COUNTRY ICON GEORGE JONES RIDES INTO PECHANGA

02/17/10

By SCOTT McDONALD - For The Californian

It’s difficult not to use the word “legend” when speaking about George Jones.

Described by many as the “greatest living country singer” has enjoyed a fabulously storied career that shows no sign of slowing down as he energetically heads toward his 80th birthday. The Texas-born singer and songwriter has racked up a staggering 150 hit songs, over a dozen chart-topping No.1 hits, received numerous Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Awards, and was a 1992 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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The honky-tonk baritone responsible for hits like “White Lightning” and “Why Baby Why,” who was once married to fellow country icon Tammy Wynette, has won multiple Grammy Awards. He was honored at The 2008 Kennedy Center Awards alongside Morgan Freeman and Barbara Streisand, and has collaborated on duets with everyone from James Taylor and Ray Charles to Garth Brooks and Merle Haggard.

Infamous early in his career for legendary alcohol and substance abuse, Jones told his side of the story in his 1996 autobiography, “I Lived To Tell It All.” Like so many of his hit songs on the music charts, the book cracked the top ten and made it all the way to No. 6 on The New York Times best-seller list.

In addition to still actively writing, singing, and playing live shows, the country crooner oversees the George Jones “University” music business program while running an Alabama diner with his wife, Nancy. He endorses his own brand of sausages and barbecue sauce, and is a partner in the Bandit Records label.

Currently embarking on a tour that will continue until the end of the year, the tireless troubadour will hit the Pechanga showroom stage on Friday night. He recently spoke about his upcoming west coast dates.

Question: Looking back on your music career, is there one accomplishment, performance or milestone that you can call your defining moment?

Answer: I would say being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame was one of the biggest honors for me because it is voted on by your peers and people directly connected with the music industry.

Q: I know that you started your career at a very early age, but if you hadn’t become a country music singer, what career path would have you followed?

A: Well, at the time I was a painter, painting houses. I am afraid that is probably what I would have continued to do.

Q: After so many years of accolades, awards, and hit records, what motivates you to keep making music and touring the country?

A: Without a doubt it is my fans that motivate me. I am amazed to look out and see young and old alike singing along to every single song. They keep me going.

Q: Do you remember the moment that you first knew that you were going to take a serious shot at becoming a professional singer?

A: No, not really. I would listen to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night at home with my family and that is what really made me want to be a professional singer. My heroes were Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Lefty Frizzell. I wanted to be just like them.

Q: You’ve done duets and collaborations with some of country music’s most influential players. Which one or ones do you remember most fondly?

A: There were so many great ones —- from Tammy Wynette to Merle Haggard —- but one of my fondest memories was recording a song with my daughter Georgette that she wrote and how it was able to be included on an album of duets.

Q: What do things like being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and receiving The Kennedy Center honor mean to you?
A: I am completely humbled to receive such honors.

Q: With all of the countless other business ventures you’re involved with, do you have much free time? And what do you do with the free time that you have?

A: I love to spend time with my wife Nancy and my grandchildren, like most people. One thing I love that most people don’t know about is that I love to mow the grass on my farm in Franklin. It is the most peaceful time just to be on that tractor.

Q: After the Grammys, the No.1 hits, and all of the awards, is there anything left that you haven’t accomplished in the music business that you’d like to?

A: I can’t say that there is. I am still amazed at all the accolades I have received. I guess you could say I have been very blessed.

Q: If you are to be remembered for one single thing, what would that be?

A: That I stayed true to country music and my own style.

Q: What does the future hold for you?

A: I hope to continue to perform for my fans as long as I can. One thing that isn’t in my future any time soon is retirement. I love what I do.

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