The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones

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9780062309914: The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones

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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From the Back Cover:

A common man with an uncommon talent

By critics, fans, and his own peers, George Jones has been called the greatest country singer of all time. His story is woven out of the richest American fabric: He was born to a God-fearing mother and booze-loving father in the Big Thicket of East Texas, one of eight children who grew up in the kind of poverty written about in many a country song. Whether he was singing hymns with a husband-wife evangelical team at ten, gigging in Beaumont’s rowdy honky-tonks at nineteen, or receiving the Kennedy Center Honors at seventy-seven, music and music alone drove him.

His voice—raw, emotive, and passionate—made him a star and an influence on other singers. His sublimely expressive vocal phrasing could make any song live and breathe. But as his star ascended, Jones wrestled with the demons that plague many artists. Drinking and related antics led to missed shows, angry fans, lawsuits, and a reputation for unreliability. His marriage to fellow star Tammy Wynette united country music royalty and produced a series of spectacular, bestselling duets, but their turbulent union brought tabloid headlines and ended in a divorce that sent Jones into a downward spiral of drugs, debt, arrests, and violence, which he barely survived.

In this definitive biography, country music critic and historian Rich Kienzle paints a rich portrait of a modest man who overcame his darkest moments to create a lasting legacy. Drawing on dozens of in-depth interviews, his own knowledge of Jones’s music, and extensive research, Kienzle tells the story of the man, the artist and the career, the controversies and triumphs, in a way that defines Jones’s monumental place not only in country music but in American music.

From The Grand Tour

He was a common man graced with an uncommon talent. During his life, he was considered by peers and fans to be the greatest living country singer. In death he remains, to many, the greatest country singer of all time. . . . His admirers included two masters of American song, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. It’s easy to see why. While he wrote some of his own material, Jones was above all a master interpreter. . . . The voice was a raw nerve put to music. Jones reached deeply into a lyric to capture a song’s essence. . . . He sang of love and joy, of spirituality and zany nonsense. Yet above all that was his consummate ability to explore pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and emotional desolation. These were things he knew all too well.

About the Author:

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.

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