Country Music Hall of Famer to play Saturday in Norman

By Chris Neal

2005 cma close up news service

It's always painful -- or at least annoying -- for an artist to pass up a song, only to see it become a big hit for someone else. On his new album, "Hits I Missed ... and One I Didn't," George Jones shares with fans 11 songs he wishes he'd recorded when he had the chance -- and a new version of a classic of his own that he nearly didn't record, "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Seven-time CMA Awards winner Jones and producer Keith Stegall began work on "Hits I Missed ... and One I Didn't" late in 2004, then finished up over the summer of 2005. Stegall, who has worked with Jones on and off since 1999's critically hailed "The Cold Hard Truth," said the singer's working method is "pretty simple."

"I usually get him to sing each song from top to bottom five or six times," Stegall said. "I try to let him give me performances instead of bits and pieces, and most of the time we catch the magic in two or three passes."

The songs were chosen by Jones and Stegall along with Evelyn Shriver and Susan Nadler, with whom Jones formed Bandit Records in 2001. "Hits I Missed" is Jones' fourth release on Bandit.

Jones, 74, suspects that several of these songs were written with him in mind -- in particular Hank Williams Jr.'s "The Blues Man." Although the song has elements of both Williams and his famous father, "The Blues Man" contains pointed references to the former "No-Show Jones'" notorious past: "He got cuffed on dirt roads/He got sued for no-shows." Jones had the idea to personalize the song further by singing it in the first person.

Jones also decided to make "The Blues Man" a duet, and invited Dolly Parton to perform with him on the track and video.

Jones says his singing has improved since he stopped smoking several years ago, and he's now hitting high notes he hasn't reached for decades. Jones has now been singing for more than half a century, so it's fitting the album opens with Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away."

"What can I say about this classic other than I can't understand why I hadn't recorded it earlier?" pondered Jones in his liner notes for the album. After the recording, Jones and Stegall invited Nelson to the studio for his approval. "He loved it," Stegall reported.

Jones believes he now sings his most revered hit, the 1980 CMA Single of the Year "He Stopped Loving Her Today," better than he did on the original. Nonetheless, Jones says he has avoided re-recording the song for the last quarter-century out of respect for its producer, Billy Sherrill. He sought and received permission from the now-retired Sherrill to take a crack at re-recording the song.?

Jones recorded a lot of older songs for "Hits I Missed," but also tried his hand at more recent fare including Alan Jackson's "Here In the Real World" and Randy Travis' "On the Other Hand."

"Like anything else that George records, he made it his own," Travis said. "He's just one of those guys. If I were gonna call out two of the most unique vocalists I've ever heard or ever will hear, it'd be George Jones and Ray Charles."

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