On the front porch of George Jones’ sweeping estate south of Nashville are two round tiles, each with a drawing of a rocking chair and a slash through it, a reminder that he doesn’t need your rocking chair.
Jones is perfectly tailored, wearing ostrich-leather shoes and that impeccable swoop of white hair. He performed about 90 concerts this year at age 79. Retire? No way.
“I don’t know what I’d do with myself,” Jones tells All Things Considered host Melissa Block. “We don’t wanna lay down and give up just ‘cause we’re old. Young people think we’re crazy. Oh, one morning you’ll wake up and look in the mirror like I did and say, ‘What the devil happened? Whoo! Where did it go, oh, Lordy!’ “
In the world of music, the word “legendary” is often overused. But for George Jones, the word fits like a crown.
As a solo artist and duet partner, he has had more than 150 hits, the most by any artist in any genre, according to Billboard magazine. His first, “Why Baby Why,” reached No. 4 in 1955; his latest entries include “Beer Run,” a 2001 duet with Garth Brooks, and “4th of July,” a 2005 recording by Shooter Jennings featuring Jones.
He has won every conceivable award: “Most Promising New Country Vocalist” from Billboard magazine in 1956; two Grammy awards for Best Male Country Vocal Performance (“He Stopped Loving Her Today” in 1980 and “Choices” in 1999); induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992; the U.S. National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2002; the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in his home state.