Tuesday, May 7, 2013

George Jones and tea in Tallulah -- (almost)

From Sunday's Times and News-Star

Me and Matt and Jaybo were installing aluminum seating in the McCall High School football stadium in Tallulah that blistering summer day in Tallulah in 1982 – not a lot of shade in the outside seating installation business – when somebody drove by and yelled that George Jones was drinking tea at the Tallulah Truck Stop.

No way.

We threw down ratchet wrenches and nuts and bolts and grabbed our 
shirts and hustled into the truck and, a couple of fishtail miles 
later, into the truck stop.

George? GEORGE?!

A waitress told us he’d come and gone and that yes, it had been THAT 
George Jones, the one who could sing a country song so sad it’d bring 
tears to a needle’s eye.

George. Gone. They call him Done Gone Jones.

We got our big sweet teas and left, sadder but wiser, knowing even as 
we went back to our dreary and sweaty lives installing football 
seating, nearly falling out of stadiums on a daily basis, that we were 
destined to be one step behind The Big Boys all of our loser lives.

It’s probably best we didn’t see him. We would not have been 
emotionally ready to handle a Possum sighting in a truck stop, his 
Silver Eagle or El Dorado in the parking lot idling. It was better to 
know that He’d Been There, like you know in your den on Christmas 
morning. It doesn’t make you like Santa less; you like him more.

If would be hard for anyone to like George more than either me or my 
dad, who accepted many condolences from nephews and nieces who phoned 
Friday a week ago when George died at age 81, which is about 212 in 
George Jones Years. (Whoever had the “over” on the George Death Date 
won with decades to spare.) I’m afraid that if Merle Haggard ever 
dies, we can tinkle on the fire because country music as we once knew 
it will be over and out.

We will attempt a quick Top 10 According To Me here, a way to remember 
and say thanks because, well, the boy sure could sing. If I owned a 
riding mower, I’d make a lap today in his honor.

10. “Southern California” with Tammy Wynette, or Tammy WhyNot, as we 
endearingly call her.

9. “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

8. “Grand Tour”

7. “Something To Brag About” with Tammy WhyNot.

6. “White Lightning”: I turn my radio way up when it comes on.

5. “Bartender’s Blues” or “Her Name Is…”: I couldn’t decide. This is a 
lot of pressure.

4. “Golden Ring” with Tammy WhyNot, co-written by Rafe VanHoy, who’s a 
beautiful human being.

3. “A Good Year For The Roses”: His life went to the outhouse but the 
flowers that year turned out purty, at least.

2. “The Race is On”: Merle does a good rendition too, which brings us to…

1. “Born With The Blues,” a duet with Haggard. “Born with the 
blues/trouble in mind/smoking and drinking/by the time I was 9./In 
debt from the start/still paying my dues/crazy and lonely/and born  
with the blues…” Whoa. The thing is, he’d sing it wearing a $1000 
rhinestone suit and you’d want to loan him a quarter. Left it all on 
the field.

There you go. Something to brag or argue about, especially since it 
doesn’t include “If I Don’t Love You, Grits Ain’t Groceries,” “If You 
Loved a Liar, You’d Hug My Neck,” “I Still Hold Her Body But I Think 
I’ve Lost Her Mind” and “No Blues is Good News.”