Friday, October 19, 2012

The Gospel According to Jones

October 13, 2012
"Step right on up ... Take the grand tour
He stopped loving her today
Tennessee Whiskey and white lightning
Are just a few of the choices I've made
It's a real good year for the roses
But remember the race is still on
And that's just a few of the chapters from the gospel
According To Jones."
-Eric Lee Beddingfield
"The Gospel According to Jones"
There isn't a time in my life that I don't remember there being a George Jones magnet stuck to my mom's refridgerator. "Your Grandpa Virgil looked just like Jones there when he was alive," she'd tell me, referring to her father that passed away before I was born. As a child I spent a lot of time at those doors, playing with my alphabet magnets and staring up at ole Grandpa Jones, smiling at me with his possum grin from the freezer.  As I got older the stories kept coming, "One of the times we saw George in concert I got to shake his hand," my dad would tell me.  Back in the days of real country music being played on honest to goodness country music television stations, we would record Jones' shows on our huge VCR so we could watch them again and again. My dad, whom I blame for my knowledge of absolute random information about almost anything, would pause the tape and pump my young brain full of facts about this man who used to be married to first lady Tammy Wynette and drove John Deere mowers down the road when he was too drunk to drive.  With these two as parents, it was a little more than hard to not be raised a tride and true "No Show Jones" fan.
At eighty-one years-of-age, Jones has had to slow down considerably and only performs at a handful of shows each year.  Letting the opportunity pass me up a few years back when he was to appear at Elizabeth, Indiana, I was determined to see the legend in person after I heard the announcement that this coming year would mark his last 'Grand Tour' in his remarkable career.  His stop at the Renfro Valley Barn in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky on October 13, 2012 was reminicent of old times in Jones' career: fans waiting outside of his bus to snap photos, yelling his famous name as he exited, and performing in front of a sold-out crowd. 

The evidence of a four month respiratory illness was ever-present in the legend's voice as he sang some of his greatest hits and told jokes to the crowd. "I quit drinking sixteen years ago," he explained, "and it just shocked my voice to death."  Laughing aside, the lyrics that have made him a member of country music royalty, were almost lost, at times, unless the listener knew the song by heart or could recognize the melody.  Despite this, the audience was patient with their beloved artist, cheering wildly any time that spark that makes Jones' voice so unique could vaguely be heard, with George responding, "Well, bless your hearts." 
Wife, Nancy, took the stage to give her husband a smootch and wave to the crowd during "I Always Get Lucky With You." Soon after, band member, Brittany Allyn, took center stage to perform a couple hits that Jones and former wife, Tammy Wynette, had made famous during their six-year marriage and music partnership. Careful to space out his songs to allow sufficient rest in between, Jones allowed his fiddle player to step into the spotlight and took a ten-minute break backstage while his band showed off their talent.
The highlight of the night came in the last set of songs where fan favorites such as, "White Lightning" and "Golden Ring" were performed.  Saving the best for last, Mr. Jones closed with the beloved "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and showed that he could still do his rocking on the stage, with "I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair."  It was a night and a show with a real country legend that left the question on everyone's minds, 'Who's gonna fill his shoes?"
Set list:

1.) Why, Baby, Why?
2.) A Tom T. Hall song I didn't recognize, forgive me
3.) Choices
4.) Tennessee Whisky
5.) Same Ole Me
6.) I Always Get Lucky With You
7.) Bartender's Blues
8.) Picture of Me Without You
9.) Take Me
10.) Me and Jesus
11.) Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes
12.) Grand Tour
13.) She Thinks I Still Care
14.) White Lightning
15.) Golden Ring
16.) He Stopped Loving Her Today
17.) Rocking Chair