George Jones The Exclaim! Questionnaire

George Jones The Exclaim! Questionnaire
What are you up to?
I've got my own label now, and my new album is called Hits I Missed And One I Didn't. It's got a bunch of songs I did that were hits for other artists, but it also has a new version of "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which is the first time I've recorded it in 25 years. The first single is a duet with Dolly Parton that's been getting some airplay in Nashville, so hopefully other stations will start playing it too. Dolly and I did video for it.

What are your current fixations?
We just signed a contract to pitch a movie of my life, and to start looking for actors. So we're hoping that we'll have The George Jones Story off the ground very shortly. There's also so many albums that my old labels have been putting out recently that I can't keep track of them. Some of them have recognisable songs, but most are things that haven't been released before.

Why do you live where you do?
Well, Nashville is where the business is, so it's good to be here in order to identify with everybody. But we've also just found a good fishing hole about an hour's drive from my farm.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
For me, it was always listening to Hank Sr. and Roy Acuff. But I've done so many things that it's hard to remember any other stuff.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig?
It was probably the TV show when I was voted into the [Country Music] Hall Of Fame. Those are the things you look forward to achieving when you get into this business.

What have been your career highs and lows?
I'm very proud of this new album, and everything else we've been doing in the past few years. I'd have to say that seeing as how busy we are with recording and touring, that I'm really enjoying life as much as I ever have. Everybody probably knows about the lowest point in my career when I was pretty lost with alcohol and drugs. But I'm clean and sober, I don't smoke cigarettes either, and my wife won't let me chase women. My life has always been about country music, and that's what I put all my energy into now.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I should have taken many people's advice many times. But when you're young and crazy, you only seem interested in learning the bad side of life. But now I've seen the light and learned the good side, and I thank my fans for sticking with me.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think Canada has the greatest fans in the world. I've always loved them because they love traditional country music, and from what I've seen, the new country artists don't do half as well there as the traditional artists do. I naturally love the real country music fans, so I'm happy to come to Canada any chance I get.

What is your vital daily ritual?
I've got about ten people on my payroll here at the farm, so I like to go around and watch them do their work to keep the place going and looking nice. Other than that, I just like to go up the hill and do some fishing. When I've got time off, that's usually where you'll find me.

What was your most memorable day job?
It definitely wasn't my favourite job, but I used to paint houses. The worst part of the job was trying to get the paint off of my clothes at the end of the day.

How do you spoil yourself?
Whenever I'm around the house, my wife spoils me - and the dog is the same way! We take more pleasure in spoiling the grandchildren though, but that's only natural.

If I wasn't playing music I would be:
I hate to say it, but I probably would have finished my apprentice training in the painting business. I only needed about six more months to get my journeyman card, but I loved music to do anything else but that.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I've never really associated with movie stars or politicians; I've left that up to other people. Anything outside of a G chord, and I don't know where I'm at. When I was a kid, I never dreamed I'd ever come to Nashville, much less play on the Grand Ole Opry and meet Roy Acuff. So those are the people I tend to remember.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Well, I'd like to see all my friends again who left us recently, like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. It would be nice to also have Hank Williams Sr., so we could have a big barbecue and play some songs around the fire.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She was a very strong Christian lady, so she was naturally against my drinking and the other things. But she was very proud of my music. If there's one thing that I wish she could know, it's that I was able to quit everything, and I think she would be proud of me for that too.

To friends and enemies he's known as "The Possum," but for all fans of country music he's simply the voice that defined its modern age. It's impossible to imagine the genre without songs like "He Stopped Loving Her Today," "The Grand Tour," "The Race Is On," and many others that provided the template for nearly every artist that followed. But George Jones' career has had an influence far beyond country music. From his youth as a latecomer to the first generation of rockabilly, he has lived life on the edge in the spirit of his hero, Hank Williams. By the 1970s, his addiction to alcohol and other substances was legendary, exemplified by his stormy marriage to fellow icon Tammy Wynette, and more humorously, the incident that saw him pulled over while driving to the liquor store on a riding mower after his license had been revoked. He earned another notorious nickname during that time, "No-show Jones," for the countless concerts he missed. Struggles continued until the '90s, when a serious car accident nearly claimed his life, but today Jones, who turns 74 on September 12, is sober and busier than ever. His bottomless catalogue has recently added an expanded reissue of his 1979 duets album, My Very Special Guests, featuring country royalty, along with Elvis Costello, Ray Charles and B.B. King. But at the moment he is excited about his Canadian tour, which will bring him to such unlikely places as Yellowknife. At this point, he says, wherever there are true country music fans, he'll play for them.
Jason Schneider