He was called “No Show Jones” because of an out-of-control lifestyle that often got in the way of his concert dates. But George Jones was as strong with a song as he was a hard-living legend, and his death at 81 in the middle of his farewell tour strips country music of one of its giants.
The lawn mower story (Shirley Corley, the second of his four wives, hid the car keys so he couldn’t drive the 8 miles to town) typified the wild life he copped to in some of his hits, though his signature song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” was a straight-on weeper. “George might show up flying, if George shows up at all,” Waylon Jennings once sang. “But he may be, unconsciously, the greatest of them all.”