With his rich Southern voice that made the number one charts for more than 40 years, and songs about good times and regrets, George Jones' legacy here in East Tennessee will live on. He passed away Friday at the age of 81 in Nashville.
Jones made it known that he loved the Smoky Mountains. So when he came here to vacation, he also took the stage at the Country Tonight Theatre, thanks to promoter Tim McAbee. Jones had 21 sold out shows in Pigeon Forge since 2002, and during that time, he made a lasting impression on McAbee.
"Today has been a really sad day for me both personally and professionally. When I became a promoter, he was one of the first people I brought to town here in Pigeon Forge," he said.
McAbee says Jones not only had a big voice, but a big heart. He says there were multiple times where he made his fans' dreams come true.
Our cameras captured one of those moments last year. An elderly woman's only wish was to meet "The Possum," and Jones didn't hesitate to make it happen.
McAbee says Jones was one of the most talented people he has ever worked with.
"Without a doubt the word 'legend' fits. George Jones could phrase a song like no one else. His gift was that whether he was performing in concert or singing on the radio, you felt what he was singing about," he said.
Dolly Parton is among the country artists mourning the loss of Jones. She said in a statement, "My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all-time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world. My heart goes out to Nancy, Georgette and to his other children, family and friends."
The Oak Ridge Boys tweeted after learning the news, "We are devastated this morning. We have lost the possum... legend and friend... RIP George Jones."
Jones' impact can be felt beyond the musical arena too. Nashville Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn sent her condolences from the nation's capitol.
"George Jones was such a legend and he and Nancy have lived there in my district in Tennessee, and what a dear, dear family and his contributions to country music, his colorful personality, the energy he brought to entertaining, I think it will be long and very well and very dearly remembered," she said.
Blackburn went on to say Jones is one of the main reasons Nashville became the center of country music and helped to legitimize country music as a truly American genre.