Country legend George Jones dies at 81

mclear@bradenton.comApril 27, 2013 

Country music legend George Jones died Friday.

His career spanned decades. He had major hits from the 1950s into the 1980s, and he endured through changes in country music that ended a lot of his contemporaries' careers.

His best songs have become part of America's cultural collective subconscious: "The Race Is On," "She Stopped Loving Him Today," "She Thinks I Still Care" and "Good Year for the Roses," among others, transcended country music and were often covered by rock and pop artists.

He was known just as much for his lifestyle as for his music. He had a reputation in his younger years as a heavy drinker; he even called himself country music's "national drunk and national drug addict" in his autobiography.

He missed so many gigs that he was known as "No-Show Jones"

In 1999, he was critically injured in a car accident that was attributed at least in part to the fact that he was talking on a cell phone, which helped sparked the early discussion about the safety of driving while talking on the phone. (It was so early in the history of cell phones that newspaper reports said he was talking on his "cellular" or "cel" phone.)

His seven-year marriage to Tammy Wynette, which ended in 1976, spawned some memorable duets. They were considered country music's "other" great couple, after Johnny Cash and June Carter.

The couple lived in Lakeland, and their marriage was notoriously tempestuous. According to news reports at the time, after one fight Jones was arrested, taken from his home in straitjacket and hospitalized for 10 days.

He married Nancy Sepulveda in 1983. He quit drinking and taking drugs and remained with her until his death.

He was 81.

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