I was planning on seeing George in August when he would be near my city. I had never seen George live, and while I knew he wouldn't be at the level he once was, I wanted to see him and thank him from my seat for the years of great songs and for his dedication to the music I love so dearly. When I heard the news on Friday, I was crushed. George was a legend, a man who sang with such passion that you could hear the tears. He overcame addiction to alcohol and drugs to be a wonderful elder statesmen for country music in his later years. He always stood up for the true values of country music: heart, soul, and truth. He was a guiding hand to stars like Alan Jackson and Randy Travis as they started out. He recorded some of the greatest duets of all time with Tammy Wynette. He sang the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today". He had a voice unparalleled. George Jones is an absolute staple of country music history, worthy of the "Country Music Mt. Rushmore" if there ever was such a thing. I've struggled for days on how to properly honor such an amazing man and entertainer. I decided to just say a few words, and then focus on two things: his legacy and his music. I'll include some quotes from his peers to show the impact he has had on country music, and then we can just enjoy some music.
"It's a sad day for country music and a great loss for those of us who knew him. I was blessed to call George my friend. He was one of the best country singers there ever was. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nancy, and all of his family. It's a sad, sad day." -Loretta Lynn
"nancy and @gjpossum had a beautiful marriage and special relationship. love you nancy. long live the possum. gonna miss my buddy. real sad." -Dierks Bentley
“Sad day, folks. Today, with the passing of my good friend, George Jones, the door to an era in time is slowly closing. With only a handful of us left standing, the country music I knew and loved has also passed away. It is my great hope that the younger generation of singers will remember all of us from that time and carry on. Thanks all.” -Ray Price
“Well, heaven better get ready for some great country music. While George was known for his wild and crazy days, I’ve known him for 25 years as a friend. He had grown into a real good man. Of course, he will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music – there’ll never be another. Like the song says, ‘You know this old world is full of singers, but just a few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing. Imagine life without them…Who’s gonna fill their shoes.’” -Alan Jackson, who also honored his friend with this performance at his show Friday night. What a moving and heartfelt tribute. Thanks Alan.
"George Jones' life is an example of so many wonderful things; How someone's God-given gifts can make this a richer, better place. How one human being can overcome adversity, addiction, and life threatening obstacles time and time again. That it is not the stumble or fall that counts, but the willingness to stand again. How a keen sense of humor and a twinkle in a person's eye can still prevail even after all of life's hard knocks. How mistakes, missteps, and bad choices are not the end of the world if a person chooses to turn them into something good. And George's life is above all the strongest example of how the love of a great woman can get a man through anything. All of this made its way beautifully into every note of the greatest voice country music will ever know and one of the greatest friends you could ever have. We miss you already, George." -Brad Paisley
“Today is a sad day in Country music. We have lost another piece of history. George Jones was not only a good singer, but was a good friend. He will be missed by many.” -Hank Williams, Jr
"If we all sang like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones" -Waylon Jennings
"If I'm blessed enough to make it there, I look forward to you giving me the grand tour. Rest in peace George Jones!!!!!" -Keith Urban, who also posted this video to his twitter.
"this is one of the saddest days in the history of country music, George Jones is a national treasure, he was a friend, God Bless the possum" -Darrell Waltrip, 3 time NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer
"The ultimate loss. Loved you my whole life...a true musical hero. RIP. Now who's gonna fill YOUR shoes?" -Sunny Sweeney
"Rest in peace George Jones There will never be another one like you and we'll miss you a bunch Buddy." -Charlie Daniels
"Wow.. Sweet George SURE will be missed down here.. But I can only imagine the celebration Heaven is having today.." -Ashley Monroe
"Really REALLY bad news. We've lost a country music legend. And I've lost a hero and a friend. Goodbye George Jones..." -Blake Shelton
"George Jones was my friend, and I loved him." -Trace Adkins
"So shocked and sad to hear that George has gone on from the uniquely spectacular musical "tour" he took us all on... George Jones was one of the last truly giant presences in the history of country music. His very being, here, will be missed..." -Dwight Yoakam
"I have no words to express my admiration and love for George Jones. To say he was my 'hero' does not do justice to the lifetime impression he made on me, both personally and professionally. George Jones is the foundation of country music and he's the reason I wanted to perform. He's the reason I'm still here in this business... out there on the road. He was my mentor and my teacher; George was my friend. He paved the way for so many and I was one of the lucky ones to have enjoyed the opportunity to not only sing beside him, but just 'sit and visit' with him. When I was just starting out, we toured together; he was the headliner. After a few shows, he told me that I was going to close the shows (because he wanted to watch "Andy Griffith"). For a newcomer, it was intimidating to open for him; there was even more pressure to close for him. George gave me strength and encouragement; he kept telling me 'you can do it, son.' George Jones is the Father of Country. We will all miss his voice, and I will miss his voice to call me 'son.'" -Mark Chesnutt
"You can't define the ache that's in George's voice. It's just something inherently him. It doesn't need definition. It doesn't need clarification. It doesn't need a lot of things. You just sit back and appreciate it. It's just greatness." -Vince Gill
"Anyone who knows or cares anything about real country music will agree that George Jones is the voice of it. I believe every word and every emotion that comes out of his heart and his mouth. He has always been a favorite of mine." -Dolly Parton
"He feels everything for you. The lines that you're not really sure what they mean, he'll teach you just by the impression he gives you. You don't even have to speak English to understand a George Jones song. He'll put it on you and you'll really feel it." -Jamey Johnson
"I feel so fortunate to be able to call him a friend. I would sing so many of his songs back in the honky-tonks and always tried to sing them like him. I would like to think that maybe just a small bit might have stuck with me and know that his influence was part of the reason for my success. George is the true king and will always be one of my heroes." -George Strait
"The reason I wanted to sing country music was because of hearing guys like George. Especially him. He's truly a national treasure. He interprets the music so well and is able to reach inside somebody to tell them how they feel." -Tim McGraw
"George's voice is equal parts pain and home. We joke about it, but he's really a guy who could sing the phone book and probably have 25 No. 1s out of it. It's just that voice. To me, he's the best voice that's ever been in country music and probably ever will be." -Eric Church
And now, the music.
"Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?"
"The Grand Tour"
"Golden Ring" with Tammy Wynette
"A Good Year For The Roses" with Alan Jackson
"Funny How Time Slips Away"
(This video has some great snapshots of George's eventful lifetime)
"He Stopped Loving Her Today"
The greatest country song of all time
Thank you for the memories, the music, and for always keeping it country, George Jones. We will always remember you and never stop loving you. Nobody will ever fill your shoes.