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US country musician George Jones dies

Career of 81-year-old spanned more than six decades and included string of number one hits, including "Window Up Above."

Last Modified: 26 Apr 2013 19:25
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Jones first began performing for spare change as a boy on the streets of Beaumont, Texas [Reuters]

George Jones, the US country singer whose career spanned more than six decades and a string of number one songs, has died at the age of 81 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jones, whose hits included "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Window Up Above", died on Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He had been in hospital since April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure, Kirt Webster, his spokesman, said.

Jones, whose voice was full of raw honky-tonk emotion and had a life full of honky-tonk turmoil, had spent a lifetime battling drug and alcohol addiction.

Those substances frequently derailed his career and at one point his reputation for cancelling performances earned him the nickname No-Show Jones.

But when he did show up and was in good form, listeners were treated to a powerful and evocative voice.

Jones was at his best with cry-in-your-beer songs and his masterful phrasing made them extra mournful.

As his late contemporary Waylon Jennings put it: "If we could all sound like we wanted to, then we'd all sound like
George Jones."

Stint with Marines

Born in Saratoga, Texas, on September 12, 1931, Jones first began performing for spare change as a boy on the streets of nearby Beaumont.

Under the influence of Williams, Ernest Tubb and Lefty Frizzell, he graduated to the rough roadhouses of East Texas.

Jones had an early marriage, a divorce and a stint in the Marines before his first hit, "Why Baby Why" in 1955.

His first number one song, "White Lightning," came in 1959, followed by "Tender Years" in 1961.

The next two decades brought a string of top 10 songs - "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)," "Window Up Above," "She Thinks I Still Care," "Good Year for the Roses," "The Race Is On" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which Jones said was his favourite.

He also had a successful run of duets with Melba Montgomery.

Jones, who was known as "The Possum," divorced his second wife in 1968 and the next year married one of country's most popular singers, Tammy Wynette.

The pairing was an enormous professional success for both as they recorded and toured together, and Jones also began working with Billy Sherrill, Wynette's producer.

During his time with Sherrill, Jones refined his voice and sang more ballads, often with the lush string
accompaniment that had become a trend in country music.

The marriage to Wynette went bad as Jones' addiction problem escalated and Wynette claimed he once came at her with a gun.

They divorced in 1975, but later resumed recording together. 

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