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Possum gave country music meaning

Features Columnist

T. Gamble

T. Gamble

The 8-year-old Hurricane Boy has been strangely quiet as of late. Of course, that probably means a Category 5 eruption could be around the bend at any moment.

He has been discussing the pros and cons of getting a tattoo lately. So there will be no misunderstanding, I see no pros in getting a tattoo, only cons. Fine with me if you want one, but my son won’t have one as long as he is under my control, if indeed he has ever really been under my control.

I explained that no tattoo would happen while he lived with me. He protested and indicated he might just do it anyway. I then said, “Son, if you come home with a tattoo, you better be sure you can whip my butt — and I don’t think you are old enough for that just yet — ‘cause me and you are going to go a round or two if that happens.”

He quickly replied, “I’ll just wait until I’m about 18 and you’ll be 63 and old by then.”

I said, “Well, you don’t know how tough I might be at 63; don’t be too sure of yourself.”

He thought for a second and said, “Yeah, you’d probably beat me with your cane when I’m 18.”

It is comforting to know he gives me 10 more years before I bring out the cane. But with the miles I’ve put on, he could be right.

Then again, miles may not really mean that much. After all, George Jones spent most of his life trying to shorten it and he still lived past 80, God rest his soul. I understand the flag at the Jim Beam distillery is still at half-mast.

Ol’ George actually came to Albany around the early ‘80s after “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was a massive hit but before he quit drinking, if indeed he ever really did quit. He played at the short-lived Silver Saddle.

George rode up in the sidecar of a motorcycle, drunk. He sang two incoherent songs, got booed off the stage and sped off in the sidecar, leaving a very unhappy crowd behind. He was already called “No Show George” by this time, although I guess you couldn’t say he no-showed. At the time, I thought it was sort of funny, although I imagine the Silver Saddle owner may have viewed it a little differently.

Whatever can be said about George, there is no doubt he could sing country music. It would be impossible to produce a more syrupy, stereotypical country song than “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Anyone else could have sung it and it would have been comical, but when George sang it, I felt like I was at the man’s funeral and it made me want to whip that lowdown tramp that broke his heart.

Of course, like most mournful I-wish-I-had-her-back songs, the majority of the blame for the breakup lies with the one singing the mournful tune. Most people felt it was autobiographical about ex-wife Tammy Wynette. Tammy once said she’d have stayed with him if he had ever been sober, but, hey, how can you write a good country song if somebody in it isn’t drunk? George figured, I guess, it may as well have been him.

He sang other great songs about rocking chairs and the grand tour. At his funeral, Laura Bush even said President Bush worked out listening to his old hit “White Lightning.” Judging by some of the decisions made by President Bush in the latter stages of the presidency, I’m not sure Bush wasn’t drinking some of the stuff.

If George — Jones, not Bush — hadn’t been drinking and carousing, there’s no telling how long he would have lived, but then we would have missed all those great songs.

Here’s to the Possum, may his soul finally find some peace.

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.