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Playin' Possum

An Inside Look Into The Life Of Late Country Legend George Jones As Told Through His Wife’s Memoir

Article by Lisa Valentine

Photography by Courtesy of Nancy Jones

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

The life and career of “The King of Country Music,” George Jones, has been in the spotlight for decades and his music has left an indelible mark on the genre. While his songs will always be revered as some of the best in country music, Jones is also known for some tumultuous years as he battled his demons of substance abuse. A period of his life was recently portrayed in the docuseries George & Tammy, depicting his relationship with country legend Tammy Wynette. Now Jones’ fourth wife, Nancy Jones—to whom he was married for 30 years—is sharing an inside look at the years that she and George spent together in her recently released book, Playin’ Possum.

Following an incredible journey back to health from severe COVID complications, Franklin resident Nancy Jones decided it was time to put pen to paper and share a glimpse of her and her late husband’s life with the world. Written with Ken Abraham and released in September 2023, Jones feels like God wanted her to share their story. “I don’t think of it as my book. I think of it as God’s book,” she explains. "Laying in that hospital I kept thinking, ‘I need to put this out.’ Fans need to know this. They need to know why I fought for this wonderful, wonderful man and how I had to help him.”

The book is transparent and eye-opening as she shares difficult details of moments of abuse and the hardships his substance use brought into their lives until he finally changed his ways. Jones says she doesn’t want her husband to be remembered for his drinking, rather she wants the world to remember the good parts of his legacy and the man he was. “In this book, I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I just wanted them to see what you have to go through sometimes for love, and I did. Who could love anybody any more than I did with George Jones or he did with me? You just can’t give up,” she says.

She shares in her memoir that when people ask why she stayed with him, her honest answer was, “‘Because I knew that underneath all of that was a really good man. When George wasn’t drinking or doing drugs he was a wonderful gentleman, a kind, fun man, with a fantastic sense of humor. So throughout our marriage, I kept trying to help him get clean and stay clean.”

In addition to the dark moments, the book also details lighter, funny memories like when he went to the restroom during the CMA Awards and she had to accept his award onstage for CMA Vocal Event of the Year for the song “I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair” when his name was called. Readers can get an inside look into stories of their years building Jones Country Music Park, hanging out with country music legends, the explanation behind his nickname "Possum", and little-known moments from George’s career.

“We always laughed together; we had a good time together,” she remembers. “He thought he was a good cook, but he wasn’t. He always wanted to get in the kitchen and act like he could cook or he would just be a terrible cook so you always had to have a backup there. Just those kind of things. Just a togetherness,” she says of her favorite memories with George. “He was just true to country music,” she says. “I mean the man loved country music. He was so kind and so sweet. I’ve never seen anybody eat, sleep, and talk country music like George did and it was a life for him. He lived the country music. He would never record something that he didn’t feel.”

The book includes mentions of Williamson County and Middle Tennessee. “I’m not ever leaving from Franklin. I love Franklin and George loved Franklin," she says. "We lived in Texas, we lived in Florida, we lived everywhere but I always came back to Franklin. He always wanted to come back to Franklin. We lived in Brentwood and Brentwood’s not bad, but it’s not Franklin. Franklin, I’ve been here since 1989 and I don’t intend to leave.”

Nancy strives to keep George’s legacy alive through this book but also hopes to use it as a way to communicate God’s saving love with readers. “I want readers to know that there’s a God that can help you turn your life around." 

"Fans need to know why I fought for this wonderful, wonderful man and how I had to help him.”