The Change-of-Heart Story Behind “She Thinks I Still Care” by George Jones

In 1959, George Jones hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart for the first time with “White Lightning.” A string of singles followed but failed to match the success. Then, in 1962, “She Thinks I Still Care” was an even bigger hit. The popularity of the tune kicked Jones’ career into overdrive. Artists all wish for a “career song” like Jones experienced, establishing an identity with the public.

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The artist nicknamed “Possum” had his share of ups and downs, but some of his biggest hits were “The Race Is On,” “Walk Through This World with Me,” “The Grand Tour,” and “The Door.” The unique voice that racked up all these hits provided an impressive career full of “career songs.” In 1980, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” dwarfed all of the other songs, becoming his true “career song.”  Let’s take a look at the story behind the early hit “She Thinks I Still Care” by George Jones.

She thinks I still care
Just because I asked a friend about her
Just because I spoke her name somewhere
Just because I rang her number by mistake today
She thinks I still care

An Old Tape Recorder

Jack Clement played Jones the song for the first time at Gulf Coast Studio in Beaumont, Texas. Dickey Lee and Steve Duffy, who were both under contract at Clement’s publishing company, wrote the song. Jones showed little interest, telling Clement he didn’t care for the song. Raymond Nalley, brother of guitarist Luther Nalley, recalled, “They had this old, worn out, rinky-dink tape recorder layin’ around the studio. … Every time they’d try to lay that song on George, he’d just look at that damn tape recorder and ask ’em, ‘How much you sell me that thing for?’ One day, (studio co-owner) Bill Hall finally told him, ‘Hell, George, if you’ll record the song, I’ll give ya the damn tape recorder!'”

Just because I haunt the same old places
Where the memory of her lingers everywhere
Just because I’m not the happy guy I used to be
She thinks I still care

The Recording Session

By 1994, Jones’ opinion of the song had obviously changed. In the video collection Golden Hits, he said, “It knocked me out. I couldn’t wait to get into the studio.” On January 4, 1962, with pianist Pig Robbins, drummer Buddy Harman, and background singers The Jordanaires, Jones walked into Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut Studio on Music Row in Nashville to record “She Thinks I Still Care.” Clement reworked the melody, and Jones delivered a heartfelt vocal to the tale of woe about a man’s loss. The emotion in his voice cuts right to the core of the song.

After starting his career on Starday Records, Jones moved to Mercury Records for several years. “She Thinks I Still Care” was his first release on United Artists Records.

But if she’s happy thinking, I still need her
Then let that silly notion bring her cheer
But how could she ever be so foolish
Oh, where would she get such an idea

Initial Success

“The song was on the Billboard survey for 23 weeks, six of them at No. 1,” Jones wrote in his 1996 memoir I Lived to Tell It All. “It has been recorded by scores of artists and, in 1974, spent two weeks at No. 1 after it was rerecorded by Anne Murray, who changed the hook-line to ‘He Thinks I Still Care.’ For years after I recorded it, the song was my most requested, and it became what people in my business call a ‘career record,’ the song that firmly establishes your identity with the public.

“In the fall of 1963, I went to New York City and sang on Jimmy Dean’s ABC network television show. I was nervous and had a hard time singing without a live audience. We wrestled through an afternoon of rehearsals, but even in Manhattan, where there wasn’t one country radio station, the only thing Dean and his crew wanted to hear was ‘She Thinks I Still Care.”

Just because I asked a friend about her
Just because I spoke her name somewhere
Just because I saw her then went all to pieces

A Rolling Stone

Keith Richards wrote about working with Jones in his 2010 memoir Life: “George was a great guy to work with, especially when he had the hairdo going. Incredible singer. There’s a quote from Frank Sinatra, who says, ‘Second-best singer in this country is George Jones.’ Who’s the first, Frank? We were waiting and waiting for George for a couple of hours, I think. By then, I’m behind the bar making drinks, not remembering that George is supposed to be on the wagon and not knowing why he was so late. I’ve been late many times and, so no big deal. … I found out later that he’d been driving around because he was a bit nervous about working with me. He’d been doing some reading up and was uncertain of meeting me.”

She thinks I still care
She thinks I still care

Other Versions

In 2021, songwriter Dickey Lee shared this story on Backstage with Joe Chambers: “It was a hit in 1963, and in 1975, our Canadian publisher checked it out. He said, ‘There had been over 500 cuts on that song. They’ve told me now it’s over a thousand. I’ve even pitched that song to people who have already done it. It’s been a blessing. It just keeps getting recorded. I just licensed it to—they were doing it in an Italian movie, and they’re using the Solomon Burke version.”

Some of the more successful versions were by Anne Murray, Connie Francis, Little Willie John, Del Shannon, The Rip Chords, Bill Haley & His Comets (in Spanish), Cher, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Michael Nesmith, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, John Fogerty, Elvis Presley, The Kendalls, James Taylor, and Patty Loveless.

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Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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