Great American Drunk: George Jones, ‘The Possum’

The drunken history of country great George Jones is documented a little too well.

There is nothing like a good drunk story, and luckily, there is no shortage of drunk celebrities to provide those.

Enter the rich-voiced country singer and songwriter George Jones. Known as ‘The Possum’ because of his beady little eyes and long nose, he was so devastated by alcoholism, he was in and out of medical treatment the majority of his life. Additionally, he was often so sauced he wouldn’t show up for concerts which earned him the name: ‘No Show Jones’.

One of my favorite George Jones song is “The Race is On”. Here is an early live performance where The Possum is very obviously hammered.

Even hammered, he sounds great. I think I’ve pointed out in another post that Charley Crockett also does a great cover of “The Race is On”, but I still prefer the original. Even this drunk version.

While we have no shortage of vids of drunken celebrities now, pre-Internet and smart device society made it more difficult to have access to these exploits. However, that are plenty of tales of The Possum’s drunkness as well as videos like the one I posted below.

While The Possum’s exploits are entertaining, reading about the length of his alcoholism and the issues it caused for himself and those who worked with him and loved him is heartbreaking.

Here is a short list of more infamous drunken or drugged up George Jones incidents:

  • Drove a lawnmower to the liquor store (more than once) after his car keys were taken away.
  • Flipped over a table at after future wife Tammy Wynette‘s second husband called Tammy Wynette a “son of a bitch” (I actually don’t know if he was drunk during this, but it’s a pretty crazy story, regardless).
  • Checked into a neurological unit of a hospital to get treatment for drinking problems
  • Was committed to a psych unit (in a strait jacket) more than once delusions caused by alcoholism
  • Allegedly shot at Tammy Wynette with a shot gun and beat her (alleged by Tammy Wynette)
  • Shot at a friend and almost hit them while drunk
  • Started doing cocaine
  • Missed shows; garnered lawsuits
  • Didn’t pay child support
  • Was homeless and living in a car
  • Lost weight to the point he was under 100 lbs.
  • Wrecked his finances
  • Wrecked multiple vehicles
  • His daughter got kidnapped because of his issues with drug dealers
  • In 1999, had his last drunken car crash and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. If you’re not counting at home…that’s at least roughly 34 years of being an alcoholic.

After that list, Mississippi girl Tammy Wynette is going to get her own post on this blog because she seems like the kind of person who makes me want to believe in heaven. She was down here as an Earth Angel, cleaning up some stuff and doing her own suffering, before God called her up, rather early at age 55, to the big leagues.

So after all of this, I feel like I would dislike George Jones. However, he appeared to be a very troubled man with many vices that needed serious help and at times, couldn’t be helped. Luckily, he appears to have cleaned up for over a decade before passing away in at the surprisingly ripe old age 81 in April 2013.

There is plenty more I could write about the man as he is a legend and, from what it appears, despite being afflicted with a terrible disease, had plenty of good intentions and a good heart. By all accounts, I’ve read he was sheepish and self-deprecating when it came to recounting his issues with drugs and alcohol. He certainly left us with some entertaining stories as well as cautionary tales (why not both?).