Letters & Opinion

George Jones: My Childhood Mentor

Dr. Claudia J. Fevrier
By Dr. Claudia J. Fevrier

IT is a great honour and privilege for me to inform you, the reader, about my childhood mentor: the Legendary George Glenn Jones. Let us take a look at an engaging biography of George Jones.

Who was George Jones?

George Jones was an American country singer, musician, and songwriter. When Jones was nine his father bought him his first guitar, and as a young boy he began his career by performing on the street to help earn money for his large and impoverished family.

After a brief stint in the military, he began to pursue his musical ambitions in earnest, and in 1955, Jones reached the country Top Ten with the song, “Why Baby Why.” On the heels of that first success, more hits followed, including “What Am I Worth” and “Just One More” (1956), also, “Don’t Stop the Music” (1957), each of which reached the country Top 10. Jones closed the decade with his first No.1 single, the comical, “White Lightning.”

In the 1960s Jones continued to find chart success with singles such as “Window Up Above” (1960; No.2) and the No.1 hit, “Tender Years” (1961). In 1962, the balladeer returned to the top of the charts with what is considered one of his trademark tunes, “She Thinks I Still Care”. The following year he teamed up with Melba Montgomery for the first of several albums: “What’s in Our Heart,” which reached No. 3 on the charts. The latter half of the 1960s was much the same, with both solo efforts and his collaborations meeting enthusiastic reception.

For the rest of his career, Jones was rarely far from the charts, releasing many hit singles as a solo artist and as a duet partner with some of country’s biggest stars, most notably Tammy Wynette. By most accounts, George Jones was the finest vocalist in the recorded history of country music. His vast array of hit singles, including his best-known song, “He stopped Loving Her Today,” as well as his distinctive voice and phrasing, earned him international acclaim. In 1992, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2002, in recognition of his more than half-century-long career, Jones received the National Medal of the Arts, and in 2012, he gained one of the greatest honours of his career: a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award!

Why do I consider George Jones my childhood mentor? The ongoing discussion will reveal the legitimacy of this question.

George Jones: My Childhood Mentor

George Jones acted as my childhood mentor in many respects–spiritually, academically, and socially. With respect to the spiritual aspect: as young children, my siblings and I grew up in a home where our mom and dad taught us about the Almighty God. They taught us to pray, and attended church service on Sundays with us at the La Ressource church, Dennery. However, what really fostered my spiritual consciousness from childhood was one early Sunday morning when I suddenly woke up to the soft, melodious sound of gospel music. For a moment, I listened attentively to an attractive voice and, then, went into our living room to meet my daddy who, as usual, was sitting there listening to and enjoying gospel songs on his record player while everyone else, except my mom, was still asleep. While dad was embracing me, I took the empty album from him, and looked at the artist’s photograph on the front cover. Dad immediately told me that the person singing was George Jones and, smilingly, pointed to his photograph. In my littleness, I gladly repeated the name George Jones and wished very much that I could sing like him; to sing the song that deeply impacted me on the spur of the moment: “Lord You’ve Been Mighty Good To Me.” As I grew up, I made a conscious effort to listen to George’s twelve gospel songs, including my favourite, to date, Lord You’ve Been Mighty Good To Me, from the album, “Old Brush Arbors.” Undoubtedly, those inspiring gospel songs by George helped to guide my spiritual walk with God from childhood, and helped to shape me into who I am today.

Academically, George Jones acted as a mentor to me: early reading, according to Strickland and Morrow (2000), is critically important in laying a foundation for lifelong reading success. I can personally attest to the truth of the authors’ statement. For example, the vast array of country music albums which dad purchased when he travelled to St. Croix to work provided the framework for promoting my early reading which, in turn, was crucial in laying a foundation for my lifelong reading and writing success.

As a child, those colourful albums of country records with the photographs of the various artists (including George’s country star friends: Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, Merle Haggard,  and Charley Pride, just to name a few) appealed to me; they were absolutely fascinating! My oral vocabulary/language, and listening skills were further developed by listening to the lyrics to those songs. It was not long before I started reading the titles of the songs on the albums and their blurbs, particularly, those from George Jones’ stack, with support from my family. Those albums were like big books to me; they provided me with a wider range of experiences with print.

As I grew older, I mastered the art of singing. As a young child, I performed wonderfully at concerts in the town/city Hall (Castries)–solos, and great duets with my brother, Hazel. While country is notably my favourite genre of music, I also have a love for other genres, as evidenced by my performances as an adult.

Moreover, I gained more insight into the various artistes’ lived stories relative to their American country music culture. Particularly, some of the stories about George Jones, the native Texan, were hilarious, for example, early in his career, he earned the nickname “The Possum.” The success stories, some of which are depicted above in the biography of George Jones, created an enthralling experience. I created my own images while reading about George’s Possum Holler, the Grand Ole Opry, Old Brush Arbors, and the like, which took me on an imaginary journey into his career. Socially, George Jones did serve as a mentor to me.

Interestingly, after many years, I no longer had to take an imaginary journey to see this country superstar, George Jones; I actually met him in person! As a doctoral student at the University of Alberta (U of A), Canada (just days prior to my Ph.D. dissertation defence), I made it my duty to attend George Jones’ concert on March 29, 2008 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, U of A, just to meet my childhood mentor, and to experience his live performances. My, oh, my! It was such a great delight to listen to the screams and hollers of dozens of fans (young and old), as well as how they sang along with George Jones to their favourite tunes, including me!

My souvenir (a yellow cap) will forever read, “George Jones, the Legend Lives.” Truly, as my childhood mentor: George Jones, sings the greatest stories ever told, now, “The Angels [Stop] To Listen.”

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