The following Q&A was a great privilege for me to be able to interview the legendary Possum-George Jones. Thanks to Nancy Jones and Debra McCloud for their great assistance in making this work for me. Interviews with giants in country music are difficult to make happen, but George was gracious enough to answer all questions, although some of them I thought he might pass by-but he did not. I hope you enjoy the thoughts of George Jones.
Q-Do you still want to record and if so, are you worried about what they call country radio playing your music?
A-I still record but Country Radio does not play my music, at least not any of the new music. They play my old songs from time to time.
Q-Will country music radio stations as we know them today ever go back to playing traditional country music or have we lost the days of steel guitars and fiddles on recordings for good.
A- I am afraid we have seen the last of traditional country music except for the few like Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Jamey Johnson.
Q-Is there any way that George Jones could help this industry change the direction that it has made for itself, which in my thinking is not good, and if you could make one change, what would it be?
A-No, I don’t think there is anything I could do or say to change the direction because I have been pretty vocal about how I feel and obviously, it hasn’t changed anything.
Q-When did you feel that changes started taking place in our industry that started making the music go downhill and how did radio change what the record labels recorded? Do radio stations dictate what is played and why do artists who love traditional country, not stand firm on what they record? There are not many George Strait’s, Alan Jackson’s, Toby Keith’s, Brad Paisley’s, or Vince Gill’s who record what they want.
A-The decline in what I call country music started back in the 90’s. I believe radio stations play what the heavy hitting record labels tell them to play. There are only a few artists, like those you named, that have the power to tell the labels what they will record, and the labels listen, but for the most part, labels tell the artist what to record, what to wear, etc. There is no individuality anymore.
Q-What artists, male and female, in today’s music do you feel are real country music artists and are proud of traditional country music. George name those artists who you feel do not just give lip service on how they love pure country music.
A-George Strait and Alan Jackson have always been and remain true to country music. They were told when they started they were too country for country music. It is that mentality that I can’t believe. I think Jamey Johnson is another artist who loves traditional country music and he has stayed true to it in his recordings.
Q-Are you recording new music for any new projects for the future?
A-We are always looking for new material for new projects.
Q-I know you are working as many dates as you want, but is the time coming in your career where you might want to stay home with Nancy and enjoy your personal life.
A-Nancy is always with me whether I am on the road or at home. I sometimes wonder which is which? I am at home on the road and still love to perform.
Q-Your fan base is still as strong as anyone’s in the music industry, so will retirement enter into your decision.
A-I really have no plan to retire. I know some people set a date or year but as I said, I still love what I do.
Q-Would you consider producing a new country artist with traditional country songs with country music production.
A-I don’t know that I would want to be on the creative side. It is much harder than people think.
Q-Give me your thoughts on all of these award shows. Do we need all of them or is it not good enough just to have CMA and ACM.
A-Well it is great to be recognized for your accomplishments if you are an artist but I just think we have so many now it somewhat diminishes the excitement for fans and the artists too for that matter. How many days can you give up to go to award shows? If you are performing they want you there, on site to rehearse for at least a couple of days and it is costly in time and money for an artist to do that. I do think it has gotten a little out of hand.
Q-Knowing that I managed and booked Johnny PayCheck for the last 8 years of his life, my question to you is, did Johnny influence any part of your career at the time he spent with you. If you want, please tell me your thoughts when Johnny passed away, and where was he was buried. I know that he loved you as a friend and mentor, and many times he told me that there would have been no Johnny PayCheck if it were not for George Jones.
A–I loved Johnny Paycheck and wished I could have helped him more. When he was released from prison, Nancy and I held a press conference at our home for him to answer questions and let the world know he was back. He suffered from so many health issues and I think being in prison really took its toll on him. When Johnny passed, he had no money so Nancy and I made the decision to pay for his funeral and have him buried in our family plot which is where he rests.
Q-If you had to change any one thing in your career for today’s country music, what would it be?
A-I can’t think of anything I would change except maybe I would love for country radio to still play the older artists like me and Merle Haggard. I believe in my heart there is still a place for us in country music.
Q-Do you think the fans of today know what a steel guitar and a fiddle are? Are we seeing the last days of traditional country music or have they just been hidden away until such time as we have a large group of Jamey Johnson’s and others to bring the music back to what it once was. The DJ’s of today are young, so they really do not seem to know what I am talking about. Maybe each radio station should have an hour or two hours of pure country music such as WSM/AM, and also a segment where new young artists can be heard should they record traditional country music.
A-Well the fans that come to my shows know what they are but I am pretty sure the fans of Taylor Swift don’t, and please don’t take that wrong, I am not knocking Taylor Swift. She is a phenomenal artist and I am so proud for her success but her songs are not produced in a traditional manner. I think all DJ’s and music directors at “country” radio stations should have to take a course in country music from the beginning and know the works of artists like Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, etc.
Q-What is regular day for you when you are off of the road?
A-If it is summer time, I rise in the morning, have breakfast then get on my tractor and start mowing. I love it. It is just so relaxing to be out there with no interruptions.
A- I credit Nancy for saving my life. I am sure I wouldn’t still be here and I certainly wouldn’t have a career anymore if it wasn’t for her.
Q-This question has nothing to do with music. I would like to know what George Jones thinks about the state of world affairs, and how it affects you and your families life’s?
A-I don’t like to talk politics or religion, that is personal, but I pray that God will bless America.
Q- Will there ever be another duet in country music as successful as George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and did you ever give any thought to recording a duet with Loretta?
A- I really don’t know but I think Tim McGraw and Faith Hill could be if they chose to go in that direction but they have such successful individual careers they might not want to do that. You know recording with Loretta sounds like a great idea…I don’t know why we haven’t. We toured together with Conway for a while and that was great.
Q-What are hopes for your daughter Georgette in her musical career-she does come from thoroughbred blood lines?
A- As any father would, I wish her the very best trying to make it in this business but I have told her and she knows, this is a brutal business to be in. I wonder if it isn’t harder on the child of a star because even more is expected of them. We recorded a song she co-wrote called “You And Me And Time”. It is a touching song and I loved recording it with her.
Q-I forgot the most important question of all for you. This is the last question, but it is probably one that you will have to think about or opt not to reply and I will understand. Your song “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes.” Do you think there are enough of today’s artists to fill the shoes of yesterday?
A- Most definitely. They may not be as traditional as country music artists once were but music evolves over time and is constantly changing in every genre of music. There will always be someone to fill our shoes…
George, thank you so much for taking time out of a hectic schedule to allow me to do this interview. I hope that you were comfortable with my questions and concerns, and I do appreciate your being candid with your answers. Your fan base is still as strong as any country music artist in the world, and you have lifted the bar of success to a level that is difficult to reach. You are an icon for all music genres by sticking by your love for country music and carrying the torch of country music burning strongly through all of these years. Please continue to record your music for all of us. Let us hope that in time, country radio will see what they are missing when they do not play George Jones music. Thank you, Nancy.
By Marty Martel