By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Country music legend George Jones, who died on Friday, had his share of ups and downs during 81 years on this earth.
Some of his good and bad times took place in Northeast Mississippi.
Mickey Jolly, 66, of Sherman, caught a packed show in the 1970s at the Trace Convention Center in Tupelo. Jones’ wife at the time, Tremont’s own Tammy Wynette, was on the bill, too.
“Tammy was pregnant. They sang together, I remember that,” Jolly said. “They had a good crowd. It was a good country music show.”
Jones’ hits, including “White Lightning,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “She Thinks I Still Care,” are treasured pieces of the country music canon.
But he was known for more than singing, especially after his divorce from Wynette in 1975.
Mo Livingston, 57, of Tupelo, worked on a sound and light crew for Jones during the early 1980s.
“There were some fun interspersed with some not-so-fun weekends,” Livingston said.
He didn’t want to get into specifics, but described Jones as a “rascal.”
“He could be a pain to work for,” Livingston said, “but I never lost my admiration or respect for his ability to sing a country song.”
Frank “Pat” Patterson, former Monroe County sheriff, was a fan leading up to an incident near Hamilton in 1981.
“He was drinking. I believe it was cherry vodka,” Patterson recalled. “He ran into a red clay bank and wrecked his Lincoln.”
Patterson became a minor celebrity.
“For probably 24 hours, I never had a minute’s rest,” he said. “Radio stations and TV called from all over the U.S. and overseas. Canada. You name it.”
Jones eventually cleaned up. In 1995, he and Wynette returned to Tupelo to perform at Tupelo Coliseum, now called the BancorpSouth Arena.
Patterson, who never lost his appreciation, caught Jones’ show in late 2011 at the Davis Event Center at Itawamba Community College.
Buster Davis of Fulton arranged that show as a fundraiser to build a park in memory of Wynette. Davis was told to expect a one-hour performance, but Jones must have caught the spirit of the occasion.
“It went on for an hour and 40 minutes,” Davis said. “He just stayed up there. They gave him a standing ovation every time he sang a song. Everyone enjoyed it.”
Lena Conwill, 48, of Mooreville, was about 13 when she became a Jones fan. She caught the Fulton show, as well as three concerts in Corinth and two in Philadelphia. She also has a “special crazy story” from a visit to Morrison’s restaurant in Florence, Ala.
“I looked up and there came George Jones with his tray of food. I lost all control,” she said. “He didn’t get to eat. People were swarming around, but I didn’t get to meet him.”