George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s Table-Turning, Curse-Throwing Start To Their Marriage

Country music’s 1970s power couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s short-lived marriage was an infamously tumultuous footnote to their iconic careers, which they shared even after divorcing for the second time in 1975. Unsurprisingly, their relationship began as turbulently as it ended. 

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The story of Jones and Wynette first confessing their love to one another is worthy of a soap opera, and every party involved has a different version of the dramatic episode. But in any case, one thing was certain: the fight ruined dinner.

Setting The Strained Scene For George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s Confession

George Jones and Tammy Wynette first crossed paths as successful country musicians. The two singers began touring together in the late 1960s when Wynette was still married to her second husband, another musician named Don Chapel. After recording and touring together for a year, several people close to the duo (including Chapel) grew suspicious of their relationship. 

However, Jones and Wynette admitted to nothing…until one fateful night in 1968. According to Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, the pair’s confession came about at the same time that Wynette’s three children were in the hospital with food poisoning. Chapel later recounted seeing Jones parked at the hospital whenever it was Wynette’s turn to watch the children. He also remembered hearing from a nurse that Wynette had left for a parking lot rendezvous with Jones. (Wynette insisted Jones was there as a family friend to help with the children and nothing more.) 

Whatever the reason, Chapel was on edge when Jones arrived at their house unexpectedly the next day with Jones’ manager, Bill Starnes. Starnes recalled Wynette playing Jones’ version of “When the Grass Grows Over Me,” a track Chapel had also recorded, while preparing dinner. The tension between Chapel and Wynette quickly reached a fever pitch, becoming a full-blown verbal fight.

George Jones’ Drunken Intervention Between Tammy Wynette and Don Chapel

In his autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All, George Jones remembered the fight between Don Chapel and Tammy Wynette coming out of nowhere. “I was just sitting there quietly drinking,” Jones wrote. “I found out later that Don was jealous of me and knew I was sweet on his wife. Their voices raised, and Don called Tammy a ‘son of a b****.’ That was uncalled for. I felt rage fly all over me.” 

Jones described flipping the dinner table, causing dishes and utensils to crash around them. Wynette later claimed Jones threw a chair through the dining room window, but no other party present mentioned that in their story. Per Chapel, Jones didn’t flip the table over; he was so drunk that he knocked it over. Either way, everyone seemed to agree that Jones said immediately after the clatter, “Don’t talk to her that way! She’s not a son of a b****!” Chapel replied, “What the hell are you interfering for? She’s my wife. What the hell business is it of yours?” 

What came out of Jones’ mouth next surprised even him. “Because I’m in love with her!” Jones said, and a heavy silence fell across the room. “And I’ll tell you something else,” he continued. “She’s in love with me, aren’t you Tammy?” Wynette, shocked, finally admitted that yes, she did. Jones and Wynette gathered the singer’s three children and left together that night.

An Explosive Start To An Equally Explosive Marriage

George Jones and Tammy Wynette married in 1968, but their marriage didn’t last a decade. As Jones’ alcoholism worsened, problems in the couple’s relationship became harder to ignore. Wynette first filed for divorce from Jones in 1973 but changed her mind. Two years later, she would file again—permanently this time. Nevertheless, the pair continued to work as colleagues, recording and touring together as an iconic country music duo

“George is one of those people who can’t tolerate happiness,” Wynette later told the press (via Tragic Country Queen). “If everything is right, there’s something in him that makes him destroy it. And destroy me with it.”

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