Friday was a sad day in country music, as George Jones, among the most influential singers in the history of the music, passed away at 81 years of age. Perhaps excepting Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, no one was more responsible for shaping the future of Country & Western music than Jones, affectionately know for years as The Possum.
While he was not a bluegrass artist, his smooth vocal delivery had a huge impact on two generations of bluegrass singers, and he was a contemporary of several of our first and second generation legends.
The great Ralph Stanley was quick to honor the late singer.
“Very sad to hear the news about the passing of my friend George Jones. He was a wonderful man and was my all time favorite country singer. We recorded together, even performed shows together back in the ’50s. He will surely be missed.”
As was Jesse McReynolds, who ran the same roads as The Possum with Jim & Jesse.
“I’m sorry I never had a chance to sing with George Jones, although we did work some shows with him. He was one of the greatest country singers that we ever had. And he will be missed.”
Jones did make one bluegrass album, Bluegrass Hootenanny, with Melba Montgomery in 1964, and a number of bluegrass artists recorded songs he had popularized. The Osborne Brothers had memorable cuts of Beneath Still Waters and When the Grass Grows Over Me, along with a fun version of White Lightnin’ in their MGM days.
And George returned the favor including Dusty Owens’ Once More, which the Osbornes cut in 1958, on Bluegrass Hootenanny along with Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms and several others.
Bobby Osborne says that he picked up a lot doing concerts with Jones back in the day.
“I was sorry to hear the news about George. He was a dear friend of mine. My brother and I worked many shows with George, and I got to know him quite well.
I got a lot of my phrasing from him, plus I think he was one of the greatest singers I’ve ever known. I sang Tammy’s part with him one night at the 0pry on the song, We’re Gonna Hold On.
George Jones was a great influence on me.”
Rhonda Vincent, who is putting together a personal tribute to Jones, tells us that he loved bluegrass music, and was a friend and mentor to her.
“George Jones was monumental in my life! A voice I will never forget.”
We are working on a piece for tomorrow with further comments from current bluegrass singers whose vision was shaped by the music of George Jones.
R.I.P. George Jones, from a grateful world of bluegrass.