run.
When they asked her who her dream collaboration would be with, she said she always regrets that she didn’t get to do an album with George Jones or Merle Haggard:
“Oh, yeah. I have a big heartache over the fact that I never did an album with George Jones, who was my favorite singer, and with Merle Haggard. Those two guys I really, really wish, and I had a few opportunities to do it, but it just never worked out for somebody’s schedule til it was too late, so I hate that.”
Of course, Dolly and Merle were always good friends, and Merle had a longtime, not-so-secret crush on her that lasted pretty much his whole life. Can you imagine a collaborative album by Dolly with either one of those country legends? It would’ve been so incredible to have a project like that.
She says if she could pick any current artist to work with, though, it would be pop star Ed Sheeran:
“But right now, there’s a lot of great people out there. I love Ed Sheeran. I’ve always thought in his early days when I would hear his little voice, or his big little voice, his emotional, wonderful voice, I used to think ‘Boy, I bet we could sing something beautiful together’.
Like to pick the right song, that really has the way that we both can sing with emotion, cuz we feel it. Maybe some day I could do something with him, I’d like to.”
I’m sure all she has to do is ask… and that duo would really be something. I’d love for them to get together on a song just out of sheer curiosity for what it would sound like.
Of course, though Dolly never did an official album with Merle, they toured together back in the day and even did a cool medley of his biggest hits on her show back in the late ’80s:
And Dolly teamed up with George Jones for a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Blues Man”