It was sometime in the mid-nineties when my wife and I were still boxing fanatics. One Friday night we drove nine hours to Nashville for a heavyweight spectacular put on by Don King. The only thing I remember from the night, though, is George Jones.
I’m the furthest thing in the world from a country music fan, but it was still fun star-gazing as some of the biggest names in town filled up the ringside seats. Jones was there and when it was time to sing the National Anthem, without any musical accompaniment, he quietly stepped into the middle of the ring, took hold of a microphone, and — well, the memory still gives me goosebumps.
Never in my life have I heard a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” that’s come close. As so many others have, Jones did not use the song’s range to show off his own. Jones’ interpretation was simple, eloquent, understated, and powerful enough to remain in my admittedly awful memory after almost 20 years.
Like I said, I’m not a country music fan, but my dad is, and for a time in the seventies Jones was part of the soundtrack of my young life. So I can certainly appreciate his talent and have always believed that he was the Frank Sinatra of country music — an unparalleled instrument of song interpretation and legendary hellraiser.
Rest in Peace, Possum.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC