When someone thinks of one artist that embodies country music, one name often comes to mind: George Jones.
Jones had the rare ability to rip a listener’s heart out with one song, and have them folded over laughing the next. And do we even have to mention that voice? Simply put, it may be the best to ever sing a country tune.
In his storied career, Jones released 76 studio albums, as well as nearly additional 30 collaborative albums with the likes of Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard and Melba Montgomery.
With so much music available, we gave four artists, Royce Johns, Alexis May, Addison Johnson and Travis Feutz, the near-impossible task of choosing some of their favorite songs by The Possum, and they came through!
- “The One I Loved Back Then”
- I’ve always loved a great, witty story song with a kicker ending, and this song has all of that. I can’t count the times that I’ve been hanging out at somebody’s shop, and when this song comes on, if you don’t know all the words to the chorus, you’d be left out. And it’s always fallen into the cool car country song category like “Riding With Private Malone.”
- “She Thinks I Still Care”
- I got hooked on most of Jones’ later works past 1980, but after being hooked on the later works, I quickly dug into the earlier works and found how many other artists covered his phrasing and songs. I still think Glen Campbell holds the best recording of this song on his final album, Adios, but I always love to hear the original work from Jones to see what influenced so many others on his phrasing style.
- “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”
- This was probably the first Jones song that I really got hooked on, and soon after, kept digging from. It’s also such a great story that referenced so many of my country music heroes, and that first influenced him to sing the way he did.
- “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds”
- I got turned on to this one a few years back from my grandpa who heard it on AM 540 from Fort Dodge, Iowa. The song is just textbook on what I love about country harmonies with Melba Montgomery and Jones. Another kicker is that I got to meet her brother, Earl “Peanut” Montgomery, who wrote 70+ Jones and Tammy songs. when I was recording down in Muscle Shoals, AL.
- “What My Woman Can’t Do”
- This is another one written by Earl “Peanut” Montgomery and was always one of my favorites. Billy Lawson encouraged me to record this on my last record, and it was also a privilege to have Peanut come down and approve the final mix before release.
- “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me”
- For me, this is THE country song. This is one of the first songs I remember listening to as a kid, and even then, I knew it was special. No matter where I am, this song makes me feel like I’m in the corner of a smoke-filled bar with whiskey in my hand.
- “The King is Gone”
- This is such a fun song. A life goal of mine is to find an Elvis decanter and Flintstone jelly bean jar. I love the perspective of this song because it’s about a drunk man doing random and slightly crazy things because his woman left him. It’s a hilarious take on a heartbreaking subject.
- “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”
- My great grandfather was the biggest George Jones fan. I lost him almost 10 years ago, but every time I hear this song, it reminds me of him. I remember driving down the road a few years ago when this song came on the radio, and all I could do was cry because it hit me so hard that there was no one to fill the shoes of my grandfather or Jones.
- “Where Grass Won’t Grow”
- I love this because it’s a more serious Jones song, and is extremely emotional. The last line states that flowers grow on a grave where grass won’t grow, and it’s absolutely chilling. The whole song has the kind of pain that resides best in country music.
- “(We’re Not) The Jet Set”
- I love this duet because it’s so much fun! The lyrics are not to be taken seriously (ex: “Our steak and martinis is draft beer and wieners”) George and Tammy always made the best music, even if they didn’t make the best lives together.
Justin has given me the impossible task of selecting my favorite George Jones songs. George was always famous for saying, “I sing the fast ones, so they will let me sing the slow ones.” That’s exactly how I like to listen to Jones. The more pain, the better.
- “I’ve Aged Twenty Years In Five“
- “I’ve Aged Twenty Years In Five” was overshadowed by “He Stopped Loving Her Today” on his 1980 album, I Am What I Am, but for me personally, it packs just as much of a punch. It’s almost as if writers Bob Parrish and Curtis Gordon went into Jones’ mind to write this song, because it is a pretty fair description of where Jones was at in that point of his life.
- “You’re Still On My Mind“
- “You’re Still On My Mind” was the first Jones song that I fell in love with. In my opinon, it is the perfect honky tonk song. Before Jones gets two lines into the song, you can smell the smoke in the air and see the jukebox in the corner. It is one of the cornerstone “tear in my beer” songs of Country Music.
- “Bartender’s Blues“
- This honky tonk classic was written by the great James Taylor, specifically for Jones, and it is one of my favorites to play live. If you ever find yourself questioning how good George Jones actually was, just listen to this song. The greatest singers in the world would not attempt the runs that Jones pulls off in this song. Take a listen to the line in the second verse, “I can watch you fall down on your knees.” I’ve probably listened to this song a thousand times, and it still blows my mind at the talent. George Jones was so good that even George Jones couldn’t mess it up.
- “Take Me”
- It dosen’t matter which version of this song you listen to, this is an absoloute stone cold country classic. Whether it’s the duet with Tammy Wynette, Jones with the Jones Boys, or the acoustic video of the guy picking up scorpions out of a swimming pool, only George Jones could make a love song sound like a drinking song. This is one of my grandmother’s favorites, so it holds a special place with me.
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything more stressful than picking four George Jones songs, but I gave it a shot. This list could’ve been fifty songs long. The one thing I am certain of is that without George Jones, I would not be in country music today.
- “Choices” was always a favorite of mine because of the beautiful melody and the way George’s aging voice reminded me of a fine bourbon. After reading his biography, ‘I Lived to Tell it All,’ I felt that “Choices” took on a whole new meaning. George didn’t write the song, but he damn sure lived it. I believe George would tell you there’s so much truth in those words. Maybe, just maybe, if he could go back and do it all over again, the world would know a very different George Jones.
- “Mr. Fool”
- “Mr. Fool” is from the era where George began hitting his vocal stride. His performance on this song is mind blowing. He wields his voice with complete control. There should be a music course at universities students could sign up for to study the vocal performance on this song. “Mr. Fool” is textbook barroom country. Can you imagine being in a honky tonk somewhere in Texas during the early days and hear a young George Jones quiet the room with “Mr. Fool?” To hear George sing a sad song almost makes you happy to be heartbroken.
- “Amazing Grace”
- Maybe an unusual choice, but gospel music was a big part of George’s life. It’s public knowledge he struggled with his inner demons, which makes it a little more special to hear him sing a gospel tune. It doesn’t matter if George sings a sad country song or a gospel song, the listener gets a front row seat with the battle he’s waging. When I hear George sing “Amazing Grace,” it takes me back to a young age during an old country church service, the purest form of country music. There are a few versions George recorded over the years. I like the ones that begin with just George singing acapella. With a voice that can only be God-given, The Possum will bring you straight to your knees.
- “The Grand Tour”
- “The Grand Tour” is as devastating as a country song ever gets. Hidden beneath one of George’s finest vocal performances, a beautiful melody and a backing string arrangement lies a story about death. There are many theories about how serious the subject matter is in “The Grand Tour,” none better than Tyler Mayhan Coe himself in his podcast, Cocaine & Rhinestones. Either way you lean, the listener can feel the sorrow in George’s voice when he delivers the line, “some things I know will chill you to the bone.” There isn’t a single minor chord in this song, yet you can feel the hopelessness.
- “A Good Year for the Roses”
- “A Good Year for the Roses” was recorded in 1970, a few years before Tammy and George divorced, but every time I hear this song, I feel he is singing about her. Maybe somewhere deep inside, George Jones knew that true happiness could never last. He can’t confront the truth. He can’t speak a word. When he does speak, he makes small talk. Could be pride or a lack of empathy, but I think he truly knows that the person walking out the door would be much better off without him. Therein lies the true heartbreak.