SETX looks back at the life and legacy of George Jones

George Jones was born in Saratoga, a small East Texas town, on September 12, 1931.  His younger years were spent in Vidor.

At the age of 7, his parents purchased his first radio and two years later, at age 9, he picked up his first guitar.

"He used to play on the streets of Beaumont as a kid for tips," says KD-101 radio host Gary Lee Love.

Jones spread his love for country music at Southeast Texas bars.  In 1954, he signed on to his first major record label, which paved the way to the brightly lit stages in Nashville, Tennessee.

But, Southeast Texas is where his roots remained.  In the late 1960's, he built a home in Vidor.

"He had Merle Haggard out here," says longtime friend Frankie Langston.

Langston rocked on his back porch on a wooded, country road, next door to where Jones once lived. He reminisces on true country music.

"George Jones' kind of music is history. His kind and my kind is history," he says.

Langston holds on to memories and personal keepsakes. In his front yard sits a 7-foot water fountain that was given to him by George Jones years ago, a gift he'll forever cherish.

On this day of passing, all of Southeast Texas is holding on to a small part of the hometown boy.

A jukebox plays the songs of a distinctive voice at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.

It's the voice of George Jones and next to the jukebox hangs a fashionable green jacket and records of number one hits. It's an exhibit in the music hall that opened in 1994.

"George Jones is a country music legend. Even people who don't listen to country music of know a lot of country music, they still know George Jones. He's up there with Willie, Waylon and the boys," says Ami Kamara with the Museum of the Gulf of Coast.

George Jones is known for his heartbreaking songs of love and hardships. In 1980, he released "He stopped loving her today." It quickly climbed to number one on the music charts and in 2009, country music lovers voted it best country song of all time on

From his studio in Beaumont, Gary Lee Love watches footage of being backstage with Jones when the news broke.

"George won it that day and I was with him when he got the news and they said 'George you did it again, buddy, the number one song of all time.' He stopped and he was very happy about it," says Gary Lee Love.

The legendary man behind the guitar now has a star on the Vidor City Hall Walk of Fame and has a street named after him in downtown Beaumont.

"The thing about George was that he had his own sound. He wasn't just another cookie cutting country guy that sounded like George Strait. He had his own sound and nobody else then and ever again in history will have a voice like George Jones," says Gary Lee Love.

Jones was the youngest of 8 children. He's survived by his wife, Nancy, and 6 children.

He was 81-years-old.


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