HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – From the minute Jamey Johnson hit the stage and sang “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” as the opening number, country music fans knew they were in for one of the best concerts of their lives. More than 10,000 people filled the VBC’s Propst Arena for the “Still Playin’ Possum,” tribute to the legendary George Jones.
It was a night for his family and friends to share the music and memories of The Possum. “George was, to me, the daddy of country music,” Doug Stone told us during an interview. And even Doug was a little star-struck when George reached out to him years ago.
“I’d met him before in passing at the Opry and stuff like that and he called me one day and said, hey Doug, and I was like, who is this? He said, it’s George. And I was like oh my God. I said what is it? I was like enamored really,” Doug recalled, “He said, I want you to come watch the super bowl with me. I said man, I’m about to get on a bus and go out of town.”
They all had a George Jones Story. Ronnie McDowell remembered, “Here in Alabama, I did an outside show with him, and he got up on the microphone after I got through and he goes, you see how Ronnie was all over this stage? He said, I’m gonna be in a four-foot circle and I ain’t gonna move out of it. Cause he didn’t have to; he was George Jones.”
Alabama native and fellow Grand Ole Opry member Jeanne Pruett said George was the true country icon of Nashville for years. “I loved George Jones’ music. I loved him as a person. And he was a good friend. And I miss him immensely,” Jeanne told us.
Singer-songwriter Billy Yates had a hand in writing six songs for George, including two of his biggest hits, “Choices” and “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair.” Bill said, “George was just a blessing to me and my family and my musical career.”
He added, there will never be another George Jones saying, “I wrote a song called Only One George Jones and I meant it because there’s only one. And a lot of emulating him. I think a lot of us learned how to sing by listening to George.”
Many of George’s friends made the trip down from Nashville to be part of country music’s tribute the Jones. “I did a lot of tours which opened a lot of shows for George Jones. And it’s great this week working with Nancy Jones and the way that she’s put this event together,” Janie Fricke told us.
And George’s wife Nancy says nobody would have enjoyed the night more than George. “He loved Huntsville. Whenever he could play Huntsville, especially the Von Braun Center, he would always get so excited. He’d always say well, there’s another good one at home,” she said in her best George Jones voice, “So, this is why I feel like this is something that he would be very proud of.”
The event was recorded and will be on a national broadcast of the PBS program, “Great Performances” later.