George Jones (1931-2013) was, quite simply, the greatest country male vocalist to have ever lived. Sure, there are close runners-up -- Hank Williams and Webb Pierce are right up there in my personal pantheon -- but no one could muster the emotional depth and soul-wrenching, forlorn miserableness of George Jones at his best. Not only was Jones great in his youth, but over the decades he ripened and matured, like a fine wine, taking on new attributes while never losing his original vigor.
Jones started his career in the mid-1950s, becoming one of the most significant younger honkytonkers to come in the wake of the great Hank Williams (who died in 1953). Early hits such as "Why Baby Why" and "White Lightning" made Jones a sensation, and the demand for his music led to his recording prolifically for a number of labels in the late '50s and early '60s. Indeed, Jones's early discography is a confusing, mazelike thicket of endlessly relicensed, reissued, re-pressed material. Old hits were often paired up with new songs, or songs that were originally on one label were repackaged for sale on another, or re-recorded to fulfill new contracts. In the early phase of his career, Jones mainly worked for four labels -- Starday, Mercury, United Artists and Musicor -- which seemed to trade both him and his contract back and forth like baseball cards. Frankly, the shifting specifics of these affiliations escapes my grasp; because so much of his material was so frequently recycled, it's often difficult to differentiate between an original "album" release and a "best-of" collection. In addition, the manic pace of his recording and touring schedules led to a dilution of quality in his recorded output: many of these songs were simply cranked out by the dozen, and they sound like it, even though George's brilliance still shines through, more often than not.
The first page looks at George Jones's early work, from his hardcore honkytonk years in the 'Fifties to his early association with countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill in the late '60s. Next, his recordings in the 1970s, '80s, and onward are reviewed, with information about CD reissue, whenever possible. Regardless of the slapdash nature of some of these early releases, original (and even not-so-original) copies of all these old albums are collector's favorites... and favorites of music fans, as well. Let's take a look...
Hick Music Index