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George Jones
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Music City mourns country legend George Jones
By CHRIS TALBOTT, AP Music Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — For a guy who sang so many sad songs, George Jones left behind a lot of laughs.

There was more humor than sadness at Jones' funeral Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry House as thousands gathered in Nashville — some arriving hours before sunrise — to pay their respects to the man whose voice has defined country music for more than half a century.

Friend after friend related stories of Jones' kindness, his love for his widow, Nancy, who's credited with helping him survive his personal demons later in life, and the funny little moments that will stick with them always.

Bing: Country stars react to George Jones' death

Barbara Mandrell remembered the kindnesses he gave a scared 13-year-old girl just getting her start in the business. Former first lady Laura Bush remembered dumping quarter after quarter into the jukebox to hear "The Race Is On." Wynonna Judd remembered his perfect hair and his friendship. And Vince Gill remembered the man who gave him the nickname "Sweet Pea," a moniker he wasn't sure he liked at first but now treasures.

"The great thing is every time someone calls me Sweet Pea, I'll get to think about him," Gill said before earning a standing ovation for his rendition of "Go Rest High on That Mountain" with Patty Loveless.

The nearly 3-hour memorial was attended by several major country stars and political figures. Nancy Jones sat flanked by Bush and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam spoke, as did former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. CBS host Bob Schieffer recalled a 2009 interview with Jones where the singer's true personality seemed to show through.

"I came away feeling his whole life was a surprise to him and he never quite believed any of it," Schieffer said.

Each of the stars who performed had a personal connection to Jones. Randy Travis, who was anointed a traditional country voice by Jones, sang "Amazing Grace," a song Jones had once put his own personal stamp upon.

"When I heard him do this song, it literally gave me chills," Travis said.

Paisley remembered Jones allowing him to house his first horse on the Jones family farm and the visits the two would have, then sang "Me & Jesus." Kid Rock asked Nancy Jones to imagine Jones was actually singing as he performed "Best of Me," before checking himself to the delight of the crowd.

"I know that's a huge (leap of) imagination," Kid Rock said with an embarrassed smile. "Unshaven, long-haired confused country hip-hop rock 'n' roller trying to sing George Jones."

But it may have been Charlie Daniels who summed up Jones best in a long, beautifully rendered tribute. He noted Jones was probably the most imitated country singer of all time.

"George Jones' voice was a rowdy Saturday night uproar at a back-street beer joint, the heartbroken wail of the one who wakes up to find the other side of the bed empty, the far-off lonesome whistle of the midnight train, the look in the eyes of a young bride as that ring is placed on her finger, the memories of a half-asleep old man dreaming about the good old days," Daniels said. "Lost love, lost innocence, good and bad memories, and experiences that are just too much for a human being to deal with. He sang for us all, the non-stop partiers, the guys who are alone and the girl done wrong, the puppy lovers, the extrovert, the introvert and the guy at the end of the bar who never seems to go home ... George had a song for everybody."

The funeral was broadcast live on cable music television channels CMT and GAC and — in a nod to simpler times when Jones was at his biggest — on all local television networks.

The Beaumont, Texas, native was in the midst of a farewell tour that was to have wrapped up with an all-star salute in November in Nashville when he died. He postponed two performances two weeks ago and entered the hospital with a fever and irregular blood pressure. He'd been ill off and on over the previous year.

Jones' pure, matchless baritone defined the sound of country music for a half century, and his death brought universal reaction from the music community and fans. Known for hits like "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," ''White Lightning" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which Alan Jackson used to close the memorial, Jones had No. 1 songs in four decades from the 1950s to the 1980s, and "Possum" remained a popular figure in Music City until his death.

"Brother George taught us how to sing with a broken heart," Gill said.

Paisley said even though Jones has passed on, his legacy is still there, ready to inspire. He urged young viewers who might be tuning in to check out Jones' music.

"You must be thinking, 'Boy, they're making a ruckus,'" Paisley said. "I would encourage you if you don't know him, go find him now. Go buy his records and see what all this ruckus is about because it's worth it."

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
3Comments
May 3, 2013 12:41AM
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It's great that George was able to right his life during his last couple of decades.  He not only got to know a lot of new people, in and out of the music business, but he was able to connect with them.  As sad as myself and other fans felt during the funeral, imagine how raw the feelings had to be for those close friends of his that actually performed at the event. 

 

Vince Gill was totally devastated, yet was able to deliver (along with Patty Loveless) a remarkable performance.  And, for the finale, Allan Jackson absolutely nailed "He Stopped Loving Her Today," although it took all the inner strength he could muster to finish the song.  He was really fighting back the emotions there at the end.

 

George Jones may be gone, but his spirit and his great music will live forever.

May 2, 2013 10:25PM
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I wish I had gotten to know George Jonse's music a lot earlier.We had a little pickin' party the other day,and one of the guys said to me,"how bout something by George Jones as a kinda rememberance?'As it were,I had just learned one of his songs,so I did it.I love that song when it gets to..."shes a baby,I'm her daddy.and she's mine".Your thinking it's his girl friend or something,then you realize it's his baby,his daughter,the love of his life.No one could do it better than George.Keep right on singing up there George,cause I believe angels love good music to.
May 2, 2013 7:40PM
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The whole world mourns George Jones. Thank you Nashville for giving him a wonderful sendoff...it's the most decent thing you've done in years.  I hope in death he can finally get the respect he truly deserves....respect the city and the industry and DJ's and radio people could not afford him in the last 20 some years of his life. Time for everyone to listen to and play those 150 albums he recorded.
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