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Jones died today at age 81. Salem Civic Center had sold 3,200 tickets to the April 20 show.
George Jones was scheduled to perform April 20 at the Salem Civic Center.
George Jones, who died Friday at 81, performs in Nashville, Tenn., in June 1999.
Associated Press | File 2000
George Jones rehearses his song “Choices” for the Academy of Country Music awards in California. The singer died Friday in a Nashville, Tenn., hospital at age 81.
Associated Press | File
Tammy Wynette and George Jones were once married to each other. The couple’s hits included “We’re Gonna Hold On.”
Associated Press | File
George Jones’ hits include the heartbreaking classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Saturday, April 27, 2013
The city of Salem had planned to give a key to the city to George Jones on April 20, when he was to play his final concert at Salem Civic Center.
When Jones was hospitalized in Nashville, Tenn., on April 18, the city had to put that plan on hold. But the concert was almost immediately rescheduled for May 9, and Salem civic facilities manager Carey Harveycutter said he was looking forward to it.
In more than 15 concerts over the years at the civic center, Jones, his wife, Nancy, and his band had become close with the facility’s staff.
“But unfortunately, that date isn’t going to happen,” Harveycutter said Friday, as news emerged that Jones had died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Jones never left the hospital after he was admitted with fever and irregular blood pressure. He was 81.
Harveycutter remembered Jones as “always smiling.”
“You develop a relationship,” Harveycutter said. “It’s like that aunt or uncle that you see once a year at a holiday, and that’s the way it became. You became friends. You’d go down and watch part of the show and you’d do the settlement. Talk to the guys beforehand. Eat dinner with them.
“It’s just such a sadness, because he touched so many people. And George continued to pick up followers, even now. Young folks would come to hear George Jones, because he really was a living legend.”
Harveycutter had even made plans to see Jones do his final concert, which had been scheduled for November in Nashville.
“Of course I feel sorry for Nancy [and] the guys in the band that expected of course to work till November, and the booking agency and the promoters and all that stuff,” he said. “And of course [the band] lived with George all those many years touring, because his band was pretty constant.”
Salem Civic Center had sold 3,200 tickets to the show, and all of those tickets can be refunded at the point of purchase, whether by phone, Ticketmaster.com or the civic center box office, he said.
‘No Show Jones’
Jones’ songs, spanning the decades and more than 150 albums, included such hits as “White Lightnin’, ” “The Race Is On,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” and all-time country classics “The Grand Tour,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.” He and his ex-wife, the late Tammy Wynette, made more history with “Golden Ring” and “We’re Gonna Hold On.”
His voice, according to practically anyone who mattered in the music world, was the best ever in country music, and maybe the best in all of popular music. It was fully unaffected but conjured a startlingly wide range of emotions.
But like many other stars in the music world, he was taken to epic drinking and cocaine use. For much of the 1960s and ’70s, he was on the loose, and often a no-show at scheduled performances. For that, the man originally dubbed “The Possum” was stuck with the nickname “No Show Jones.”
In one infamous incident during the ’60s, his wife hid the car keys so that he couldn’t drive into town to buy alcohol. He hopped on a riding lawn mower instead to get to the liquor store. Jones would parody the incident in a 1990s song and video.
He began to turn it around after marrying Nancy Sepulvado , his fourth wife, in 1983.
That same year, Paul Chaney, a Roanoke businessman, bought at auction a gold watch and diamond ring that Salem authorities confiscated after a Salem Civic Center show — they were to help cover a $25,000 debt that Jones owed to a concert promoter after he missed a show there two years before, according to a 1992 article in The Roanoke Times.
Chaney, a Jones fan, wanted to return the items to him, and he asked for the civic center’s help.
“We especially got to know Nancy real well” when she helped Harveycutter confirm that it really was the ring and watch in question.
Chaney went on to pay Jones’ back taxes — more than $1 million.
“Even the richest people in the world won’t let loose of a million dollars very easily,” Jones told the newspaper in 1992, adding that he had just recently repaid Chaney. “I didn’t ask him for help.”
Chaney refused interviews about his friendship with Jones, and asked for nothing of “The Possum.”
The next year, that very jewelry was stolen from Jones in Nashville.
“It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” Jones told the paper.
And Jones, mostly on the straight and narrow, continued coming to Salem. What drew him to this arena, which he enjoyed so well that he planned to play it on his farewell tour?
“I think we’re just home folk, good old home folk,” Harveycutter said.
Born on Sept. 12, 1931, in Saratoga, Texas, Jones grew up in a working-class family near the site of some of the first east Texas oil fields. He inherited a love of music from both parents and a respect for religion from his mother. But his father was an often-violent alcoholic .
The singer cut his first records in 1954, and though he still was developing his style, a few trademarks were already in place: his ability to bend and shade notes like a jazz singer, and a high, lonesome wail reminiscent of one of his musical heroes, Roy Acuff.
The ’60s saw his gifts as a vocalist flourish . He embodied a hard country sound, a honky-tonk traditionalism steeped in Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers . The music from this period in particular earned Jones the lasting admiration of peers and disciples such as Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard and Elvis Costello.
Jones was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, and kept releasing solo albums .
Last year, he announced his farewell tour, which was to conclude Nov. 22 in Nashville. Among the performers scheduled to perform were Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore and the Oak Ridge Boys — a testament to his towering influence.
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.
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