The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Music City mourns country legend George Jones in memorial at Grand Ole Opry House

  • Print

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - For a guy who sang so many sad songs, George Jones left behind a lot of laughs.

There was more humour than sadness at Jones' funeral Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry House as thousands gathered in Nashville — some arriving hours before sunrise — to pay their respects to the man whose voice has defined country music for more than half a century.

Friend after friend related stories of Jones' kindness, his love for his widow, Nancy, who's credited with helping him survive his personal demons later in life, and the funny little moments that will stick with them always.

Barbara Mandrell remembered the kindnesses he gave a scared 13-year-old girl just getting her start in the business. Former first lady Laura Bush remembered dumping quarter after quarter into the jukebox to hear "The Race Is On." Wynonna Judd remembered his perfect hair and his friendship. And Vince Gill remembered the man who gave him the nickname "Sweet Pea," a moniker he wasn't sure he liked at first but now treasures.

"The great thing is every time someone calls me Sweet Pea, I'll get to think about him," Gill said before earning a standing ovation for his rendition of "Go Rest High on That Mountain" with Patty Loveless.

The nearly 3-hour memorial was attended by several major country stars and political figures. Nancy Jones sat flanked by Bush and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam spoke, as did former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. CBS host Bob Schieffer recalled a 2009 interview with Jones where the singer's true personality seemed to show through.

"I came away feeling his whole life was a surprise to him and he never quite believed any of it," Schieffer said.

Each of the stars who performed had a personal connection to Jones. Randy Travis, who was anointed a traditional country voice by Jones, sang "Amazing Grace," a song Jones had once put his own personal stamp upon.

"When I heard him do this song, it literally gave me chills," Travis said.

Paisley remembered Jones allowing him to house his first horse on the Jones family farm and the visits the two would have, then sang "Me & Jesus." Kid Rock asked Nancy Jones to imagine Jones was actually singing as he performed "Best of Me," before checking himself to the delight of the crowd.

"I know that's a huge (leap of) imagination," Kid Rock said with an embarrassed smile. "Unshaven, long-haired confused country hip-hop rock 'n' roller trying to sing George Jones."

But it may have been Charlie Daniels who summed up Jones best in a long, beautifully rendered tribute. He noted Jones was probably the most imitated country singer of all time.

"George Jones' voice was a rowdy Saturday night uproar at a back-street beer joint, the heartbroken wail of the one who wakes up to find the other side of the bed empty, the far-off lonesome whistle of the midnight train, the look in the eyes of a young bride as that ring is placed on her finger, the memories of a half-asleep old man dreaming about the good old days," Daniels said. "Lost love, lost innocence, good and bad memories, and experiences that are just too much for a human being to deal with. He sang for us all, the non-stop partiers, the guys who are alone and the girl done wrong, the puppy lovers, the extrovert, the introvert and the guy at the end of the bar who never seems to go home ... George had a song for everybody."

The funeral was broadcast live on cable music television channels CMT and GAC and — in a nod to simpler times when Jones was at his biggest — on all local television networks.

The Beaumont, Texas, native was in the midst of a farewell tour that was to have wrapped up with an all-star salute in November in Nashville when he died. He postponed two performances two weeks ago and entered the hospital with a fever and irregular blood pressure. He'd been ill off and on over the previous year.

Jones' pure, matchless baritone defined the sound of country music for a half century, and his death brought universal reaction from the music community and fans. Known for hits like "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," ''White Lightning" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which Alan Jackson used to close the memorial, Jones had No. 1s in four decades from the 1950s to the 1980s and "Possum" remained a popular figure in Music City until his death.

"Brother George taught us how to sing with a broken heart," Gill said.

Paisley said even though Jones has passed on, his legacy is still there, ready to inspire. He urged young viewers who might be tuning in to check out Jones' music.

"You must be thinking, 'Boy, they're making a ruckus,'" Paisley said. "I would encourage you if you don't know him, go find him now. Go buy his records and see what all this ruckus is about because it's worth it."

___

Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw: Video shows destroyed West Hawk Inn

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new school-zone speed limit?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google