George Strait: George Jones Was a "Hero and Friend"

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George Strait: George Jones Was a "Hero and Friend"

Published on April 26, 2013 by CMT News

George Jones

George Strait is not alone in his appreciation of George
Jones
or the influence he had on countless country singers.

“It’s a sad day for me,” Strait said Friday morning
(April 26) in an interview with CMT Radio. “It’s a sad day for everybody in the music world to lose George. It was unexpected.
I had no idea George was sick, but our prayers go out to [Jones' wife] Nancy and the family. He was such an influence and
my hero and friend. It’s just a sad, sad day. I’m gonna miss George so much.”

As tributes and accolades came from country
stars following Jones’ death on Friday, it became clear that one of his most important contributions was mentoring and encouraging
younger country singers.

Kenny Chesney said Jones was something of a father figure
to aspiring artists.

“We were great friends, but it was really more like a father/son relationship,” he said. “He even
showed up in Lexington, Ky., two years ago to surprise me onstage for my birthday — all the way from Nashville to surprise
me and sing ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ with me, which will be one of the greatest memories of my life.”

“When I
was just staring out, and I was picked to open the George Jones/Tammy Wynette reunion tour, I thought I’d made it. Then one
night, George asked me if I was heading home because he and Nancy had a plane, and they’d take me. I remember sitting there
on that jet, thinking, ‘This can’t be happening,’ because he was George Jones and I was some kid from nowhere. I’m sure he
knew, but he was generous to kids chasing the dream, and I never forgot it.”

Mark
Chesnutt
said Jones was the reason he wanted to become a country singer.

“He was my mentor and my teacher,” he
said. “He paved the way for so many, and I was one of the lucky ones to have enjoyed the opportunity to not only sing beside
him, but just sit and visit with him. When I was just starting out, we toured together. He was the headliner. After a few
shows, he told me that I was going to close the shows because he wanted to watch Andy Griffith.”

Billy
Dean
also recalled the generosity Jones provided to newcomers.

“George Jones was a mentor and a giant to my generation
of country singers,” he said. “He was there for my first Ralph Emery Show appearance. Backstage, I was so nervous and
expressed concern to George that if Ralph Emery didn’t like me, my career may never get
off the ground. The first thing George said to Ralph when they went on air was how nice of guy he thought I was. George Jones
was our country music soul singer, no doubt.”

Lorrie Morgan said Jones was also
a teacher.

“With tear-filled eyes, I’m reminiscing this morning about all that I learned from and loved about George
Jones,” she said. “He was part of my country music education. He made country music history and, in my opinion, George Jones
is a song’s best friend. No one will leave an imprint on my life like George did.”

From the outset of his career, Sammy Kershaw always credited Jones as his primary influence.

“I have been inspired
by his music for the last 50 years, and for 42 of those, I had the pleasure of knowing him personally and professionally,”
Kershaw said. “He was it to me. George was and will always be my guy. I am luckier than a lot of people on this Earth
because God let me be a part of George’s life and him a part of mine.”

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