When John Rich learned George Jones had passed Friday morning, he took a glass of Crown to his roof-top deck, sat down facing Vanderbilt University Medical Center and pictured a beam of light bringing George to Heaven, reports USA Today. Then he called friend Larry Gatlin to join him that evening for their own private memorial at John’s house.
“We’re not going to be sad, we’re going to celebrate ‘the Possum,’” Larry said, adding that he never called George by his nickname to his face as “Mr. Jones’” music played in the background.
“You can after the fact,” John agreed. “But he was Mr. Jones.” John recalled an especially comical moment with the country legend. He’d visited George in a bar he used to own downtown. George walked in, chomping on chewing gum, and took in John at his table.
“He said ‘John, all those bottles belong to you?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, they do.’ He said, ‘My God, son. It’s a good thing we both weren’t young at the same time.’ I said, ‘Why is that, George?’ He said, ‘Because one or both of us would be dead by now.’”
Following George’s death, his wife, Nancy, called John personally to tell him her husband loved him. “She was shook bad and she was crying,” John said. “And I said, ‘Why are you calling me? You don’t need to worry about calling people like me.’ She said, ‘You don’t understand. George loved you.’”
Before George died, Larry had written him a song for his final album. George never got the opportunity to record it, but Larry plans to record it himself for his old friend. “Every gutbucket country song I ever wrote, I had George Jones singing in my ear,” he said.
George’s memory, as well as his music, will live on for generations to come. “How many songs you think will be written today about George Jones?” Larry asked John.
“Starting today and this coming week, that’s all Music Row is going to be writing about,” John replied. “Whether it’s about him or inspired by him, George Jones will impact the entire industry again. To think that you broke an entire genre’s heart. Anyone who respects music respects George Jones.”
Watch Larry perform the song he wrote for George Jones HERE.