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Country singer and songwriter George Jones was born into poverty, but became a successful musician later in life. His first hit was the 1955 song "Why Baby Why."
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George Jones was born on September 12, 1931, in Saratoga, Texas, into a very poor family. So poor, in fact, that he sang on the streets as a child. Jones began recording country music in the 1950s. His first hit was "Why Baby Why," which he recorded in 1955. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957, and continued to write hit songs into the 1980s. He died on April 26, 2013, at age 81.
"I've had a great time loving the music that I was brought up on."
"Country fans need to support country music by buying albums and concert tickets for traditional artists or the music will just fade away. And that would be really sad."
"We were our daddy's loved ones when he was sober, his prisoners when he was drunk."
"If we could sound the way we wanted, we'd all sound like George Jones."
Remembered as one of country music's all-time greatest stars, George Glenn Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, on September 12, 1931, and grew up poor in East Texas. He was one of eight children, though his older sister, Ethel, died before he was born. His father was an alcoholic who would sometimes get violent. "We were our daddy's loved ones when he was sober, his prisoners when he was drunk," Jones later wrote in his autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All.
Jones and his family shared a love of music, often singing hymns together. They also enjoyed listening to the radio, tuning into programs from the Grand Ole Opry. A music lover from the start, Jones taught himself to play guitar. He began performing in the streets and dive bars of Beaumont, Texas, in his early teens.
George Jones started out singing on the radio with a friend, working at a station in Jasper, Texas, and then headed back to Beaumont. In 1950, he got married to Dorothy Bonvillion. The couple had a daughter, Susan, before splitting up a year later. The break-up, according to some reports, was caused by Jones's explosive temper and excessive drinking. After the divorce, Jones joined the U.S. Marines and served during the Korean War, but never went overseas.
In 1953, Jones landed a deal with Starday Records. The label's co-owner, Pappy Daily, became his producer and his manager—a partnership that would last for years. Jones also tried his hand at another type of partnership around that time. In 1954, he married Shirley Ann Corley. The couple had two sons, Jeffrey and Brian. After a few failed singles, Jones made the country charts with the up-tempo number on heartbreak, "Why Baby Why," in 1955. More hits soon followed with "What Am I Worth," "You Gotta Be My Baby" and "Just One More." In 1959, Jones had his first No. 1 hit with the comical song "White Lightning."
In the early 1960s, Jones established himself as one of country music's top crooners. He sang many songs of heartbreak, including 1960's "Window Up Above" and 1961's "Tender Years." The balladeer reached the top of the charts in 1962 with "She Thinks I Still Care," one of his trademark tunes. A year later, he teamed up with Melba Montgomery for the first of several recordings. Their biggest hit together was "We Must Have Been Out of Minds." Showing his lighter side, Jones recorded "The Race Is On."
Jones worked with Gene Pitney on another duet project in the mid-1960s, but his greatest collaborative work came together toward the end of the decade, when he met and fell in love with fellow country star Tammy Wynette. Following his divorce from his second wife, Shirley, in 1968, Jones and Wynette wed in 1969. Not long after, they began making music together.
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A uniquely American genre, country music got its start in the South in the early 19th century, when immigrants blended their Old World sounds with African-American musical styles. But it was the lives of the musicians, as told in their songs, that turned country into one of the best-loved musical styles in the United States. Listeners could relate to Jimmie Rodgers' stories of the railroad in "The Brakeman's Blues"; Hank Williams' struggle with depression in tunes such as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"; and the promise of finding someone to rely on in George Jones' "Walk Through This World With Me." And its the universal struggles of love, loss, joy and longing found in each country song that keeps this music—and its performers—relevant throughout time.
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