Sad news for honky-tonk and the music world in general: George Jones has passed on.
The man was a bona fide living legend and exactly what you wanted out of a country star—even if it wasn’t always the healthiest way to live. His reputation preceded him (Waylon Jennings once sang, “He may be, unconsciously, the greatest of them all”) and we may never see another like him.
We’ve already tipped our hat to Jeff Bridges, and he’ll probably be getting all the praise he needs come Sunday. But at the risk of piling on, we thought we’d pay our respects to an icon that’s drifted out of the public eye: the drunken rambler.
Country music has had a rough time for the past twenty years or so, but once upon a time it was still raw, exciting, and entirely pure. Musicians came together at outdoor music parks, playing for whoever drove by. Regional sounds from Nashville, Tennessee; Bakersfield, California; and Lubbock, Texas mixed together to create a uniquely American sound that changed from state to state.
Some of it got recorded, but the vast majority of the acts were lost forever, aside from a few memories and a few old photographs.
Leon Kagarise recorded more than 4000 hours of it, but he also took more than a few pictures, and he’s put the snaps together into a photo-primer on the style of the time, called Pure Country. Anyone who’s ever looked up to Johnny Cash or George Jones could learn a thing or two from it. These were the original rock stars.
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