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Me and Mr. Jones

To paraphrase one of his favorite Iggy Pop songs, Noise is now the passenger. So for all of his Facebook friends wondering why his "status" is now a quote from Wilco's A.M. gem "Passenger Side" ("I don't like riding on the passenger side"), wonder no further.

About four years ago, when he was still living in Austin, Noise's generally good luck (not to mention judgment) faltered, and he got busted for DWI for the first time, and hopefully the last. Noise thought he had put it behind him, but it turns out things like this don't go away quite so easily.

The night of November 6, Noise got pulled over on his way to meet a friend at Leon's Lounge. (Actually, he had already parked when the HPD car pulled into the lot, but close enough.) The officer let him go with a very stern warning – and thank you, ma'am, wherever you are — but not before informing him his driver's license had been revoked.

Evidently Noise still owes the State of Texas some money, part of the surcharge the Legislature added to all DWI convictions that took effect a few months before his case came up in court. Noise can be less than punctual when it comes to whipping out the checkbook; ask anyone at Ford Credit.

So until he figures out a way to come up with about three grand, Noise is on foot patrol. At least he's finally buying a bike.

Therefore, as you might imagine, Noise has been thinking about drinking quite a bit recently. And lo and behold, who should be headed for Houston this weekend but perhaps the most famous drunk in country music history, George Jones.

Surely this is no coincidence.

He's sober now, but the jacket copy of country music writer Dolly Carlisle's 1984 Jones biography Ragged But Right contains this tantalizing teaser: "He tells about his most desperate days when he lived out of the back seat of his car with nothing more than a bottle of Jack Daniels and a picture of his idol, Hank Williams."

Noise reached out to Jones's PR people in the hopes of setting up an interview, but found them somewhat less than cooperative. Nonetheless, he feels a strong kinship with the ol' Possum, so named for his booze-induced proclivity for disappearing just before he was due onstage, the same habits that earned him another famous nickname, "No-Show Jones."

Reading further, it seems Noise and Jones drink — or drank, in his case — for more or less the same reason. We're both shy, perhaps even antisocial personalities working in two of the most social professions there are: entertainment and journalism. There's not much difference between being a writer and a singer, not much at all.

We both offer up our most private, personal thoughts and feelings for the evaluation, entertainment and — we hope so, at least — enrichment of complete strangers. It ain't easy, not least because whether you're writing about music or singing it, it all plays out in the most public of arenas, that invisible and indivisible screen between stage and audience. It's a harsh place to confront your demons, whatever they may be.

From either side, that's where you'll find humanity at its most exposed and emotionally charged: the performers doing what they've dedicated their entire lives to (more often than not at great personal cost); the audience because there's nowhere else on earth they'd rather be at that moment (ditto). And after it's over, adrenaline rampaging through your synapses, there's no quicker way to come down.

"After you were finished playing, everyone wanted to have a party, and you'd wind up staying up all night," Jones, describing life on the honky-tonk trail in the early and mid-'60s, told Carlisle. "I'd end up fatigued and hoarse the next day. I'd take a drink to get started, and after one or two I didn't want to stop. When you play taverns ten or 15 years, like I did, it draws everything out of you. The people became overbearing, and I'd respond accordingly."

Alcohol, be it of the grain or the grape, really is the great equalizer. It's nobody's friend and everybody's buddy. Not a music venue in this city or any other could exist without bar sales, unless, like Javajazz, it caters exclusively to the under-21 emo-trumps-booze set. Otherwise, bar and venue owners make their rent on a river of tears.

But let's not forget that without liquor, beer and wine, a lot of the greatest songs ever written would be DOA. And if you're talkin' country, many have been recorded by Jones. Among post-WWII American singers, only Hank Williams Sr., Frank Sinatra and Roy Orbison ever sang with more sadness.

Noise lost most of his country archives in a nonalcohol-related vehicular mishap a few years back (he managed to drive off with the CD book still on top of the car, where needless to say it didn't stay for long), so last week he hitched a ride to Cactus Music and bought George Jones: 50 Years of Hits, a 2004 compilation released on the Possum's own Bandit Records.

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