George Jones - Biography - Wild Years

Wild Years

Jones's identity was closely tied to his alcoholism. One of the best known stories of Jones' drinking days happened when he was married to his second wife, Shirley Corley. Jones recalled Shirley making it physically impossible for him to travel to Beaumont, located 8 miles away, and buy liquor. Because Jones would not walk that far, she would hide the keys to each of their cars they owned before leaving. She did not, however, hide the keys to the lawn mower. Jones recollects being upset at not being able to find any keys before looking out the window and at a light that shone over their property. He then described his thoughts, saying: "There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did."

In her 1979 autobiography, former wife Tammy Wynette recalled waking at 1 AM to find her husband gone: "I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away. When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He'd driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she'd come after me.'"

Jones later jokingly sang of the lawn mower incident in his 1996 single "Honky Tonk Song", and parodied his arrest in the music video.

In the 1970s, a manager introduced Jones to cocaine before a show, because he was too tired to perform. His self-destructive behavior brought him close to death and he was in an Alabama psychiatric hospital by the end of the decade. Celebrated by some of his fans as the hard-drinkin', fast-livin' spiritual-son of his idol, Hank Williams, Jones missed so many engagements that he gained the nickname of "No-Show Jones." (The song "No-Show Jones" makes fun of Jones and other country singers.) He was often penniless and admits that Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came to his financial aid during this time.

Poking fun at his past, three country music videos would feature Jones arriving on a riding lawn mower. The first was Hank Williams, Jr's "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" in 1984 while the second was Vince Gill's "One More Last Chance" in 1993. Gill's song mentioned the mower with the lines "She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere." At the end of Gill's video, he is leaving the golf course on a John Deere tractor and greets Jones with "Hey, possum." Jones, arriving at the golf course driving a John Deere riding lawn mower with a set of golf clubs mounted behind him, replies to Gill "Hey, sweet pea." The third is John Rich's "Country Done Come to Town" and shows George mowing grass on the rooftop on a zero turn mower.

Read more about this topic:  George Jones, Biography

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