For now it's enough to say that along with everything else, George Jones was one hell of a singer.
UPDATE. He could be funny, too. Used to cover this one in a country band I was in:
UPDATE 2. In comments TomParmenter supplies "Rock It," a number Jones did in his "Thumper Jones" secret rockabilly identity. But does anyone have tape of him singing as Donald Duck?
UPDATE 3. Just wanted to add:
- In high school a friend of mine saw him at the Westbury Music Fair and told me Jones was using the name "Tammy" in place of female pronouns, which got some gasps from the crowd. I thought maybe Jones had just been having an episode, but then I saw him on TV singing "If drinkin' don't kill me, Tammy's memory will" on some awards show. I can understand trading in on one's legend -- he did have a funny number called "No-Show Jones," and joked about his drinking -- but think about what it would take to declare yourself like that, to keep telling people that you'd had that one big love and it didn't work out. Jones was in show biz, but I think the feelings the songs talk about weren't an act.
- The "Ragged But Right" clip shows a younger, lighter Jones; his vocal instrument is pure and strong and he doesn't mess with it much. And that kind of material ("White Lightnin'," "Love Bug," etc.) doesn't call for messing with. The later Jones most people know, though, is the one singing those heartbreak songs, and by then he'd learned a few tricks. I think of "A Good Year for the Roses," where he moves between a low, confidential delivery ("After three full years of marriage it's the first time that you haven't made the bed") and those amazing, keening high notes ("As you turn and walk a-way..."). I say "tricks," but they don't sound tricky -- because, as difficult as most singers would find that kind of transition, Jones made it seem very natural, like that's just how it had to be sung. And that's part of what gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. He goes from a wounded murmur to something like a howl of pain, and back again; the thing he's talking about isn't just sadness, it's torment; the inconsolable sorrow of lost love. The reason you can bear it, and maybe the reason he could, is that he made it into art.