(In 2012 George Jones was honored with The Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award. The following tribute penned by Merle Haggard ran in the GRAMMY Awards program book that year. Jones died April 26 at the age of 81.)
Sometime around 1956, I picked up a copy of Country Song Roundup. For you new kids, that was a song magazine that was a must-have for an inspiring songwriter. And it was important to me whose names were written at the bottom of the songs.
At the time I was kinda out of touch, up the river, incarcerated. Little things meant a lot inside there. There were two new songs I didn't recognize, didn't know the melody to, and a couple names attributed to them that I was barely familiar with. In fact, these two songs were written by a couple of guys who would become lifelong friends of mine — Roger Miller and George Jones. I believe those songs were Roger's "Big Harlan Taylor" and George's "Seasons Of My Heart."
It wasn't long before I had the pleasure of hearing George Jones sing both of those songs. Soon I began singing "Seasons Of My Heart" myself. George, this exciting new singer to me, had a big record a couple of years later called "The Window Up Above." I just can't help but get emotional about this. A few years went by, George had some great hits. I was in Bakersfield, Calif., at KUZZ radio presenting my very first single, "Sing A Sad Song." Bill Woods, the disc jockey on duty, told me he was gonna play it on the air. At that very moment, the door opened and into the studio walked George Jones and songwriter Georgie Riddle. That was the first time I met George personally. They had a new record in their hands. It was different. His went on to be one of the biggest songs of 1962: "She Thinks I Still Care" backed by "Sometimes You Just Can't Win."
It's only been half a century, but from that day forth I was a "Possum" disciple and as far as I'm concerned he has no equal. It's no surprise he was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2008, among other awards he's received. It's good to see one of the bad boys of country music rise above it all. Some of us have to work longer and harder than others.
(A 13-time GRAMMY nominee and two-time winner, Merle Haggard received his own Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.)
These are the most read, shared and discussed articles on GRAMMY.com right now.