NASHVILLE George Jones is as surprised as anyone that he and Garth Brooks have plans to record together in Nashville sometime next week.
"He's always shunned me," Jones said Monday (July 30). "When I'd be on an awards show with him, he always walked away when he saw me coming."
For his part, Brooks often has said that he holds Jones in high regard and feels a sense of awe when he's around the Country Music Hall of Fame member. He made a brief appearance in the video for Jones' 199293 hit, "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair."
When Jones and wife Nancy returned home from a recent trip, they discovered that Brooks had called "about an hour before we landed," Jones said. "He had this long line of talking he did, said he'd just found a song and he was interested in doing a song with me if I was interested."
Nancy Jones called Brooks back and set up a meeting. Brooks came over to the house, and he and Jones talked about recording together. Jones said Brooks was in tears when he left the house, and the recording session was in the works.
"He's got a cute little song called 'Beer Run,' " Jones revealed. "It talks about getting with the boys and driving the pickup. I'm still listening to the tape. There's some clever lines in it.
"The song starts off singing low. You say, [sings] 'B-double-e-r r-u-n, beer run.' You spell it out. Then you get up into your higher octave and start singing it."
Jones does have one concern about the song.
"I didn't care for the title," he said with a laugh, "but when people hear the song, they won't take it as a drinking song, I don't think."
Jones, who celebrates his 70th birthday on September 12, has given up alcohol, tobacco even coffee following a life-threatening auto accident in March 1999.
"About eight months before I had my accident, I went back out in the woods on my property and I did a little praying, [asking] the good Lord to do something to wake me up and straighten my life up once and for all," Jones recalled.
"I said, 'Lord, I don't care if you have to use a sledgehammer; whichever way you choose, I need to straighten my life up.' That was about it," Jones explained. "A few months later, this accident happened, and it did straighten me up. It put the fear of God in me."
A musical based on the life of Jones' ex-wife and duet partner, the late Tammy Wynette, opens September 13 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Jim Lauderdale has been tapped to play Jones.
"When I first heard about it, they were going to do all the wild things I had done in my life," Jones said. He hopes some changes have been made to the script.
"We talked with them. There's no sense in doing all the gutty stuff. They can show me for what I was, in a little cleaned-up way. I don't know how it's gonna turn out. I might sneak down and try to catch one of [the performances]."
Jones appears in concert at the Ryman October 21, near the end of the play's run, with Lauderdale as his opening act.
Jones' advice to Lauderdale, as he prepares to play the role: "Just be normal. Just act naturally." Jones adds: "He's pretty much a good ol' country boy, like myself. I'm sure he's studied a little bit, maybe, of me."
A new Jones single, "The Man He Was," registered at #57 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for August 4, and a new album for Bandit Records, originally slated for September 11, now is scheduled for September 25, in part to accommodate the Brooks duet.
"We're gonna see how it comes out," Jones said, "and maybe we'll slip it on the album."
As for his landmark 70th birthday, Jones' plans befit a legend who has earned the right to rest on his laurels: "I'll probably lean back in the chair," he said, "and be watching a movie or something on television."