One of my favorite entertainers, George Jones, died this year and now when I listen to his sad country twang, it renders his unique voice that much more melancholy.
Country is only a small part of my musical interests and Jones will forever be my favorite country singer. As a matter of fact and in my humble opinion, his brand of country is the only true country music.
Oh, I love the other stuff, and I am enthusiastic about a few of the “country” entertainers, however when I think of a country music approach, it’s not Keith Urban or Carrie Underwood, that come to my mind.
Both magnificent singers and entertainers only I think a song like “He Stopped Loving Her Today” would only confuse these two talented entertainers.
No, you’re going to have to produce someone like “No show, Jones” or “Merle the Pearl” to evoke the kind of emotion that a good old country song deserves.
Having said all of that, I was in a department store the other day and came across a religious CD by George Jones. I didn’t even have to think twice about it as I quickly put it in my shopping basket.
It has all the old gospel songs that I love and it must have been recorded close to the end of George’s life, because the cadence in the voice is a mature George Jones voice.
Every song is a familiar one and every word with my favorite George Jones country twang. His voice deep enough and the music in a key low enough that allows this old voice to sing along.
When I picked up my Mom for a breakfast date, George was in the middle of singing “The Old Rugged Cross” on the car CD. Mom recalled that it was a favorite tune of her Mother’s and that she would enjoy singing it. She reminisced that Grandma had such a sweet singing voice.
(I love it when Mom shares these little nuggets. It conveys a subtle insight and appreciation I don’t often get to experience.)
I don’t think my Mother particularly likes George Jones, but she knows how much I love him, so I suppose she tolerates him for me. On this day though, the gospel nature of the music brought back many memories for her.
Along with remembering the sweet voice of my grandmother, my mother remembered my grandfather conducting her and a couple of her sisters in a little three part harmony gospel of their own. She (my mother) disclosed that after some practicing, she and her young sisters would stand before their church congregation and sing.
That little nugget leaves a wonderful image in my mind’s eye.
My appreciation for gospel music came easily. I love the harmony, the great lyrics, the emotion and the rousing upbeat rhythm.
When I was a kid, our family lived across the street from what we referred to as a “holy-roller” church. There were sermons coming from the open windows of the church, (especially from the Wednesday night prayer meetings) that would sometimes become loud and crazy.
Being the literal girl that I was and still am, I would sneak across the street and peek in the windows to see if I could witness any one actually rolling down the aisle. I never saw any rolling but there were lots of shakes and rattles and shouts of “AMEN!” that would reach a feverish pitch!
But they also offered some of the best gospel music and would occasionally host the old time gospel groups on Sunday nights.
My aforementioned grandparents were visiting with us one summer when I found a flyer advertising a gospel group that would be appearing at the church across the street.
For reasons I can’t remember, it was only my Grandfather and me that would be going to church that night to listen to the gospel music.
My grandfather was a man of few words, I suppose by today’s standards he would be considered a little stern. He was probably not much older than I am now and in retrospect, it gives me pause to realize this.
Grandpa, by no means scared me, however I was a bit intimidated by him and I remember thinking I sure hope I can keep the conversation going if it’s going to be just him and me at the gospel concert.
We made our way across the street to church and took our seats. I knew church was a place to be respectful and quiet and I conducted myself in just that manner for my Grandpa.
Soon some of the most exciting and wonderful music filled the sanctuary and I was spellbound. It was a wonderful live show and I was having such a great time, I almost forgot about my grandfather.
When I looked over at him, this usually quiet and stern man had a huge smile on his face and at the same time, I saw his toes tapping the floor and his hand tapping his knee. It was a great image to remember and I conjure it up every time I think of him.
Our house was always filled with some kind of music and gospel was part of it. I still love it and have many gospel selections in my own music library and listen to them often and when I do, the time is usually accompanied with thoughts of my grandfather and the little “holy-roller” church across the street.
I have one last important thought as I end these fond memories...
As I drive down the road, George Jones is singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and as soon as he begins to sing the old favorite, I immediately begin to wonder if Mr. Jones, at the end of his life, looked over Jordan and perhaps spotted a band of Angels comin’ for to carry him home.