Nancy Jones Wants Fans to Know The Real George Jones in New Book ‘Playin’ Possum’

After being married to one of country music’s biggest stars for 30 years and enduring abuse early on in their relationship, Nancy Jones is sharing her story and revealing the “real” George Jones in her new book Playin’ Possum.

Videos by American Songwriter

Nancy pulls back the curtain on her marriage, George proposed while she was planting flowers, her life, she almost died from COVID in 2020, and shares never-told stories about George’s battles with cocaine, alcohol, and the demons that sought to destroy him. 

“I was in the hospital in the ICU for months and months. So I lost all my hair. I had to learn how to walk again” Nancy tells American Songwriter. “I got down to 92 pounds, and I had a fungus that set into my lungs and it took 70% of my lungs away. But God’s good because I’m not walking around with an oxygen tank.”

Nancy stopped by American Songwriter to talk about the love of her life, how she endured the abuse, and the reason she stayed all those years to get her happy ending. Read below, in her own words, how she met George and helped him fight to live a much longer life.

Nancy on finally sharing the story of George Jones…

“I knew it wasn’t going to be told if I died. Who else is going to tell it? I was with him for 32 years, married 30 years. So who else would know the truth of George Jones except me? And I knew that if something happened to me, it would still be the crazy stories that are out there. And some of them true and a lot of them not. So I just wanted the fans to know the real George Jones, the funny George Jones, the spiritual George Jones. And he was such a good husband, but there was the evil spirits that had jumped in there, those old little mean things, and we had to get those demons out. And I want people to know how hard it was, but I stuck it out. I did not leave. And if I would’ve left, we wouldn’t have had George Jones as long as we did.”

On changing people’s perception of George…

“I don’t worry about it because there was enough told, but I never told ever. The music industry people did not know what I went through. And they love me just like I am, even though I went through all of this. And I think once they hear that there was demons in George… There wasn’t one. You got one out, there was more. So I think they realized that she stuck with George. She got the demons out, and they all knew that George was a good man. So I don’t think that they’re going to be upset about it. I really don’t. And I have not had anyone to say that, “Man, I didn’t like him. I don’t like what he did.” No one has done that, and I have read a lot of reviews.”

Author Ken Abraham: “I think people that read the book are going to get mad at George at certain points in the story because he did bad stuff. But who of us has not done some bad stuff? Hopefully not as bad as what George did there, but we’ve all done things, “Oh, that was stupid. That was awful. I should not have said that. I shouldn’t have done that.” And yet Nancy continued to love him and forgive him and get him back on track again knowing that there was that good man inside there and just would not give up faith in George.”

On whether all she endured was worth it…

“Yeah. Because you know where that man is right now? He’s in heaven. And yes, it was worth it to me, and I feel like I did a good job. I feel like that was what God put me on this earth for, and I truly believe that. And so I accomplished in my heart and so… What I think God wanted me to do.”

Author Ken Abraham: “What she experienced was not easy. It’s endurance. It was struggle. It was terrifying for Nancy at certain points, some of the things that she went through, but she loved George Jones enough to say, “I’m not going to walk away. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep on praying for him. I’m going to keep on doing good to him even when he does evil to me and God is going to get us through this mess.” And He did.

On how she met George…

“A girlfriend was dating his manager, and she kept calling me, “Go with me to New York. Go with me to New York.” Well, first of all, I didn’t want to go to New York. Second of all, I was not into country music. I was into Creedence Clearwater. You give me Creedence Clearwater and a broom and a mop, and I’d clean your house in 10 minutes and turn that music up. But when I got to New York and finally met [George], such a sweet, well-mannered man. And then after I watched him on the stage, I’m like, “How in the world is he singing? He’s not even opening his mouth.”

And he was just doing it… I mean, just, wow. So then I started liking country music. That night we talked and talked and he just opened his heart to everything. Just spilled everything. I mean, just like things that I think were hurting him, things that he wanted to get out but had never told anyone. And he told me everything. So then when it was time for me to go home, he was like, “I don’t want you to go home.” I said, “Well, I’m going home. I got a job and two kids. Are you crazy?” So here, I’m on a plane, commercial, going home, layovers, everything, exhausted. And I finally get home and in my driveway there sets this strange car. Well, the man had gone and chartered a plane, leased a car, sitting in my house, and the rest is history.

On George’s proposal of marriage…

We’re in Texas and building Jones Country, and one day I’m out there planting flowers and just digging up… Fingernails full of dirt and just digging up, planting these flowers and things. And he comes out and he says… And believe me, there was no money. We was living in a double-wide. So he said, “Hey, you want to get married today, you need to go take a shower, and let’s go. Helen’s got a preacher over there,” which was his sister. I’m like, “What?” He said, “Go take a shower. Let’s go over to Helen’s.” We go over there. It was just me, George, Helen, Uncle Dub, and the preacher.

We got married. After that… I don’t think… We had a cake, but he didn’t want a cake. So we go all the way to Jasper, which is only about 10 miles from there, eat at Burger King, and go back to work. That was it. We was married. You’d have thought I was pregnant or something as fast as that went.

On George getting kicked off Patsy Cline’s doomed flight…

Well, he was going to fly back with Patsy, they was on the same show. So Patsy, she said, “Well, I’m going do my part, and then we’ll wait on you and you can fly back with us.” He said, “Okay, great, thank you.” So while Patsy’s on the show, George had too much to drink, so he went into her dressing room and he ate all the chicken.

She always had fried chicken after she got off of her set. So she comes out, and George is fixing to go on, and she said, “Who ate my chicken?” And George said, “I did.” “George Jones, you ate my chicken?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Well, you’re not flying back with us.” He said, “Patsy, I was drunk. I had to sober up to do the show.” She said, “Well, you’re not flying back with us for eating my chicken.” She said, “Get home the best way you can.” So that chicken saved George’s life.

George and Nancy Jones (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster & Associates)

On George and Tammy’s relationship…

I really tried to get them to be friends. And his favorite line was, “Okay, you’re going to learn. Do not get close to her.” But I did. I enjoyed being with Tammy. We had some good times and I would go to her house, but we never sat there and talked about George or George Richie or nothing like that. We just did girl talk, and I really liked her. She was so funny. One time she said, “I really tried to hate you, but I just can’t.” She said, “I just love you.” And I thought that was the sweetest thing, but I enjoyed that.

But the thing about it is that they were only married for six years. I was married 30 years, together for 32 years. What is wrong with these people? If they loved each other, they’d still be together today. I just think that the fans loved their singing. And he would have told you if he was here today, “I fell in love with her singing.” And once that was gone he said, “I didn’t know how to get out of it, but get drunk.” And that was his line. That’s what he used to tell me. But I don’t know where these fans come from. Sometimes you’ll see something on Facebook and it’ll say, “Well, you know that he’s in heaven with Tammy. That’s who he wanted to begin with.” Well, what was I? Chopped liver?

Author Ken Abraham: “And the funny thing is a lot of folks don’t know that it was actually Nancy who brought George and Tammy back together to do an album together after they’d been divorced for years and apart, not even speaking to each other hardly. It was Nancy Jones who said, “Why don’t you guys get back together and do an album?” And then after the album came out and was successful, to go on tour.”

On what she misses most about George…

Just the fun. I can’t say the traveling because I really didn’t care much for the traveling, but just to hear his voice and him being fun, wanting to know, “Well, what we’re going to do today?” So it was always something to do, even if it was riding around. He loved to ride around and listen to music only in the car, never in the house. Never did he ever play anything in the house. But he would put it in that car and we’d ride around the pasture or just had a blast.

On what she hopes fans will take from the book…

What I want them to take away from this book is there’s a God, and right now, all you got to do… The world’s in a mess. And it’s awful right now, but if people would just reach out, grab God’s hand, He’s right there waiting on you. And don’t think that you’re going to solve anything by drinking and smoking and getting into drugs and stuff. That is so hard, and that is something that God don’t want you to do. But I think with this, I want people to walk away feeling happy. I want people to walk away feeling the spiritual that I have inside of me, knowing that I was saved by God.

Watch the full interview in the video below.

 Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Foghat’s Influence on Southern Rock: How They Shaped a Genre

8 Must-Listen-Again Country Classics