Hulton Archive/Getty Images
George Jones was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. He has also won several Grammy Awards.
George Jones was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. He has also won several Grammy Awards. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Waylon Jennings once said, "If we could all sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones."
Jones, nicknamed "The Possum," has recorded 14 No. 1 hits and received accolades from the Kennedy Center, the U.S. National Medal of Arts, the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, among others.
Jones, who grew up in rural Texas during the Depression, first performed at the age of 9 in Pentecostal churches and revival meetings. After helping to save souls, in his early teens he played to the sinners, playing at rough-and-tumble road houses. He was underage, but worked with an older couple who served as his guardians. Jones says fights would often break out as the bands played.
"Back in those late '40s, when I was appearing in these places, we had to put chicken wire around the bandstand. We had to keep bottles from flying and busting our guitars up," he says. "It would be brawls [breaking] out every hour or so. But we got through it. It was part of the training, I guess."
Here, Jones joins Terry Gross for a conversation about his autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All, which describes the many years he was addicted to alcohol and cocaine — as well as his perspective on his celebrated but troubled marriage to Tammy Wynette.
This interview was originally broadcast on May 8, 1996.