Midstate fans remember George Jones

adrury@macon.comApril 26, 2013 

  • Jones concerts in Middle Georgia

    Country music legend George Jones performed often across Middle Georgia during his career. His last performance in Macon came in 2011 at the City Auditorium.
    Here’s a look at some of his other midstate performance dates over the years, as well as ticket sales where available:

    • Macon Coliseum, January 1981 (1,230 tickets sold);
    • Macon Coliseum, January 1983 (5,149);
    • Reaves Arena (Georgia National Fair), October 1995 with Tammy Wynette (6,431);
    • Reaves Arena (Georgia National Fair), October 1999 with JD Showdown (5,434);
    • Reaves Arena (Georgia National Fair), October 2002 (2,890);
    • City Auditorium, January 2006;
    • City Auditorium, December 2007;
    • City Auditorium, March 2011 (1,500).

Kirk West, a man indelibly linked to music as a former road manager for The Allman Brothers Band, reminisced Friday about the late George Jones, a country music legend whose music lured West to his concerts dozens of times over the years.

Jones died Friday in a Nashville hospital after a year of ill health. He was 81 years old.

“He was the greatest country music singer who ever lived,” West said, “and there’s some major competition there.”

Save Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, he said, Jones was “the last of a dying breed” of country star.

In the 1980s, West found himself in the company of some other big names in the business -- Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash -- while on a freelance photography assignment for The Chicago Tribune.

He and the newspaper’s music writer had flown to east Texas, near the Louisiana state line, to spend the weekend working on a cover story of Johnny and June. The Cashes were in town to perform at a venue called Jones Country, owned by Jones.

West and the reporter spent the weekend as guests at Jones’ ranch.

“That’s probably one of the coolest things,” said West, who as a professional photographer had the opportunity to capture images of Jones and his ex-wife Tammy Wynette.

Jones had a penchant for alcohol and missing concert dates because he was too drunk to perform.

West, who now lives in Macon, said those stories aren’t exaggerated.

“The old ‘No Show Jones’ thing was real,” he said. “I went to a couple of concerts where he didn’t show up.”

West said Jones was a “great, gentle guy,” but “when he was lit, it was a whole other story. He wasn’t a bad man, but he could be cantankerous.”

In Putnam County on Friday, another of Jones’ fans said she cried when she learned of the star’s death.

“This is worse than Elvis dying,” said Kathy Butler of Eatonton. “To me, George Jones was bigger, better (than Elvis).”

Butler once got Jones’ autograph after a concert he performed near Lake Sinclair in Baldwin County.

After the concert ended, Butler and a group of fans hung out near his bus “to see if we could catch a look at him.”

To their surprise, Jones came to the bus door wearing only a T-shirt and boxer shorts.

“He acted like it wasn’t a big deal” interacting with fans in such a casual way, she recalled. “It was like, this is who I am. This is me.”

He signed his name for fans for just a couple of minutes, but it’s a moment Butler said she’ll never forget.

It was difficult hearing the news that Jones was gone.

“He was one of those icons you think will always be here and never leave us,” said Butler who maintains there’s no better song than Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” “We’ve been listening to his songs all morning. It feels like a family member has died.”

To contact writer Andy M. Drury, call 744-4477.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service