Two Georges — more in common than meets the eye

Published 7:48 am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

They had a common first name: George. They both made their living singing songs and had long, distinguished careers. The world considered both as the epitomes of their genres. Both could touch the hearts of those who heard them sing. Their fames and fortunes were not contained by national borders. They both died in the same month and both had lived what could be considered long lives.

They had much in common. Yet, George Jones and George Shea lived worlds apart. No one would confuse the one with the other. I liked both of them very much.

I wrote about George Shea last week and had no idea that George Jones would be passing this week, although I must admit that, given his reputation and lifetime of living large, I am not surprised. George Jones has probably cheated death many times during his long and storied life.

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I met George Jones once. I was working as the night manager at the large Opryland Hotel and he was a guest. I was in Nashville as a lover of country music and one could not love country music without acknowledging the one who many call the “greatest country singer of all time.”

I’m not saying that George Jones had to be your cup of tea; you might not have appreciated his nasally twang. He was really country and very different from what is played as country music these days. That’s very different as in night from day!

Mr. Jones called the desk and asked for a bellman to bring him a pack of Salem cigarettes. Since George was a “star,” the bellman could expect a generous tip. The bellman never had a chance. I pulled rank on him and said, “I’ll take care of Mr. Jones.”

I knocked on the door of his room and it was opened by “The Possum” himself. He was alone and mighty disheveled looking. I noticed an open bottle of Jack Daniels on the dresser and told him how much I enjoyed his music. He thanked me and gave me $20 for my trouble.

That’s not much of a meeting, but it was closer than many people get to royalty. I probably won’t get to shake the hand of the Queen of England, but I did shake the hand of the “King of Country Music.” By the way, I enjoyed the King better than I would the Queen. Nothing against the Queen, but she’s no Tammy Wynette.

The funerals for the two Georges will have lots of music and lots of friends to speak of their influence. The songs will be different and so will the comments. The fellows traveled in entirely different circles. There is one song, though, that might have the breadth to satisfy both services. That’s “Amazing Grace.”

Believe it or not, both of those Georges were lost and I am going out on a limb to say that both were found. Both were blind, but both ended up seeing.

It takes an amazingly gracious and huge God to have arms so wide that He would embrace two Georges so different, but with much in common. Those arms can hold you and me, too.