UPDATED: RIP George Jones: Texas-Born Country Legend Dies at Age 81
George Jones at the Arena Theatre in May 2011
Photo by Lisa Rosato
UPDATE (April 27, 11:20 a.m.): George Jones' "Farewell Concert" was announced, but did not take place, this past February. It had been scheduled for November 22. Rocks Off regrets the error.
George Jones, the Southeast Texas-born Country Music Hall of Famer whom most agree would be a face on Nashville's Mount Rushmore, has died at age 81. According to Fox News, repeating information from Jones' longtime publicist Kirt Webster, the singer died early Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Jones had been hospitalized since April 18 for fever and irregular blood pressure, reported country-music Web site The Boot. His numerous health problems in recent years did not stop him from touring, though. He last visited Houston at the Arena Theatre in September 2012, and the list of guests who
joined him had been scheduled to join him for his "farewell concert" at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena offered just a small hint of his influence on country music: Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Brooks and Dunn, Kenny Rogers, Dierks Bentley, Josh Turner, Shelby Lynne, Lorrie Morgan, the Oak Ridge Boys, Jamey Johnson and many others.
With songs like "The Race Is On," "White Lightnin'," "Bartender's Blues," "A Picture of Me Without You," "Love Bug," "Color of the Blues" and the monumental "He Stopped Loving Her Today" -- to say nothing of duets with onetime wife Tammy Wynette like "Golden Ring" and "We're Gonna Hold On" Jones was a force in country and pop music from the late '50s through at least the early '90s. He won several CMA Awards, many of them for "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which also netted him a Grammy for Male Country Vocal Performance.
The native of Saratoga, a speck in the road on the edge of the Big Thicket near Sour Lake, did some of his earliest work on Starday Records for the late Pappy Daily, the Houston label owner who also figures in this week's Houston Press cover story on Willie Nelson, "Mr. Record Man." Jones signed with Starday in the mid-'50s and brought Daily along when he signed to Mercury Records a few years later, and then to United Artists.
Rocks Off was at that September 2012 Arena Theatre show, and Jones looked and sounded frail. He took several breaks during the set, and obviously read off a TelePrompTer, but traces of the ol' Possum were easily detectible.
"And every so often he would hit one of those perfect notes that just takes your breath away, and makes you imagine what it would have been like to see him live during his prime," we wrote. "It must have been really something."