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In the vein of the classic Johnny Cash: The Life, this groundbreaking work explores the wild life and extraordinary musical career of “the definitive country singer of the last half century” (New York Times), who influenced, among others, Bob Dylan, Buck Owens, Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. In a masterful biography laden with n In the vein of the classic Johnny Cash: The Life, this groundbreaking work explores the wild life and extraordinary musical career of “the definitive country singer of the last half century” (New York Times), who influenced, among others, Bob Dylan, Buck Owens, Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. In a masterful biography laden with new revelations, veteran country music journalist/historian Rich Kienzle offers a definitive, full-bodied portrait of legendary country singer George Jones and the music that remains his legacy. Kienzle meticulously sifted through archival material, government records, recollections by colleagues and admirers, interviewing many involved in Jones’s life and career. The result: an evocative portrait of this enormously gifted, tragically tormented icon called “the Keith Richards of country.” Kienzle chronicles Jones’s impoverished East Texas childhood as the youngest son of a deeply religious mother and alcoholic, often-abusive father. He examines his three troubled marriages including his union with superstar Tammy Wynette and looks unsparingly at Jones’s demons. Alcohol and later cocaine nearly killed him until fourth wife Nancy helped him learn to love himself. Kienzle also details Jones’s remarkable musical journey from singing in violent Texas honky tonks to Grand Ole Opry star, hitmaker and master vocalist whose raw, emotionally powerful delivery remains the Gold Standard for country singers. The George Jones of this heartfelt biography lived hard before finding contentment until he died at eighty-one—a story filled with whiskey, women and drugs but always the saving grace of music. Illustrated with eight pages of photos.


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In the vein of the classic Johnny Cash: The Life, this groundbreaking work explores the wild life and extraordinary musical career of “the definitive country singer of the last half century” (New York Times), who influenced, among others, Bob Dylan, Buck Owens, Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. In a masterful biography laden with n In the vein of the classic Johnny Cash: The Life, this groundbreaking work explores the wild life and extraordinary musical career of “the definitive country singer of the last half century” (New York Times), who influenced, among others, Bob Dylan, Buck Owens, Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. In a masterful biography laden with new revelations, veteran country music journalist/historian Rich Kienzle offers a definitive, full-bodied portrait of legendary country singer George Jones and the music that remains his legacy. Kienzle meticulously sifted through archival material, government records, recollections by colleagues and admirers, interviewing many involved in Jones’s life and career. The result: an evocative portrait of this enormously gifted, tragically tormented icon called “the Keith Richards of country.” Kienzle chronicles Jones’s impoverished East Texas childhood as the youngest son of a deeply religious mother and alcoholic, often-abusive father. He examines his three troubled marriages including his union with superstar Tammy Wynette and looks unsparingly at Jones’s demons. Alcohol and later cocaine nearly killed him until fourth wife Nancy helped him learn to love himself. Kienzle also details Jones’s remarkable musical journey from singing in violent Texas honky tonks to Grand Ole Opry star, hitmaker and master vocalist whose raw, emotionally powerful delivery remains the Gold Standard for country singers. The George Jones of this heartfelt biography lived hard before finding contentment until he died at eighty-one—a story filled with whiskey, women and drugs but always the saving grace of music. Illustrated with eight pages of photos.

30 review for The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    "I know where I want to go, but I always seem to end up goin' the other way. I know there's nothin' down that way. I been down there too many times." -George Jones I knew George Jones was cool decades before pseudo-hipster millenials with pubic hair beards, corduroys and beanies did. Jones was a relic of the rhinestone era who beat the rockers at their own bad-boy game. He was smashing guitars, trashing hotel rooms, provoking bar fights, waywardly firing pistols, missing gigs and abusing substances "I know where I want to go, but I always seem to end up goin' the other way. I know there's nothin' down that way. I been down there too many times." -George Jones I knew George Jones was cool decades before pseudo-hipster millenials with pubic hair beards, corduroys and beanies did. Jones was a relic of the rhinestone era who beat the rockers at their own bad-boy game. He was smashing guitars, trashing hotel rooms, provoking bar fights, waywardly firing pistols, missing gigs and abusing substances with the best of 'em. But he was, as Tony Bennett later said of Amy Winehouse, sinning against his talent. He was on a path too many in music had taken, to a surely fatal destination. He was millions of dollars in debt, behind in alimony and child support to several ex-wives, under summary arrest order if he so much as stepped into Nashville's Davidson County. He was being sued or jailed left and right, for debts, for assault, for drug possession, DUI, whatever. He missed more concert dates than he honored, and the ones he did make were because his coke dealers pushed him onstage, not wanting their source of income to dry up. When his second wife took his car keys away to prevent him getting booze, he hopped onto his riding mower and chugged on down the street at a turtle's pace to the liquor store eight miles away. George always found a way to do as he pleased. Such stories were funny and legendary in Nashville, but George's receding journey into his own echo chamber was no laughing matter. Wasted on booze and coke, he had begun talking and laughing to himself, a comedy show for one, on the stage of delirium, and nobody else was chuckling at his self-directed inside jokes. He was getting away from everyone. But, in spite of himself, the world kept giving Jones opportunities for redemption: second, third and many more chances that ordinary mortals didn't get. This is what happens when you are the greatest living country singer. One of those chances for rebound came in 1980. Songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman had just penned a piece of utter melodramatic piffle called, "He Stopped Loving Her Today." It was maudlin, hokey and about as subtle as a black velvet painting of a little girl with oversized crying eyes. The song might prove that George was still Nashville's most powerful, not-so-secret weapon. When "He Stopped Loving Her Today" made it into his shaky hands, the squirrelly artist, quite rightly, thought it was shit and didn't want to do it. But, his producer cajoled him and, with thoughts, perhaps, of booze and cocaine awaiting him, he got the thing over with and recorded it. Thinking nothing more of it, he swaggered his chemically laden carcass out the door into the humid Nashville air. The song, in my opinion, was never a great one, not a patch on a haunting masterpiece like Long Black Veil, another country-folk classic of posthumous love and death. The classic recording of that was by Lefty Frizzell, who, as it happened, was one of George Jones' musical heroes and later one of his drinking buddies. Jones' style was deeply influenced by Frizzell's, particularly the affect of stretching lyrics into multi-syllables. The success of Jones' record owes much to that great record and Frizzell's style. When "He Stopped Loving Her Today," was released in April 1980, it was a bombshell, climbing to the number-one chart position by July 1980. It was on the charts for 19 weeks and became Jones' most famous signature record. It and Jones were showered with country music awards that year. In a few years, country music aficionados would proclaim it the greatest country song of all time. But George, despite the accolades, still didn't think much of the song, or, it appeared, his own life, which he had handed over to his demons. The next morbid song, it would appear, would be about him. Regardless of what I think of the song itself, Jones' treatment turns it into sublime art. In it, we hear why Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett admired him. Listen to the passage in the song where Jones builds to the heights on the phrase "He stopped loving her," then, turning slightly downward on the word "her" descends imperceptibly into an almost whispered, almost spoken-word enunciation of the word, "today," so final, so regretful and so solemn. The range of emotion and technical prowess, particularly in dynamic range, here are phenomenal. It's artlessly artful and effortless in a way that eludes today's glitzy smart-bomb singers. The record had a deep hold on my family. It was one of my late father's favorite records. Near the end of his life, he fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams of having a genuine retro jukebox in his house. He bought it from a bar, fixed it up and filled it with records. One of the most played songs in his rotation was "He Stopped Loving Her Today." After he died, my mother would occasionally play the jukebox, and that song, while cleaning in the basement. Obviously, irony is not missed here, given the meaning of the lyrics and the reality of a widow playing a song loved by her deceased husband. I hated when they played that song because, no matter what I thought of the insipid lyrics, it was something of a grueling, gut-wrenching experience to go through. Three minutes that seemed like a half-hour stare into the casket at the funeral of your best friend. I would always be moved nearly to tears by Jones' conviction and relentless slow-burn way of singing it. I've always been a Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash guy, but when George Jones is playing, it's easy to agree with the experts: that he was the greatest of all male country singers. At the point of his life in the early '80s when Jones scored this triumph, one of so many in a rich career, he was about to hit bottom before finally achieving arguably his greatest milestone: beating the oddsmakers over his surely imminent death, outliving all the predictions including the Reaper's own. Jones, many thought, wouldn't make it past 50. His life of hard scrapping and hard drinking (and, increasingly, cocaine binging) -- a lifestyle mirroring that of his short-lived hero and early musical companion, Hank Williams Sr. -- veered Jones out of control. In one year during the late '70s, Jones missed 54 concert dates. Those charged to keep an eye on him were always given the slip. Liquor and blow were his disappear-power elixir. His booze-fueled rages were well-known in Music City, and he was on course to be another show business legend snuffed young. Jones hit peak craziness in 1982, leaving a trail of mayhem across the South that included coke-fueled speeding, arrests, wrecks, bad-check writing, and a savage run-in with a reporter on camera. "No-Show Jones" -- a nickname earned from his habit of stiffing paying fans -- was often better than the Jones who did show up. That Jones put on such a bad show, often openly insulting his fans, that it almost amounted to a declaration of war; some fans in retaliation attacked his tour buses and his entourage. Some radio stations began to ban his records. The man who had had multiple mansions and properties by 1983 was living in a trailer home. It all seemed hopeless, yet Jones' career, and life, did rebound. By 1984, he had begun to smarten up. There still would be relapses and brushes with death, but the arc was upward. He cast off his demons, listened to his dedicated fourth wife, Nancy Sepulveda, survived another car wreck and got right with the Lord. He made it all the way to 81 before passing in 2013, long enough to see himself immortalized, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and honored by the Kennedy Center Awards for life achievement. This book, The Grand Tour..., which takes its title from a George Jones hit, is a solid and unpretentious account of Jones' rambunctious life, from childhood poverty and abuse in swampy east Texas, to the heights of fame and the depths of personal weakness. It's written fine enough in a style suiting its subject, not too bland and not too fancy -- hitting the facts without lingering too long. It's nothing scintillating but evocative enough to make one pine for that lost-time "mystery train" world of old Southern musical nights and the glamorous golden age of the Grand Ole Opry of the '50s and '60s. It's also not the most probing biography that could be written on Jones, but it's a healthy portion-sized serving that gives me just the amount I need without outstaying its welcome, unlike a lot of verbose bios these days that try to trace a famous person's roots back to the Magna Carta or some shit. Along with stories of George's many ornery and violent episodes and financial profligacy, we learn a few surprising things: one being the singer's love of interior design -- an avocation Jones said he'd have pursued if he hadn't been a musician. When in his element, on stage, Jones could kill it, even when wasted, but had an inferiority complex when in venues or with audiences outside his comfort zone: places populated by New York sophisticates, Sinatra Vegas lounge types or outlaw country hippie crowds who triggered his skittishness. Jones was still a product of the rhinestone/leisure suit generation. The book is even-handed in covering the passionate and volatile six-year marriage of Jones and female country superstar, Tammy Wynette, suggesting that both parties were variously to blame for the dysfunction. Anyone with an abiding curiosity about the American music industry, history and the arts -- and the many other legends Jones worked with or whose careers paralleled his (Buddy Holly, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, and more) -- will derive something of interest from it. Some of the reviewers on here complaining about its structure and organization baffle me; I found nothing confusing or offputting about it. ---- (If you've read up till now, you've pretty much finished the book review. The rest of this is mainly an impressionistic digression about my time in Nashville that may provide some additional entertainment for you if you're in the mood. It had to be done, in any case, just because I wanted to. The end dovetails back into George Jones, so it's not entirely an outlier. I may pull this bit out at some point and re-purpose it, but for now...) George Jones' Nashville was a small place, isolated from the cultural mainstream despite its dominance of one musical genre. I remember visiting it with my parents in the '70s to see the Opryland amusement park and it was a tiny city, much smaller than my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and definitely smaller than Tennessee's largest, Memphis. Decades later, all of that has changed. Nashville has surged past those other towns in population, geographical size, skyline, economic power and cultural vitality. I saw this when I visited the city in 2013 to meet a woman. I found that I didn't care so much for the woman, but very much cared for the town; I absolutely fell madly and hopelessly in love with it. I vowed to live there, and did so in 2014 and 2015 and my short sojourn was one of the great experiences of my life. The teeming honky tonks on Broadway, like Tootsies' Orchid Lounge, are ringed by the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Auditorium (where I paid hushed respects backstage to the ghost of Hank Sr.), the Schermerhorn symphony hall, Municipal auditorum, blues clubs in Printer's Alley, and the starving musicians grinding out tunes, hat-in-hand on the sidewalks. If you couldn't find something good to listen to in these few magical blocks, then you were truly shit out of luck. I saw the Nashville Symphony perform Bartok and Mozart yards away from clubs like The Tin Roof where I moved my body to the sounds of young hopefuls fiddling and wailing like maniacs. I randomly met Brenda Lee -- the biggest selling American female singer of the 1960s -- shopping for flowers in a retail store. That's how it is there; old and new ever present in a town with an institutional memory for those attuned to see it. I'd bike downtown across the walking bridge off the suburban Greenway and see artists such as Charlie Daniels (old) and Dustin Lynch (new) playing the outdoor festivals. With caramels from Savannah's Candy Kitchen still in our mouths, me and a date squeezed into a honky tonk through a mass of humanity to be greeted by crazy drunken teenage girls who shoved inflatable vinyl dicks into our faces. This was a different level of clubbing. I stopped at a snack stand along the main drag to buy water in the heat and found the vendor had come from my own neck of the woods; she moved there with a guy who was no longer her guy, and that's why she was still around selling corn chips. Her story was one told a thousand-fold or more in that town. We had an amazing discussion but when I came back another day to try to find her, she was gone, never to be seen again. I walked into places where Hank Sr. and George Jones had gotten into bar fights and tossed into the piss- and- beer-swill-smelling alleys out back. I chatted with soused Slovenian girls after they'd worked the Wild Horse Saloon, battled a psychotic woman who stole my cell phone (long story) and who'd shoplifted a Dollar General while my back was turned, took women on the town with varying degrees of success. Luckily, once in awhile, there was success. I took two women out on the town once; a Spanish girl and I downed beers like champs while the other girl timdly sipped at hers and we knowingly traded glances over how adorable this was. I hit bars and played pool and hoped I wouldn't wreck my elderly Toyota Corrolla coming down the yawning hill of Charlotte Avenue with the dazzling glittery dusky skyline of the city arrayed in full view ahead. I bunked a few times, when the need arose, at the Music City hostel for $18 a night, trusting my possessions to total strangers and traversing the town with people I'd met there from England, Sweden, China, France and Spain; people who told me their life stories and why they came to Music City to see what they believed to be the real America. I met people who were seeing the world, travelers who made this fabled city a must-stop on their itinerary. I met a young musician, bunking in the same hostel unit with me, working on the music for the TV series, Nashville. He strummed his guitar softly in the dim light of the sitting room, next to a blonde mathematician from Sweden, while I ate pizza out of a cardboard box from a barebones take-out joint owned by Muslim immigrants in a bohemian hood where you could share donuts at 2am at the Krispy Kreme with goth punkers who were stumbling out of the hardcore club next door. I saw the most beautiful girl I ever saw, fleetingly, on the campus at Vanderbilt University while walking to an art museum. In a city of pretty faces, it was shocking when any one in particular stood out. I randomly met and chatted with a songwriter outside the BMI building in Music Row, a kindly older black man who'd been plugging away at it for years, with no great success but no sense of bitterness. I lived in a house with an ex-cop boarder who'd been pals with Jim Varney, the actor who played Ernest P. Worrell on TV and movies, along with a starving artist who'd once walked from Florida to Tennessee, just to get away from home. I talked to a gal in a smoothie bar who wanted to leave town for somewhere less exciting. I explored the town with a young Chinese woman attending Vanderbilt who decided to casually mention to me after we'd had three dates and I'd slept over at her place that she happened to be married, her husband still back home in Chongqing. I stood atop the prominence of the capitol building and took in the sweeping vistas of lands once tramped over by great armies of the Civil War. I watched slums and vast tracts I'd walked through after getting off the bus for the first time in 2013 turn into neighborhoods of gentrifying trendy bars and glass skyscrapers in the blink of an eye by 2015. Yeah, Nashville is one surreal fucking place. For someone like me, who prefers living in the moment, it's perfect. Lots and lots of very sweet memories stuffed into a short period of time. When I had to leave it, I cried. I still get down to Nashville for business and pleasure a couple times a year (the city has one of the nation's greatest bookstores, McKay's -- too big to peruse in one day). Regrettably, I still haven't visited the George Jones Museum (even though I've been to Johnny Cash's). When I was living there, the museum always seemed closed, or under construction. I'd like to get right with the Lord and visit it some time. ----- --KR/EG 2019 Pardon if this digressed into a love letter to Nashville. I'll probably end up doing it again on some other review, so you've been warned. Recommended listening: Cold Hard Truth (1999, Asylum). Jones' last gold album, beautifully produced in up-to-date sound with traditional country backings, this blend of gut-tugging ballads and rollicking novelties is absolute fire. It demonstrates everything that was great about George Jones. There's a lifetime of experience in every syllable and phrase and his nearly 70-year-old burnished voice is in fine fettle. Here's the title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJRZ5...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeri

    I grew up listening to tapes and records my parents would play of George Jones music along with hearing him on the radio. I even have some of his songs in my own collection that I have played for my children. I knew most of the colorful past of George Jones' and thought this book would uncover more of the man behind the music. All it seemed to do was brush over who he was personally and focus on his drug and alcohol addiction. I did enjoy seeing the few photos included in the book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I received an Advanced Reader Copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As a huge traditional country music fan, I am an admirer of George Jones' music and the many singers following in his footsteps. I was very excited to read a biography about him. I thought this book had a ton of interesting information but lacked organization. It was a bit difficult to come up with an overlying theme. I think I might try Jones' autobiography and see what I can learn from the man himself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I’d guess that the most common word to pop up in George Jone’s biography is some form of the word “drink”. Throughout the first 2/3 of the book, Jones is a drinking fool. So much of the story takes place with Jones in an inebriated state that you wonder what he’d be like sober. You get a glimpse of that in the end of the book, but he’s older and more settled by the time that switch happens. You get the basics you would expect in a country music biography here: family background, growing up, earl I’d guess that the most common word to pop up in George Jone’s biography is some form of the word “drink”. Throughout the first 2/3 of the book, Jones is a drinking fool. So much of the story takes place with Jones in an inebriated state that you wonder what he’d be like sober. You get a glimpse of that in the end of the book, but he’s older and more settled by the time that switch happens. You get the basics you would expect in a country music biography here: family background, growing up, early career, marriages, big concerts, run ins with the law, wrecked cars, singing partners, band members, lists of songs and albums, bizarre business ideas, divorces, come-to-Jesus moments, and eventual decline. And there’s the drinkin’. I found these normal parts of the biography were well done, although some parts of his life, mostly his early years, were minimally covered. Likely, there wasn’t much material to pull from. This book also had more than average depth when discussing his deals with record companies and the backgrounds of those companies and their owners. I found these areas interesting, but a bit tangential to the biography. In the end, I feel I know more about No-Show Jones now than when I started. But I didn’t know anything before I started. I didn’t get the depth of analysis that, for instance, Johnny Cash received in his biography by Robert Hilburn. I couldn’t help but compare the Jones in this biography to Cash in the Hilburn book and Jerry Lee Lewis in the biography by Rick Bragg. Cash and Lewis are reflective and come across as smart in many areas. Jones doesn’t seem as reflective, and he doesn’t come across as smart as much as methodically employing a talent in crooning and carousing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    SusanInSedalia

    I enjoyed reading about the life of George Jones. Many of the anecdotes about his wild life were entertaining but I found his biographer's crude and haphazard, tangential writing style very distracting. I felt as if he inserted himself and his thoughts too much into Jones' story. George Jones was one of the immortals of country music. He deserves a biography with a bit more dignity, and a biographer that knows not to hog the limelight with his subject.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    Country singer George Jones lived such a colorful and public life that several biographies about him have been written in the past few years. I have three of those on my own bookshelves: George Jones: The Saga of an American Singer (Bob Allen - 1984), Ragged but Right: The Life & Times of George Jones (Dolly Carlisle – 1984), and George Jones: I Lived to Tell It All (George Jones & Tom Carter – 1996). Interestingly, both the first two books were published about the time that George returned to h Country singer George Jones lived such a colorful and public life that several biographies about him have been written in the past few years. I have three of those on my own bookshelves: George Jones: The Saga of an American Singer (Bob Allen - 1984), Ragged but Right: The Life & Times of George Jones (Dolly Carlisle – 1984), and George Jones: I Lived to Tell It All (George Jones & Tom Carter – 1996). Interestingly, both the first two books were published about the time that George returned to his roots and built Jones Country in tiny Colmesneil, Texas (population 600). But Jones continued to add to his legend after 1984, of course, and although Tom Carter’s book covers the years up to 1996 when it was published, those years are somewhat filtered through the eyes of Carter’s co-author, George Jones himself. Now, a full three years after Jones’s death, his legacy has become more settled and his whole story can be told in one volume – and that is exactly what Rich Keinzle has done in The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. From the very beginning of his career, country music fans were intrigued by the craziness that always seemed to follow Jones around the country as he performed. By the end of that career, George Jones was a respected vocalist (still with a reputation for craziness) who had managed to grab the attention of music lovers around the world. It was never easy for the shy, insecure performer that Jones was throughout his lifetime, but, public warts and all, he was just too good to ignore. Rich Keinzle has done his George Jones homework, and it shows. The Grand Tour recounts everything from the life of poverty into which Jones was born, through his battle with drug and alcohol addictions that almost killed him, and on to his rescue by Nancy Sepulvado, the Shreveport woman, who saw him through the worst of his addictions and saved both his life and his career. It is impossible to recount the life of George Jones without spending a great number of pages on the singer’s problems and demons – and Keinzle does that. But the high points of Jones’s life, including the best (and worst) of his recordings are also recounted in great detail. I appreciate The Grand Tour – and I am no casual George fan. George Jones and his music have been in my life for more than five decades. I grew up near the city of Beaumont, Texas, which Jones called home for a number of years. My wife’s grandparents knew the Jones family in Saratoga, Texas, and her grandmother occasionally had George over to the house when he was a boy. Too, I personally witnessed two of the milestone events cited by the author in The Grand Tour: the one and only country music show ever presented at Jones’s Rhythm Ranch in Vidor, Texas, and his later induction into the Beaumont Walk of Fame, a site that honors the most famous citizens born in the county surrounding that city. And all that said, Rich Keinzle still told me a thing or two about George Jones I never knew; it’s that kind of book – maybe a little bit crude and rough around the edges…but then so was George.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Walker

    The author tries to bring the singer to readers with pop psychology to explain (justify) his bizarre behavior. This attempt doesn't work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    JBP

    George "Possum" Jones was perhaps the greatest country singer of all-time. He definitely did those heartbreak songs better than anyone--google "The Grand Tour" or "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and listen to those if you don't know his work. Every now and then, I love to listen to old-school, my heart has been ripped out and stomped on by a no-good woman, melancholy country song and when I do...Jones is always a good option. He was an amazing singer but away from the microphone? Not as amazing. M George "Possum" Jones was perhaps the greatest country singer of all-time. He definitely did those heartbreak songs better than anyone--google "The Grand Tour" or "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and listen to those if you don't know his work. Every now and then, I love to listen to old-school, my heart has been ripped out and stomped on by a no-good woman, melancholy country song and when I do...Jones is always a good option. He was an amazing singer but away from the microphone? Not as amazing. Multiple marriages [one to the equally brilliant country singer Tammy Wynette], kids, decades of alcoholism, cocaine addiction, bankruptcy, crazy on-stage antics--No Show was a nickname for the amount of time Jones wouldn't show up for gigs. It's actually hard to believe he lived to be 81 years old after reading about the ways he abused himself. But, he had 50 years of hits and is firmly ensconced as one of the all-time legends. The reason this gets 3 stars instead of 4 is that too often it is just a discography recital--Kienzle spends too much time listing every single and its chart position. More intimate stories about Jones or some of the characters he worked with or new would have worked way better than an endless recap of his songs.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. I grew up hearing stories and tales about George Jones. My father's best friend was a cousin of George's (1st cousin?) and he passed along many tales of George's adventures growing up, so I really looked forward to reading this biography. I wasn't disappointed, tucked into this book were the stories of the people and songs I grew up listening to, it was like visiting old friends. No one can deny that George Jones was a hard partying man for mu I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. I grew up hearing stories and tales about George Jones. My father's best friend was a cousin of George's (1st cousin?) and he passed along many tales of George's adventures growing up, so I really looked forward to reading this biography. I wasn't disappointed, tucked into this book were the stories of the people and songs I grew up listening to, it was like visiting old friends. No one can deny that George Jones was a hard partying man for much of his life, but neither can they deny his talent. I was just out of high school when he married Nancy and opened Jones Country a mere 15 miles from where I grew up and was living. When he died I almost felt like I had lost a family member, even though I had never met the man. The only disappointment I found with the book was no mention of the duet he and Georgette released in 2008, 'You and Me and Time.'

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle (Harper/Collin/Dey Street Books, March 2016, 288 Pages, $18.77/14.99) provides an excellent overview of the life and times of George Jones, called, by the New York Times, the “definitive country singer of last half century” and known for years in the industry as “no show Jones” for his propensity to be unable to make it to the stage because of his serious problems with drugs and alcohol. It may also echo the life and times of the The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle (Harper/Collin/Dey Street Books, March 2016, 288 Pages, $18.77/14.99) provides an excellent overview of the life and times of George Jones, called, by the New York Times, the “definitive country singer of last half century” and known for years in the industry as “no show Jones” for his propensity to be unable to make it to the stage because of his serious problems with drugs and alcohol. It may also echo the life and times of the country music industry during the decades from the sixties through the eighties, when many, according to an interview we heard recently, the industry floated on an epidemic of drugs and alcohol. While I didn't find much of Jones' life or personality to be much endearing, many of his fans will excuse his behavior for the greatness of his mammoth catalog of hit songs which persist, being frequently covered by country music singers everywhere. I found the book and the man to be both sad and distressing. George Glenn Jones was born in 1931 during the depths of the depression in the Big Thicket region of east Texas, a heavily wooded region lying along the southeastern edge of Texas bordering on Louisiana. This is a region where, when the turpentine and logging industry wasn't doing well, the moonshine business thrived. Jones' father, a violent alcoholic himself, was prone to responding to upsets in the world by beating his wife and children, which, according to Kienzle, lay at the base of Jones's own lifelong difficulties with drugs and alcohol. Music, however, was always a feature in his life, as his father played guitar and harmonica, while his mother was a church pianist in a Pentacostal church, leading Jones' toward his base in both country and gospel music which dominated his life. Perhaps the most interesting element of this book, for me, lay in the insights into the recording industry, when that industry was ruled by large commercial labels, as it emerged during the fifties and sixties, from small, regional outlets recording in primitive studios music aimed at narrowly focused regional audiences, in Jones' case, of white, working class fans who heard him playing largely in honky-tonks and bars. As his success as a performer grew, he moved to Nashville, where the country music recording industry was centered, working for larger and more prestigious labels. He decried what he saw as the breakdown of traditional country music into an “urban cowboy smooth style represented by the rise of singers like Kenny Rogers and Garth Brooks, including even Dolly Parton, as she became a movie star in the eighties. As in bluegrass, the move from its rough, rural origins to suburban comfort in the U.S. Demographic profiles created fissures in the business which disturbed and angered Jones. Kienzle, prone to comments like “scared the shit out of him,” substitutes coarse language for serious analysis at times. Jones' work became the “gold standard” for a movement during the eighties which Kienzle refers to as New Traditionalism, represented by Dwight Yoakum, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, and Patty Loveless. Meanwhile, Jones' personal life can only be described as a mess. He was married several times to women whose influence on him was negligible. His marriage and professional association to/with Tammy Wynette created great music, but never contributed to his achieving a more adult lifestyle. He bought and sold large tracts of land with the idea of developing music parks, which never quite panned out. Jones was prone to buying and either giving away or wrecking cars and yachts, never learning to live in a responsible way or manage money. He was frequently sued and usually lost. His last wife, Nancy Sepulvado, seems to have helped him, with the help of several admittances to rehabilitation institutes and hospitalizations, to forego drugs and learn better to manage his drinking. Often plagued with ill health, Jones still managed to live into his 81st year, dying in 2013. He is remembered and celebrated as one of the all-time greats of country music history. Songs like He Stopped Loving Her Today and The Grand Tour have become staples of country music and bluegrass. Veteran country music critic, journalist, and historian Rich Kienzle is the author of Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky-Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz and Great Guitarists: The Most Influential Players in Blues, Country Music, Jazz and Rock. A contributing editor and columnist at Country Music magazine for nearly twenty-five years, he also edited their history publication The Journal. He was formerly a contributing editor at No Depression and Guitar World and is now a regular contributor to Vintage Guitar Magazine. His work has appeared in Fretboard Journal, Guitar Player, Request, The Journal of Country Music, and the Austin American-Statesman. The author of liner notes for almost four hundred reissue albums, Kienzle is among the few country journalists profiled in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He received the International Country Music Conference’s Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism in 2012. (from Harper Collins author biography) The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle (Dey Street Books division of Harper/Collins, March 2016, 288 Pages, $18.77/14.99) is a reasonably thorough account of George Jones' life which makes no effort to paper over his personal demons and deep flaws. Who can tell whether those flaws contributed to the depth and emotional impact of his singing or fatally damaged his output and his life. Certainly, his record as a husband and father were evident to everyone who knew anything about him. Nevertheless, George Jones' reputation as an icon in country music only continues to grow. I read the book as an electronic galley provided to me by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle app. If you decide to order this book, please consider using the Amazon portal on my blog at www.tedlehmann.blogspot.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Bottrell

    I was lucky enough to see George Jones perform before he passed. He was not in good voice, telling the audience he had a cold, but I didn't much care about that. I just smiled the whole time, knowing I was experiencing something really special. I've never really learned how to mentally handle artists who are part angel and part demon. But I wanted to find out about this man in more detail, so I picked up this biography to lay things out for me. Kienzle does a serviceable job - this isn't an exhau I was lucky enough to see George Jones perform before he passed. He was not in good voice, telling the audience he had a cold, but I didn't much care about that. I just smiled the whole time, knowing I was experiencing something really special. I've never really learned how to mentally handle artists who are part angel and part demon. But I wanted to find out about this man in more detail, so I picked up this biography to lay things out for me. Kienzle does a serviceable job - this isn't an exhaustive work, it's not in any way intimate or filled with interesting insights. It's the basics, and in that, it does its task adequately. Jones is such a complicated man, a dark character in many ways (at times, jealous, surly, belligerent, abusive, violent, and chronically irresponsible), and beneath the accolades Kienzle lauds him with, there is a trail of hurt and mistreated people who get little attention in the story. We hear nothing, for example, from Jones's children. I imagine that's a different book to be written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lance Cahill

    Pretty uneven book. The book read as an extended book project that plodded along paragraph to paragraph with loosely connected anecdotes whose commonality related to the time period that it happened. Moreover, anecdotes relates through interviews didn’t meet scrutiny of other corroborating evidence except in handful of cases, so veracity of many of these seemed wanting. As the result of this, I did find myself skimming some paragraphs. The book does cover to the extent that Jones’ substance abus Pretty uneven book. The book read as an extended book project that plodded along paragraph to paragraph with loosely connected anecdotes whose commonality related to the time period that it happened. Moreover, anecdotes relates through interviews didn’t meet scrutiny of other corroborating evidence except in handful of cases, so veracity of many of these seemed wanting. As the result of this, I did find myself skimming some paragraphs. The book does cover to the extent that Jones’ substance abuse impacted his life to such a negative extent and how close to the edge Jones was many times - something I wasn’t deeply aware of previously. But the how and why of recovery is left to guess work - probably due to the lack of access the author seemed to have been given as evidenced by the interview list in the back of the book. Was expecting something a bit more rigorous from a William Morrow imprint.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nate Woodard

    Sinatra once called George Jones “the second best singer” in the world. Johnny Cash called him his favorite singer. Waylon Jennings said every country singer wished he could sing like him. And when he died, Keith Richards said “I cannot express the emptiness I feel . . . He possessed the most touching voice, the most expressive ways of projecting that beautiful instrument of anyone I can call to mind. You heard his heart in every note he sang.” Jones’ life was the stuff of country legend and the Sinatra once called George Jones “the second best singer” in the world. Johnny Cash called him his favorite singer. Waylon Jennings said every country singer wished he could sing like him. And when he died, Keith Richards said “I cannot express the emptiness I feel . . . He possessed the most touching voice, the most expressive ways of projecting that beautiful instrument of anyone I can call to mind. You heard his heart in every note he sang.” Jones’ life was the stuff of country legend and the embodiment of honky-tonk folklore. Poverty and wealth, accolades and arrests — all high highs and low lows just like his inimitable voice. It’s that drama and detail that make this book a fun read. Not the best or worst written biography I’ve ever read, but a solid telling of a truly wild life story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mike Balsom

    I spent five years as a country music DJ at a radio station in Welland, Ontario, Canada. That was the late 80s/early 90s, when I began to understand the importance of the Possum. His popularity at the time was almost overwhelming. It was also a time when Nashville traditions were being subverted and George Jones and others were standing up for 'traditionalism'. Kienzle's book is a good introduction to the heavy drinking, chain smoking, carousing legend, following as it does a logical chronology I spent five years as a country music DJ at a radio station in Welland, Ontario, Canada. That was the late 80s/early 90s, when I began to understand the importance of the Possum. His popularity at the time was almost overwhelming. It was also a time when Nashville traditions were being subverted and George Jones and others were standing up for 'traditionalism'. Kienzle's book is a good introduction to the heavy drinking, chain smoking, carousing legend, following as it does a logical chronology of the man's life. But that's also where this bio disappoints, as sometimes Kienzle sticks a little too close to the timeline, at the expense of allowing us to see a little more of the man behind the voice. Worth the read for anyone who is interested in real country music and the legends who made it what it was, and is.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sam Motes

    A story of the man behind the Country Music that lead the life that gave birth to those tragic songs. Many wives, boos and drugs flowed through his life and though unreliable enough at times to be known as No Show Jones his talent and realness drove a loyal following who loved the man no matter what. He was truly a giant of Country Music whose influence flows strong today in Country Music and beyond.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    An engaging, well written, easy to ready biography of a country legend. Worth a read if you are a fan of George Jones or country music in general; there is nothing earth shattering or any exclusive information in this book, but it is a clearly presented document showcasing the highs (and many lows) of the ol' Possum's life in a clear & concise manner. An engaging, well written, easy to ready biography of a country legend. Worth a read if you are a fan of George Jones or country music in general; there is nothing earth shattering or any exclusive information in this book, but it is a clearly presented document showcasing the highs (and many lows) of the ol' Possum's life in a clear & concise manner.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    A good-but-not-great biography of the legendary Jones, long on accounts of his foibles and missteps, but also giving considerable coverage to his music, which is the most important thing. A very workmanlike book, but it feels a little short on soul. Could have used a Rick Bragg-ish touch, maybe. Worth reading for fans.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Thrasher

    I guess if all you really want to know about the life of George Jones is that he was a blubbering addict, you would find merit with this book. I have to think there was more depth to his character than was portrayed in this biography.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I love George Jones: drunk, coked-out, mean, friend-shooting, wife-beating, self-destructive, drive his mower to the liquor store, no-show Jones. There will (shouldn’t) ever be another like him. I will always think of my dad (a teetotaler) when I hear him.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Awjtf

    Great singer, Troubled life. I liked this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Dimaio

    Loved everything about this bio. Well done

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nate Rabe

    Interesting. Not particularly revealing or insightful look at the man but a lot of info on his recordings and performances. Good overview of the man and his music.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    Even if you're not a George Jones fan this is a fascinating and entertaining and at times heartbreaking read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle (Dey Street Books 2016) (780.92). Country singer George Jones was known by various nicknames including “No-Show George” and “The Possum.” Remembered as a country music legend and a rounder par excellence, George Jones was once a king of country music. He was the most famed, flawed, and infuriating country singer of his day. His best remembered song was “He Stopped Loving Her Today” which was about his ex-wife and singing partner The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle (Dey Street Books 2016) (780.92). Country singer George Jones was known by various nicknames including “No-Show George” and “The Possum.” Remembered as a country music legend and a rounder par excellence, George Jones was once a king of country music. He was the most famed, flawed, and infuriating country singer of his day. His best remembered song was “He Stopped Loving Her Today” which was about his ex-wife and singing partner Tammy Wynette. He may have been popular as an entertainer, but he was a complete bust as a father. He had two sons with his first wife, but he and the boys were long estranged. He later had a daughter named Georgette with Tammy Wynette. Twice she asked her father to walk her down the aisle and give her away at her weddings; the first time he declined, and the second time he never even responded to her request. He didn't attend either wedding; the excuse he gave was that he had prior singing engagements planned for those nights. Poor George! This volume includes a dozen pages of photographs but not one picture of any of his children. He may have sung like an angel, but he was a sad and sorry little man! My rating: 7/10, finished 2/28/17.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joab Jackson

    My interest in George Jones was piqued by a comment made by Tyler Mahan Coe (Of the excellent "Cocaine and Rhinestones" podcast) about who he thought the best country music singer was. It was George Jones ("Whoever else you'd pick would also say George Jones"). Both Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett respected Jones as a singer, and he remained a country singer, and only a country singer, for his entire career. George Jones (Known as Glenn to his childhood friends and family) grew up in the thickets My interest in George Jones was piqued by a comment made by Tyler Mahan Coe (Of the excellent "Cocaine and Rhinestones" podcast) about who he thought the best country music singer was. It was George Jones ("Whoever else you'd pick would also say George Jones"). Both Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett respected Jones as a singer, and he remained a country singer, and only a country singer, for his entire career. George Jones (Known as Glenn to his childhood friends and family) grew up in the thickets of Saratoga Texas, a hard impoverished place where a man was expected to provide for his family, and a woman was to care for the family and put up with her man, whatever the cost. An occasional moonshiner, the father of George, who was the last of 8 kids drank hard as well, and when he'd get home drunk, he'd called for George and his singer to sing for him, else get a whipping by the belt. George had taken from music pretty much from birth, a child prodigy of sorts. Naturally, he got out of the house as soon as he could. He found that busking in Jasper, a town not too far from Beaumont, got him $24. By that time, his parents moved to Beaumont, to take part of the booming war work. His sister had married her boyfriend, a farmer, in order to get out of the house, and George would visit them as well, sometimes pretending to be a hobo at the door as a prank. His early years after leaving home were furtive, full of trouble and all about playing music. His friends noticed he never seemed to have a home, but just drifted from staying at one person's house to another, even borrowing his guitars. When his father would com round, the old man would be drunk, asking for money. George got married early, an ill-fated coupling that lasted barely three years, before she filed for divorce, his drinking and brutish behavior cited as reasons. To make the child support payments (yes, they had a child even as he drifted to from one dead-end job to another), the judge gave the young Jones the choice o going to jail or joining an armed service. He picked the Marines, because they had no wait list. Somehow, he didn't get shipped Korea, where there was a police action underway, but to Santa Cruz instead. There he finds happiness singing in the clubs on the weekend, where he was favored because he could sing any of the hits.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This book reminded me of a lot of things about George Jones that I had forgotten, particularly his drug use/abuse. It was interesting, but not as good a music biography as (for example) Nick Tosches' book about Jerry Lee Lewis. At times it seemed to lurch from recording session to concert (or missed concert) and on to the next recording session. Despite its flaws, however, I enjoyed the book, and thought it did a good job of analyzing Jones' singing strengths and reporting on his relationships w This book reminded me of a lot of things about George Jones that I had forgotten, particularly his drug use/abuse. It was interesting, but not as good a music biography as (for example) Nick Tosches' book about Jerry Lee Lewis. At times it seemed to lurch from recording session to concert (or missed concert) and on to the next recording session. Despite its flaws, however, I enjoyed the book, and thought it did a good job of analyzing Jones' singing strengths and reporting on his relationships with/marriage to Tammy Wynette and his other wives.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: Would he or wouldn't he show up? Premise/plot: The Grand Tour is a biography of George Jones that seeks to balance a focus on his life and on his music. The author takes on the role of music critic and biographer. In the prologue he explains his approach, "Jones's life and music are inseparable. The music often triumphed even during his worst personal moments. His evolution from twangy imitator to distinctive new voice, from influential vocalist to master of his craft, is as impor First sentence: Would he or wouldn't he show up? Premise/plot: The Grand Tour is a biography of George Jones that seeks to balance a focus on his life and on his music. The author takes on the role of music critic and biographer. In the prologue he explains his approach, "Jones's life and music are inseparable. The music often triumphed even during his worst personal moments. His evolution from twangy imitator to distinctive new voice, from influential vocalist to master of his craft, is as important as his personal failings. Exploring that musical side--how he found songs and recorded them; the perspectives of the public, those involved in creating his records, and Jones himself--is pivotal to understanding the story. I've attempted to take the long view, examining not only his life and the events that shaped him from start to present, but simultaneously exploring his immense musical legacy, all in a clear chronological context." (13) My thoughts: I started listening to George Jones' music this summer. And what I loved, I really, really LOVED. So I was curious to pick this new biography up at the library. I picked it up as a new fan and not an expert, so perhaps keep that in mind. But I enjoyed this biography very much. I think I might have appreciated aspects of it even more if I was familiar with more of his albums, more of his songs. The prologue of this one had me hooked. Here is how the author describes Jones' voice: "The voice was raw nerve put to music...Yet above all that was his consummate ability to explore pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and emotional desolation." (9) It was an often absorbing read full of highs and lows. I would definitely recommend it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jim Hendrickson

    A good book with a somewhat scattershot look at the life of George Jones. Written in chronological order its not filled with minutiae that sometimes can drag down biographies. Worth the read for any fans of music. Not filled with criticism just the basics of his life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Having been surrounded by all types of music all my life including the various country genres, George Jones seems to have passed me by. I knew good year for the roses through Costello and the race is on through Dave Edmunds but not much by the Possum. I knew he liked a drink and was highly respected by his peers but not a lot else. Now I know a whole lot. I listened to his music whilst reading the book which is in a basic chronological order. Wow...now I get it, a singer that lays all out on the Having been surrounded by all types of music all my life including the various country genres, George Jones seems to have passed me by. I knew good year for the roses through Costello and the race is on through Dave Edmunds but not much by the Possum. I knew he liked a drink and was highly respected by his peers but not a lot else. Now I know a whole lot. I listened to his music whilst reading the book which is in a basic chronological order. Wow...now I get it, a singer that lays all out on the line, heart and soul. This is very well written with just the right focus on the man, the music, the relationships and the ups and downs (of which there are many). A cracking read that I skipped through with short thrift.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    About as complete a story as we're going to get, and it ain't pretty. But Kienzle does a good job of balancing life and music (he doesn't go too awfully deep) and digs up some good ones you might not know (stories and tunes). The book does follow the pattern of so many recent music bios: success, then the wallowing. But...that was the life, though Jones should have been deader than Keith Richards should have (but still isn't). Style: breezy. I still like Bob Allen's best.

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