Alas, he embodied some of his tales of woe. His chart-topping 1959 tune White Lightning took a reported 83 takes to capture in the studio because Jones was loaded on, well, the subject of his song. He earned the nickname “No Show Jones” because he’d miss so many concerts due to his heavy drinking and copious cocaine habit. His other nickname, “The Possum,” came from his close-set eyes and pointed nose.
“I was country music’s national drunk and drug addict,” he wrote in his memoir. “If you saw me sober, chances are you saw me asleep.”
His last great song, Choices, in 1999, was released soon after he crashed his car into a bridge while fiddling with a cassette of the song in its demo form. He was critically injured and a half-empty bottle of vodka was found in the car. Choices proved prophetic:
I’ve had choices since the day that I was born/There were voices that told me right from wrong/If I had listened, no I wouldn’t be here today/Living and dying with the choices I’ve made.
Finally, Jones listened.
His final decade included successful tours, duets with superstar Garth Brooks and Merle Haggard, and marriage to wife Nancy whom he’d credited with helping him achieve sobriety.
Earlier this year he was working with Dolly Parton on a new album, one he figured would be his final studio effort.
“I am so excited to be working on a project with Dolly,” he told The Miami Herald. “She is a dear friend, and I am such a fan of her work. I am just waiting on her to give me the song and to tell me when to sing!”
On Friday, Parton said, “My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all-time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world.”
Jones had finally settled into his peaceful senior years. Two months ago he said some things get better with age.
“Wisdom and knowledge”
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.