George Jones' casket sits in front of the stage before the country legend's public funeral service at the Grand Ole Opry.(Photo Larry McCormack The (Nashville) Tennessean)
NASHVILLE The friends and fellow performers who spoke at George Jones' funeral repeated many of the well known stories about the country singer's life. He once drove a mile and a half to a liquor store on a riding lawn mower. After years of battling alcohol and drug abuse he finally turned around his life after a near fatal 1999 auto accident. He could sing a country song like no one else who ever lived.
He was more than a country singer he was a country song said Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer one of eight speakers at the funeral. And it was never an easy one.
MORE George Jones' life A joyful song
Thursday's service which drew thousands of family friends and fans to the Grand Ole Opry House also revealed lesser known stories about the man whom Charlie Daniels called the most imitated country singer of all time. Some of the best takeawaysJones never got over being nervous on the Grand Ole Opry stage especially those times when he was introduced by the late Roy Acuff.Jones almost turned down his signature hit He Stopped Loving Her Today feeling that it was too sad.Jones loved Raisin Bran but hated raisins. His wife Nancy would pick them out of his cereal for him.Jones would get in his car and drive around town when he felt like he needed some attention.Jones considered turning down his Kennedy Center Honor in 2008 believing that people in Washington D.C. didn't like country music and wouldn't know who he was.George W. Bush liked to work out to Jones' White Lightning in the White House gym.Wynonna Judd sang How Great Thou Art at the 1998 funeral of Jones' ex wife Tammy Wynette with Jones sitting in the front row. She sang the same song Thursday at Jones' service.During an early 1960s Johnny Cash package tour Jones asked a 13 year old Barbara Mandrell to back him on steel guitar along with Cash's Tennessee Three.Kid Rock started writing a song for Jones but never finished it and never played it for him. I'll just give you a little bit of it he told those attending the service before he performed Best of Me. I may be a little slower but I'm still 12 steps ahead of you/ I spent a lifetime getting sober and I wondered if you know/ That now I'm spending my days without the bottle/ High on love with you. Jones cried after Alan Jackson surprised the Country Music Association Awards audience in 1999 by segueing into Jones' hit Choices after performing his own song.Jones called Vince Gill Sweetpea. At first I wasn't so sure about it said Gill who would choke back tears as he performed his song Go Rest High On That Mountain with Patty Loveless. As the nickname grew on Gill he realized anytime I would go anywhere and somebody called me Sweetpea I knew it was because they loved George Jones.