George Jones’ Music and Legacy Celebrated in Nashville


George Jones

“During the funeral, we mourned George Jones. Tonight, we celebrate him,” said television personality Keith Bilbrey during the four-hour musical tribute to the late George Jones at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Friday, Nov. 22. Truthfully, fans and artists did both as 112 musical artists took the stage on what was slated to be Jones’ last concert of his career.

Instead, Jones last concert came on April 6, 2013 at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tenn.; Jones entered the hospital the next morning. On April 26, 2013, Jones passed away at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The expanse of Jones’ musical influence after 50+ years in the spotlight was undeniable as artists ranging from Jeannie Seely and Emmylou Harris to Lee Ann Womack, bluegrass stars Dailey & Vincent, Sam Moore of soul duo Sam & Dave (Moore garnered thunderous applause for his soulful version of “The Bluesman”), to rockers Megadeath and Tommy Shaw of Styx.

Big & Rich began the evening with an appropriately humorous fashion, riding two green John Deere tractors onto the stage as they performed  “Love Bug.” They were followed by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, who performed a rare duet of “Take Me,” which was one of the early hit duets between Jones and Tammy Wynette in 1965.

Among the many highlights throughout the evening were Thompson Square‘s faithful rendering of “Two Story House” and “We’re Gonna Hold On,” Lorrie Morgan‘s version of “A Picture (Of Me Without You),” which Jones released in 1972, and Morgan released in 1991, Dierks Bentley‘s “I Always Get Lucky With You,” Josh Turner‘s “One Woman Man,” Larry Gatlin‘s take on “A Good Year For the Roses,” and many others. Mandy Barnett‘s effortlessly soaring voice easily captured the crowd during a group performance of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.”

Craig Morgan offered an upbeat and appropriately fun performance of “Finally Friday,” while Daryle Singletary‘s powerful and rowdy singalong of  the Jones classic “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” kept the crowd in a celebratory mood. Jamey Johnson and Eric Church both gave stunning, memorable acoustic performances of “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Choices,” respectively.

Repeatedly, the various announcers for the evening stressed that the concert was a once in a lifetime event, that this would never happen again. Many artists showed their gratitude to Jones’ wife Nancy Jones, the woman oft credited with saving Jones’ life. Billy Sherrill, Jones’ longtime producer and the co-writer of many of Jones and Wynette’s hits, was in attendance.

In an attempt to streamline an evening filled with such a large crowd of willing artists, several duets and groups of artists performed throughout the evening. Even the night’s intermission included Jones tributes, as Eric Lee Beddingfield‘s gripping video for “The Gospel According To Jones” (the clip featured Jones) was shown. As the evening went on, the star power only kept increasing.

Vince Gill, who performed an emotional “Go Rest High On That Mountain” with Loveless during Jones funeral at the Grand Ole Opry, instead played “Bartender’s Blues.” Gill said that performing at Jones’ funeral was “maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” and he wore a shirt bearing the words “Sweet Pea.” “He always called me sweet pea,” said Gill.

George Strait walked onstage amid the crowd’s roaring approval to sing “The Grand Tour.” “I think I was named after George,” he quipped. “I should’ve been, anyway. It’s no secret what an influence he has been.” Strait was then joined by Martina McBride for the Jones and Wynette classic “Golden Ring.”

The evening’s relentless star power was reminiscent of an all-star Grand Ole Opry reunion. Despite the glittering lineup of vocalists, if Country music is indeed a family, there was no denying that one of its elder voices was sorely absent and greatly missed.

As at Jones’ funeral, Alan Jackson ended the marathon tribute with “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Only two words into Jones’ signature song, the noise of the crowd swelled as they cheered, sang along, and many lifted their drinks of choice in ultimate Country fan tribute to the legendary Jones. Jackson brought Nancy Jones onstage for the final crowd sing-along chorus. “George would have liked nothing better for all his fans here, and all the artists here tonight, to sing along,” Jackson said.

In a dramatic ending, Jackson nudged the rocking chair that had remained onstage throughout much of the evening. A lone spotlight shone on the chair, creating the impression that the beloved “Possum” himself might no longer be living, but his music and timeless voice will keep on rockin’.


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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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