As many of you know by now, I am mourning the loss of a friend, mentor, employer, country music legend and American music icon. Many times I have wondered to myself how a little girl from St. Stephen, MN could somehow wind up singing for what many believe to be the greatest country singer there has ever been.
It was 1995 when I came home to check my voicemail. The voice on the other end was that of Nancy Jones.
She said her and “Jones” had been listening to a tape of a song of mine that Ernie Rowell (a former Jones Boy) had shared with them.
They were planning to add a couple of girls to the show and she wanted me to call her back.
Upon calling her back, she asked if I was interested in the job. To say I was flattered doesn’t begin to describe what I felt.
I was currently working for Lorrie Morgan. I explained that I was honored, but also that I enjoyed working for Lorrie and had no reason to leave.
Ironically, Lorrie herself cut her teeth in the business by working for George Jones. Nancy was kind and understanding as we hung up.
Fast forward, it's 2006. George's bandleader Kent Goodson called and asked if I would be interested in the job as they were once again planning to add a female vocalist. I've been in this business long enough to know that opportunities rarely come around once let alone twice. This time, I said yes. The last 7 years spent in the presence of country music history in the making have been a dream come true – but actually, to be honest, something I would have never even dared to dream.
George was 74 when I joined the band. It was my job to phrase with him - to listen to him - and I did intently every night. With just one word he could send chills through me and bring tears to my eyes. As a singer myself I know how we tend to look at a lyric and choose the words to focus on. With George, many times the words he chose came as a surprise to me. As time went by I came to realize that George sang every word that way – there were no throw away lyrics for him. He would sing a word and not let go of it until he had wrung every ounce of emotion out of it. I don’t know of another artist in any genre of music that can or could do that to the extent that George did.
You can't talk about George and not think of his wife Nancy. George possessed everything that a legend is made of. It is my belief that Nancy has dedicated her life to seeing to it that the world would remember him as the legend he was and through it all she loved him for the man he was. My deepest sympathies go out to her and the rest of their family. As for the road family she and George assembled for the Grand Tour, what an honor it was to share this time with:
Bobby Birkhead (Tour Manager/Drums)
Vaughan Reed (Bass Guitar/Vocals)
Walter Ferguson (Keyboards)
Ricky Land (Guitar)
Billy Contreras (Fiddle)
Van Coffey (Steel Guitar)
Greg McGill (Production Manager/Lights and Video)
Jimmy (JO) Owen (Front of House Sound)
Pat Boone (Monitor Engineer)
Sharma Reed (Production/Teleprompter)
Scott Ulmer (George's Bus Driver/Assistant)
Mackie Pettus (Hair Stylist)
Jimmy Wilson (Band Bus Driver/Merchandise)
I am sincerely humbled to be able to walk with The Jones Boys as a pallbearer on Thursday. It was my hope to stay with George until the end. Of course, in my mind, that meant the Grand Tour. I couldn’t have known that God had another plan for the Grand Tour and grand it is indeed!