3 Hit Country Songs That George Jones Did First (And Better)

George Jones passed away more than a decade ago. However, fans of all ages still regard him as the greatest country singer who ever lived. With a career that lasted more than sixty years, Jones recorded hundreds of songs. Many of those were hits that artists shied away from covering for years because they didn’t want their renditions of the song to be compared to those released by Jones.

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With that in mind, we’re going to look at some hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2010s that Jones recorded first—and arguably better. That’s not to say that the more recent versions of the songs are bad. It’s just that very few artists can stack up to Possum.

“Tennessee Whiskey”—George Jones Did Chris Stapleton’s Hit First

Chris Stapleton launched his solo career with “Tennessee Whiskey” in 2015. His bluesy rendition of the song went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at No. 20 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart. Many younger fans believed incorrectly that it was among the songs Stapleton wrote for his debut solo album.

Penned by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove, David Allen Coe released “Tennessee Whiskey” as the title track of his 1981 album. It peaked at No. 77 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Then, two years later, Jones released it as a single from Shine On. His version became a No. 2 hit single and the standard by which future recordings of the song were judged.

“The Race Is On”—Jones Did It Before Sawyer Brown

Several artists including Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Faron Young, and Elvis Costello recorded versions of this song. However, those who grew up listening to country radio in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s likely remember Sawyer Brown’s version of the song. It was a No. 5 hit for the band and dominated the radio for years after they released it in 1989 as the lead single from The Boys Are Back.

George Jones didn’t just record “The Race Is On” before the more recent version. He recorded it first. The way his vocals lag behind and rush ahead of the beat like a horse running a close race is something that few other singers could get a handle on. The extra layer of racing metaphor and the fact that it’s so hard to replicate make Jones’ version the gold standard.

“Tall, Tall Trees”—Alan Jackson Gives Another Nod to George Jones

Alan Jackson released “Tall, Tall Trees” as a single from the compilation album The Greatest Hits Collection in 1995. It went on to become Jackson’s 11th No. 1 single on the country charts. Recording this song seems to be one instance among many of Jackson tipping his hat to Jones.

George Jones co-wrote “Tall, Tall Trees” with Roger Miller and released it as the B-side to his single “Hearts in My Dream” in 1957. The fact that it was a B-side combined with the fact that it came out before Jones started seeing consistent chart success led to this song not landing on the charts. However, lack of chart success does not negate the quality of the writing or the performance.

Featured Image by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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