Sometimes it pays to listen to other people’s advice. Legendary country singer George Jones, who will appear Nov. 6 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, was reluctant to record a song that he deemed too sad to appeal to anyone.
“One of the saddest songs of all I didn’t want to record,” Jones said. “That song was ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ I kept saying ‘No’ to my producer, Billy Sherrill. I told him, ‘That song is so sad no one would want to hear it.’ Boy, was I wrong. I am thankful to this day I let him talk me into recording it.”
Jones’ performance of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” went on to win virtually every award in music including a Grammy Award for Best Country Male Performance in 1980, the Country Music Association’s Single of the Year in 1980, the Academy of Country Music’s Single Record of the Year in 1980 and netted Jones the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award in 1980 and in 1981.
But when Jones performs live, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is not the only hit that fans want to hear him sing.
“They also love ‘The Race Is On,’ ‘White Lightning’ and ‘The Corvette Song,’” Jones said. “They are all fun songs to do because they get such a great response from the audience.”
Jones said that he will include those songs in the Rialto show, among many others.
“The audience will be treated to the best show we can give them,” he said. “My band, The Jones Boys, will open the show with a few songs, then they will be performing with me. We will perform as many songs as possible during the show.”
Some of Jones’ other hits include “Tender Years,” “She Thinks I Still Care” “The Window Up Above” and “Walk Through This World With Me.”
Jones also scored hits with singing partners, most notably Tammy Wynette. In 1969, Jones, the top male singer in country music, married country music’s hottest new female artist Wynette. While their marriage was stormy at times, and they divorced in 1975, the two singers were perfect duet partners and their hits included “We’re Gonna Hold On,” ”Golden Ring” and “Near You.”
“I think first and foremost you need a song that fits both artists and voices that complement each other,” said Jones about singing successfully with a partner. “You also need a great producer to get the best performance out of you that you can get.”
Jones’ 50th anniversary as a recording artist was celebrated in 2004 with the release of a three-disc set called “George Jones: 50 Years of Hits,” which features one hit from each year of his career. Also in that year, a two-hour PBS-TV special featured a star-studded cast paying homage to Jones by singing his songs.
At 79, Jones continues to headline more that 100 concerts a year and is enjoying every minute of it. He attributes his longevity in the business to the people who appreciate his music.
“I owe it all to my fans,” he said. “Without them, there would be no reason to continue to work. I get such a joy from seeing the young and mature fans singing along to every song.”