LifeNotes: Comic Singer-Songwriter Kacey Jones Passes

Kacey Jones

Kacey Jones

 

[Update]: A celebration of life has been set for singer-songwriter Kacey Jones, who died Sept. 1 at 66 years old.

The celebration will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Douglas Corner in Nashville. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the service running from 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

[Original post, Sept. 1, 4:31 p.m. CT]:

Nashville singer-songwriter Kacey Jones passed away on Thursday (Sept. 1). She was 66 years old.

She is best-known for her comedic songs as a member of Ethel & The Shameless Hussies, as well as on a series of humorous solo CDs. Born Gayle Zeller, Kacey Jones was raised in Gilroy, California. Early in her career, she recorded for an independent label in San Francisco.

She co-wrote the 1985 Mickey Gilley top-10 hit “I’m the One Mama Warned You About.” During that same year, David Allan Coe recorded her song “Cold Turkey.”

She moved to Nashville in 1986. Jones initially hoped to be recorded as a serious singer-songwriter. But then she formed Ethel & The Shameless Hussies with Becki Fogle (“Bunny O’Hare”) and Valerie Hunt (“Blanche Hickey”). Her character in the group was called “Ethel Beaverton.”

The act took its name from the Ray Stevens lyric in “The Streak.” Ethel & The Shameless Hussies signed with MCA Records and issued its debut album, Born to Burn, in 1988. They made the charts with the singles “One Nite Stan” (1988) and “It’s Just the Whiskey Talkin’” (1989). “Ethel’s” turns in the spotlight with the group included “Last Night I Really Laid Down the Law,” “Smokin’ in Bed” and “Up Against Your Love.”

The group was nominated as Comedy Act of the Year at the Music City News Awards. The trio remained together for four years.

Later in the 1990s, Jones embarked on a solo career. Her initial solo CD was 1997’s Men Are Some of My Favorite People on Curb Records. It yielded two music videos, “1-900-Bubba” and “(I Hate Your Lousy, Rotten, Stinkin’ Guts) But I’m Not Bitter.”

She eventually appeared several times on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion and in the pages of People and USA Today. Her songs have also been heard on film soundtracks, such as the Beau Bridges cult favorite Sordid Lives. Among the artists who have recorded her songs are Cledus T. Judd, Richard Fagan, Ray Stevens and Marshall Chapman.

Jones was also a record producer. She saluted Texas singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman by producing the multi-artist CD Pearls in the Snow. Featuring Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and others, this album hit No. 1 on the Americana charts in 1999.

As an entrepreneur, she formed her own IGO Records label and the publishing companies Zamalama Music (BMI) and Mamalama Music (ASCAP). She signed country traditionalist Leland Martin to IGO, and he charted with “If I Had Long Legs (Like Alan Jackson)” (2002) and “Hey Love, No Fair” (2003).

Her own record making career continued with Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay or Dead (2000), Never Wear Panties to a Party (2001) and The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Box of Music (2003). Her 2000 duet with Delbert McClinton, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” was a big hit in Europe. In 2001, Jones became a regular on the nationally-syndicated ABC morning radio show, “Charlie & Darcy.”

She was dubbed “The Royal Minstrel to the Sweet Potato Queens’ Court.” This was a network of fans of Mississippi author Jill Connor Browne’s series of Sothern-belle “Sweet Potato Queen” books. Their anthem was Jones’s “Be Particular.”

Kacey Jones is remembered for such clever lyrics as “Christmas In Rehab,” “Whatever Happened to Kenny Rogers’ Face,” “Show Up Naked—Bring Beer,” “I Wanna Be Up Front Like Dolly,” “Dressin’ Up for the Pizza Man,” “I Can Always Get Skinny But You’ll Never Be Tall,” “Put the Seat Back Down” and “I Miss My Man (But My Aim’s Gettin’ Better).”

She flipped back to her serious side with 2006’s Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury. The album garnered widespread critical praise.

Nipples to the Wind (2007), Kaceyoke (2008) and Donald Trump’s Hair (2009) returned her to light-hearted fare. Her most recent album was 2014’s Amen for Old Friends, which combined both comedic and serious tunes.

In recent years, she had doing a series of “in the round” shows with fellow tunesmiths Becky Hobbs and Benita Hill. They were billed as “A Cowgirl, a Diva and a Shameless Hussy.” The three also wrote together. Her other songwriting/performing trio was Phillybilly, alongside Richard Fagan and Joe Collins.

In 2014, Kacey Jones was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. Instead of chemo, radiation and surgery, she opted for alternative, holistic therapies. She launched a GoFundMe account to pay for these. Despite chronic pain, she was well enough in 2015 to compete on TV’s America’s Got Talent.

In February, the songwriting community staged a benefit show for her at Douglas Corner Café. Among those booked were Rafe Van Hoy, Alan Rhody, Kent Blazy, Roger Cook, Wood Newton and Jonmark Stone. In light of the current presidential campaign, she reissued “Donald Trump’s Hair” last spring. Kacey Jones entered hospice care in August.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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