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The Legend of George Jones

The Legend of George Jones – His Life and Death is a new book by Charlene Montgomery with her husband Earl (Peanutt) Montgomery that came out approximately a year after the passing of the King of Country Music. You can’t blame me for being a bit skeptical about the motivations behind writing this book, but after a fact filled interview with the authors all of my concerns proved unwarranted. 

 

Charlene and Peanutt (in the interview he did remind me that his nickname was spelled with two Ts and to call him by that) were close friends of George Jones since the early 1960’s.  In fact Peanutt wrote 73 hit songs that Jones recorded and performed, not to mention his other writing credits for such performers as Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker (she also wrote the forward for the book), Johnny Cash and Marvin Gaye.  I asked Charlene when she began writing the book and she stated, “I started writing it ten years ago, but I kept starting and stoppin’…. and life and our other businesses kept getting in the way.  George knew we were writing it and told us to send him a copy when I finished.” Unfortunately the book was completed a few short weeks after Jones passing, so he never got the chance to read the completed tome.

After reading the book myself I learned details I never knew about George Jones, his five wives and his children.  The book plays out a lot like a country song and includes details of drunken escapades, cocaine binges and some pistol play for good measure.  Charlene also intertwined some of her and Peanutt’s personal history together, a chapter by her sister Linda Dodson (wife #4 of George Jones) and an ending chapter by her husband. At times reading the chapters got a bit confusing as they weren’t bound to the normal bonds of time and space, but all five wives do get their due mentions and there are stories on all of them. 

Charlene was first introduced to George Jones back in 1965 when she and Peanutt were just dating.  She ended up being the frequent driver and arbitrator for Jones and her husband since she was one of the few involved parties that didn’t partake in drugs or alcohol.  And she ran off many people from her house that did, except for George and Peanutt so she could keep an eye on them both!  The book primarily covers from 1965 through 1983, when Nancy Sepulvado (who became wife #5), came into the picture and cut all ties with George’s old friends and took charge of his life and finances.  It does pick up again at his funeral as it wraps things up at the end. 

Some of the stories in here are just priceless like when George Jones decides to shoot at Peanutt because he has found God and won’t drink and carouse with him anymore.  During the interview I asked about this story and Charlene said it all began when Jones called up and said, “Where is Little Jesus?”  This was the new nickname that George had given Peanutt after he quit all of his bad habits and became a Christian.  After Jones and Peanutt met up talking from each of their personal cars Jones opened fire with his pistol and told Peanutt, “See if your God can save you now?”  Amazingly enough the shots fired missed their target but left a nice hole in Peanutt’s car door.  To teach George a lesson Peanutt went to the police and filed a report so Jones was arrested and went to trial, but Peanutt dropped the case.  This is just one of the stories in the book and it reads much like a favorite aunt telling you the history of the family and calling out everybody that did wrong. 

Some people mentioned in the book may not be pleased with the depiction that Charlene provided, but it is also delivered with “Southern Charm” so none of it comes across too malicious.  The picture that is painted of George Jones through her words is of a lonely, talented, troubled man, looking for love and healing sometimes in the wrong people and often in a bottle or substance.  The book also includes a free CD with songs that are written or co-written by Charlene or Peanutt.  My only disappointment in the CD, although all of the artists are very talented, was that they were all female singers and most of the songs had more of a modern sound instead of the traditional feel I expected with the book.  Peanutt told me in the interview, “They didn’t even want me in the studio and wouldn’t let me play or sing on any of the songs!”  He did say there will be a follow up album coming out that he will be singing and playing on. 

When I asked the author why she wrote the book she said, “To set the record straight!  I saw beyond the drinkin’ and not about being a star. He was a good man that needed someone to care.”   During the tag team interview Peanutt even sang a song and you can’t get much more country than that.  If you’re a George Jones fan this book is a must read! 

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