During the heyday of George Jones' absenteeism in the Sixties, promoters took advantage of the singer's reputation by putting his name up on club marquees without ever having actually booked him. By the end of the evening, the bar would be better off, some fans would be drunk enough to not ask for their money back, and the the rest of those in attendance would shrug their shoulders at the crazy antics of country music's favorite boozehound. Not that Jones doesn't acknowledge his habit of missing concerts due to drunkenness; in fact, he's made a trademark of it, flaunting his "NO SHOW" vanity plates and recording a song called "No-Show Jones." They say the first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem.
You'd think Jones, now 68, has slowed down. In his 1996 autobiography I Lived to Tell It All, the singer claims years of sobriety, attributing it to the love of a good woman -- his wife Nancy Sepulveda. And yet, his worst brush with death earlier this year left fans wondering if he's off the wagon, and whether that will impact negatively on his touring schedule.
On the afternoon of March 6, Jones, his sport utility vehicle, and a half-empty pint of vodka within crashed into a concrete bridge abutment near his Nashville home. The accident resulted in a punctured lung and a lacerated liver (that poor liver, having endured an 80-proof marinade over the better part of this century), and though things looked awfully grim for ol' Possum in the days that followed, he made a miraculous recovery despite the added setback of pneumonia. In May, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges related to the accident.
Ironically, at the time of the crash, Jones was listening to his new single, "Choices," a song about living and dying by one's decisions. He was scheduled to perform it at September's Country Music Association Awards, but didn't show up. It wasn't alcohol this time, though, at least according to his current label, Asylum/ Elektra. Their Web site reports, "Not only did the accident banish any thoughts of alcohol, it also prompted him to give up cigarettes and limit his coffee." This time, the teetotaling Jones was boycotting the show because he was asked to shave some minutes off his performance of the song, which was nominated for Best Single (it lost to the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces").
Jones is slowing down, it seems, and showing up as scheduled on his current tour of various state fairs, casinos, Masonic centers, and of course, Branson, Missouri. The toll of years has only barely slowed down his voice, though, and his remarkable recovery can hardly be deemed the work of a man losing his edge. So, George, when you sing "Choices" at Stubb's this Friday, take all the time you need.
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