The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 26, 2013

George Jones, country superstar, has died at 81

(Continued)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After one argument, Jones drove off on a riding mower in search of a drink because Wynette had taken his car keys to keep him from carousing. Years earlier, married to his second wife, he had also sped off in a mower in search of a drink. Jones referred to his mowing days in the 1996 release, "Honky Tonk Song."

His drug and alcohol abuse grew worse in the late '70s, and Jones had to file for bankruptcy in 1978. A manager had started him on cocaine, hoping to counteract his boozy, lethargic performances, and Jones was eventually arrested in Jackson, Miss., in 1983 on cocaine possession charges. He agreed to perform a benefit concert and was sentenced to six months probation.

"In the 1970s, I was drunk the majority of the time," Jones wrote in his memoir. "If you saw me sober, chances are you saw me asleep."

In 1980, a 3-minute song changed his life. His longtime producer, Billy Sherrill, recommended he record "He Stopped Loving Her Today," a ballad by Curly Putnam and Bobby Braddock. The song took more than a year to record, partly because Jones couldn't master the melody, which he confused with Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make it Through the Night," and partly because he was too drunk to recite a brief, spoken interlude ("She came to see him one last time/And we all wondered if she would/And it kept running through my mind/This time he's over her for good.")

"Pretty simple, eh?" Jones wrote in his memoir. "I couldn't get it. I had been able to sing while drunk all of my life. I'd fooled millions of people. But I could never speak without slurring when drunk. What we needed to complete that song was the narration, but Billy could never catch me sober enough to record four simple spoken lines."

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