Tonawanda News

May 12, 2013

MUSICAL NOTES: Replaying an interview with the late George Jones

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s been around five years since I decided to shift from writing op-ed pieces to covering the music scene. Over those five years, I have interviewed many legends, and I am sad to say that for the first time someone I interviewed has passed away, country singer George Jones.

At the time of the interview in 2011, Jones was 79 years old and preparing for a show at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. When I was preparing for the interview I wondered if I should broach the subject of the era when he was arrested for a DWI while driving a lawn mower, but in the end, I decided to forego the topic.

Jones had an amazing career by every measure. He had at least one song on the country charts in every decade from the 1950s to the 2010s. He toured right up until his death.

When the interview ran in the Tonawanda News, it was integrated into a feature piece. With the passing of Jones I thought it would be interesting to run the entire interview. It was short, and before the interview I decided to ask a “signature question.” Unfortunately, he wound up being the only person I asked that signature question to before abandoning the idea.

Here, for the first time, is my entire interview with George Jones from 2011:

QUESTION: First, I would like to say it is an honor to be able to interview a country music legend. You have had a long storied career and seem to be able to reflect on your life both in interviews and in music, do you have any recollections of playing shows in the Buffalo area?

ANSWER: Thom, I have played all over the world and I don’t have a specific recollection about a show in the Buffalo area.


Q: You are known for singing songs about deeply personal topics, but has there been any subject that you felt was too painful to sing about?

A: I think over the years I have covered just about everything, but I fought my producer for a long time on recording “He Stopped Loving Her Today” because I thought it was just too sad. I told him no one would want to hear that sad song ... boy was I wrong.


Q: You are the master of the duet, which seems to be a lost art form, in your opinion, what makes a great duet?

A: It all starts with the song, but the artists have to complement each other too. Also, it takes a great producer to bring out the best performance in the artists.


Q: Many forms of music have come and gone, but country seems to have managed to not only retain a loyal fan base, it has managed to stay relevant and bring in younger audiences year after year. What is it about country music that seems to make it so enduring even outside of the south?

A: I truly believe it is because country music touches on subjects that most people can relate to. Most songs tell a story about something that happens to people in life, whether it be good or bad.


Q: Billy Sherrill convinced you to record “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and it became one of your signature songs. Was there ever a song you recorded that you thought would be a hit and it wasn’t?

A: I think every song you record you think has the potential to be a hit or you wouldn’t record it. Now I know there are songs that are known as “album cuts,” which means, they won’t be released as a single, but you still wouldn’t record it if it wasn’t a song you felt good about, at least I wouldn’t.


Q: What is your favorite remake of a George Jones song by another artist?

A: Well he didn’t remake the song but when I was recognized in Washington, D.C., at The Kennedy Honors, Alan Jackson sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and it was the best I had ever heard. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated him coming all the way to Washington to sing that song for me.


Q: What do you do to prepare for your live shows?

A: I usually have a light meal and rest a little so I can give my great fans the best show possible.


Q: What is the question you are sick and tired of answering?

A: When are you going to retire?

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at