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The George Jones funeral

Jeffrey Remz  |  May 2, 2013

Unfortunately I can't be in Nashville for the funeral of George Jones at the Opry. I was there for Porter Wagoner's a few years back, and it's sad, but a great way to pay one's respects to country greats.

11:06 a.m. - And that's just what Tanya Tucker is doing right now singing The Old Rugged Cross with The Imperials. Well sung. "Gonna miss you Possum," said Tucker, dressed in black as she left the stage. The Imperials are a Christian band that's been around for about 45 years.

I thought that CMT was going to broadcast the entire funeral, but the hosts seems to want to interject their thoughts instead of letting us watch the service.

11:10 a.m. - Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee is speaking. He's talking about his business trip to Tokyo last year. "It's everything that you probably would not (hear) on the Opry," he said. He talked on the U.S. ambassador taking him to the only country bar in Tokyo, called Texas to Tokyo. "Immediately, the band started playing George Jones," he said. "George Jones adds luster to our state...Tennessee will never stop loving George Jones."

11:12 a.m. - Jones' pastor, the Rev. Mike Wilson, is offering a prayer.

11:15 a.m. - Randy Travis is up there with an acoustic guitar. He's telling story of working a show together with Jones about 12 years ago. Travis talked about having to close the show because Jones wanted him to due to another engagement after seeing Jones entertain 12,000 people on their feet for an hour. Travis is singing Amazing Grace, a song he said brought him "chills" when Jones sang it. Travers is singing nice and slow, holding the notes, nice and mournful.

11:20 a.m. - The Oak Ridge Boys sing Farther Along with great harmonies. These guys are getting on in years, but they can sing. William Lee Golden looks cooler with age, I got to say, with his long flowing white hair and beard and black suit.

11:26 a.m. - Bob Schieffer of CBS News is here. Now, you may wonder what he's doing here, but he is a great great country fan. He even has written country songs and been on at least one album I have. He recalls his roots: "We didn't call it country music. We just called it music...We all wanted to sing like George Jones, but no one could sing like George Jones unless you were George Jones. You couldn't because you hadn't been through what he'd been through."

"He was such a humble man that at every step of his career, he seemed surprised by his success," said Schieffer, referencing an honor at the Kennedy Center. "He wasn't sure he wanted to accept it" because people in Washington didn't know about country music. Then First Lady Laura Bush asked to introduce him because his music meant so much to her.

"I think it was the honesty in George's voice that gave him such universal appeal," said Schieffer. "He knew about heartbreak. He knew about disappointment." Schieffer also told about him getting on his lawnmower, driving 1 1/2 miles to get another beer after his car keys were taken away.

Schieffer told the story of He Stopped Loving Her Today, which Jones found too sad. Of course, he cut it with an extra stanza. "By some counts, it took him 83 tries" to get the stanza right. The song saved Jones' career.

11:34 a.m. - Charlie Daniels strides to the stage with his big cowboy hat, reading from his talk. Daniels talked about his influence on a slew of young singers. He said it was a "God given natural talent."

11:39 a.m. - "We're going to miss you, Mr. Jones," Daniels said before singing Softly and Tenderly, playing acoustic guitar and being accompanied by a backing band. Daniels, of course has delved into gospel music himself. Nicely done.

11:44 a.m. - Travis Tritt is on stage with short hair. He talked about being in Spain with Kris Kristofferson, shooting a film when he learned of Tammy Wynette's death. He said he made the comment "With all the years of hard living that George had, who would have thought he would have outlived Tammy? Kris looked at me and said, 'If it had not been for Nancy, he would not have."

Jones, of course, thanked his widow Nancy for saving his life. "We thank you for that," Tritt said before singing Why Me Lord solo acoustic. He sounds good. He sounds good with his full-bodied voice. Lot of timbre there.

11:50 a.m. - Barbara Mandrell says, "George Jones is and always will be the greatest singer in country music." She talked about being on tour when she was quite young with Jones and also Johnny Cash. She was put on the line-up right before George. "On the first night, not only did George talk to me...he asked me if I would back him up. I couldn't believe (it). I got to play steel guitar for this giant."

She emotionally recalled Jones singing on her huge hit I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool. She talked on him singing during a CMA show she hosted and he sang from the audience, adding another level of energy. "George left his lasting imprint on my heart, all of our hearts. He always will be...treasured. I miss him so much. He sang for me and you. Now, he's singing for glory to the one who gave him that voice. Hallelujah."

11:56 p.m. - Kid Rock is out there and asked about recording a song. He said he thought Nancy was his secretary. Kid Rock said "we need to write the ultimate drinking song," and he said that Jones didn't want that. Kid Rock said he was talking about closure and then recited words to a song about Jones. Well done and heartfelt.

He's singing "The Best of Me." "No matter how much we loved George Jones, his music...No matter what we got of George Jones, you got the best of him," he said about Nancy. The Kid sounds slightly hoarse, but he, like everyone else, is singing with passion and from the heart.

12:06 p.m. - Vince Gill and Patty Loveless out to sing. "Brother George taught us all how to sing with a broken heart better than anyone who ever lived," said Gill. "I'm personally grateful he nicknamed me Sweet Pea. At first, I wasn't so sure about it."

"Every time someone calls me Sweet Pea, I get to think of George Jones," Gill said.

He talked about he and Loveless singing together reminding him of the duets Jones did with Melba Montgomery. Gill talked about recording with Emory Gordy producing (Loveless' husband), and he was told "We already got George Jones." Gordy urged Gill to find his own voice.

He joked about touring with Conway Twitty and George Jones with having but one hit. It turned out Jones liked to open and Twitty close so he was the guy in the middle with but one hit.

12:10 p.m. - "George was like family to all the Rameys," Loveless said referring to her family. She talked of hearing that George was "all upset" because Jones was looking for Loveless' CDs, but couldn't find him in the record stores.

12:12 p.m. - Loveless and Gill sing Go Rest High On That Mountain with a band. Gill's on acoustic. Loveless sounds wonderful, as usual. The crowd is standing. Gill wrote that in memory of his brother. It's always a sad song. Nice, sad fiddle lines.

12:18 p.m. - Laura Bush is speaking. "He sang from his heart and his soul. He sang for his supper in bars in Beaumont," she said, adding that she must have spent a thousand quarters in the jukebox listening to The Race Is On.

She talked with meeting Jones in 2003 when he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts and in 2008 when she spoke and gave him the Lincoln Center honor for Lifetime Achievement." "Many times when I was walking by the White House gym, I heard White Lightning while my George was working out to George J," she said.

12:26 a.m. Brad Paisley is out. "George loved young people," he said, referring to Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney and "later me, a completely lost, aimless guy that wanted to be a singer. I was very lucky to be one of the people that you wanted to adopt." He talked on buying a horse while living in a condo in Brentwood, but Jones said he could keep the horse at Jones' farm. "I was lucky to meet George when he had gotten right...when he had found the Lord and Nancy...I have to say he's an inspirational story to all of us if that man can live to 81 years old. (You) can fight the things that bring you down."

12:29 p.m. - Paisley is singing Me and Jesus solo acoustic. Paisley has been known to sing a religious song or two. Nicely done.

12:35 p.m. or so - Opry head Pete Fisher is talking at length about the legacy of Jones. "No one will fill George Jones' shoes. We'll be following in his footsteps for years to come. George Jones is country music."

12:43 p.m. - Former Ark. Mike Huckabee is talking. he plays music also. He talked about "as out of place as a piece of bacon (I think that's what he said) at a bar mitzvah."

He talked about his father about not being all that impressed about him being governor, running for President or having a television show. "If my father heard I stood on stage and played with George Jones, he would have said, 'son, you made something out of yourself'."

"He was great, not because someone handed it to him," said Huckabee.

Referring to Amazing Grace, a song Huckabee said he has heard at least a thousand times, he called Jones' version the "most chilling, haunting, authentic version of Amazing Grace that I've ever heard."

12:58 p.m. - Ronnie Milsap is out to sing When the Grass Grows Over Me. "This is the saddest song I've ever sung," Milsap said. Got to say that he sounds a bit off vocally, not quite hitting some notes, but you sure can imagine Jones singing this song.

1:03 p.m. - Kenny Chesney said, "He was always there in my life." He "was the ride on the way to school. It was the voice I heard. He was always this larger than life figure that I thought I would never meet, much less become friends with."

"When I first started in this business, George asked me open for him on several shows," he said, recalling that Jones asked him to fly back with him to Nashville. "I wanted to thank George for being George, for showing me how to be human...I love George Jones like a father. He inspired all of us with his music."

1:08 p.m. - Wynonna is out to sing. "Music gets us through," she said. "May this in some way help lighten the burden." She said the very first country music she saw was Jones and Merle Haggard at age 14. "I knew I wanted to be in country music, and that's the truth," she said.

"We have lost a national treasure," Judd said. She then sings How Great Thou Art.

Rev. Wilson is speaking again of his relationship with Jones and visiting him at the end of his life in the hospital.

1:33 p.m. - Alan Jackson closes the memorial with the song He Stopped Loving Her Today on acoustic with a lot of steel guitar. AJ is such a disciple of Jones. Such an appropriate way to end the memorial.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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