If you hate country music, George Jones is what you love to hate: the nasal tone, the sentimental wine, the teardrop in the voice.
If you love the music, however, George Jones is your man. Rock n' roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz are the offspring of America's black soul; Jones and his honky-tonk style are WASP soul; all love-notes and twang. Writes critic John Morthland:"Today it is almost a cliche - albeit a true one - that George Jones is the greatest country singer alive; the last bastion of honky-tonk purism and the creator of a vocal style so tricky nobody can even pay tribute to it by copying it."
And on Nov. 4 Jones will be joining Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn at the Huntsman Special Events Center for the Utah stop on the Legends Tour.
Tickets are onb sale at Country Joe's, the Huntsman Center and the Salt Palace. They're $17.50. For information call KSOP Radio at 972-1043.
As for Jones himself, books have been written about the man, so capsulizing his career in a newspaper story is impossible. He's the only country artist to have a No. 1 record in four different decades; he and Tammy Wynette lived out one of the most famous - and tumultuous - romances of the past 50 years, and the man's reputation for drinking and carousing is legendary. For years he was known as "No Show Jones" because he failed to keep his concert dates.
Still, as his life came apart, his music held together. His sense of country music was built on rock. His favorite songs of all time? "Crazy Arms" by Ray Price, "Always Late" by Lefty Frizzell and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Bill Monroe.
Favorite food? Cornbread and dumplings, of course.
And his life is just one long blues-note.
"There was never anything but music for me as far back as I can remember," he says. "I didn't think about making money at it till I got out of the Marines, but even as a kid, music was it."
To date he's recorded over 100 albums, written more than 100 songs and received more than a dozen awards from the Nashville establishment.
And, his friends are happy to add, it appears George Jones is turning his life around, coming to grips with his demons and finding some sanity.
That may be the best news of all.
Appearing with Jones are two singers who were in Utah last year with Randy Travis: Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty.
Lynn is coming off a few highs of her own. She was recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Twitty has had 50 No. 1 hits and doesn't lose much with age. He's still the darling of the polyester set; a singer who can growl out lyrics that would make more staid singers blush.
In the nickname business, Jones is known as "Possum," Lynn as "the First Lady of Country Music" and Twitty is "the High Priest of Country Music."
Lynn got the monicker because - after Patsy Cline - she was the first, real female C & W phenom. In 1960 she charted her first hit, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Since then she's been at the top of the charts almost 20 times, usually with cutting edge songs about domestic life in the USA such as "The Pill," and "One's on the Way."
The movie "Coal Miner's Daughter" pretty much set her up as a legend.
Twitty, on the other hand, struck stardom on the pop side of the charts first with "Only Make Believe," then - against his manager's wishes - he followed his heart into country music. His songs over the years have had a raspy, randy quality ("Slow Hand," "Love to Lay You Down," "Tight Fittin' Jeans") though lately he's been turning to more thoughtful tunes ("That's My Job" and "I Talked to the Man in the Moon.")
Twitty has teamed up with Lynn several times for duet releases, and the twosome will likely reprise some of those hits at the Special Events Center.
In fact, with a little luck, we'll be seeing all three singing legends on stage at the same time.