Hillbilly Highway – The Possum Has Left The Building


by Sheldon Birnie

Country  music lost a legend last week. George “The Possum” Jones was quite simply country music’s greatest singer, one of its greatest songwriters, and a legendary personality who will never be seen again in Music City. As the old adage goes, “they broke the mold when they made George Jones.” Amen.

The outpouring of emotion on the Hillbilly Highway was torrential. Country singers the world over shared their grief and support for the Possum and his family. Fans of all kinds did the same. There is no doubt that millions of George Jones songs were played on turntables, iTunes, and jukeboxes across the globe, and many a honkytonk band queued up their best Jones over the weekend, lest they have to fight their way out of the bar.

When I heard the news, I took my copy of Shine On out and spun it over and over again. From the first song to the last, old George is on top of his game on this one. Just a pure beauty.

I never got to see George Jones, and now I never will. Of course I’ve always enjoyed his songs, and the image he holds in the world of country music. A couple years back I read his 1997 autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All. Man, what a life. What a wild, crazy ride George Jones took everyone around him on.

Being a big fan of musicians’ autobiographies, I can safely say that George Jones’ life was wilder than any other I’ve come across. Keith Richards, Mötley Crüe, and Slash’s partying pales in comparison to the Possum. Sure, the Crüe went at it harder than anyone for a few years there, but George went at it with reckless abandon for decades.

There’s nothing really that I can say here that hasn’t been said better by those who knew the man, or those who spent more time with his music than I did. I’m just happy to have spent as many years on the same planet as Mr. Jones. While I never got to see George in concert, I and others like me are blessed to have a rich catalogue of his recordings to dig into for years to come. Thanks, George. This one’s for you.


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