”For years after the divorce,” remembers a mutual friend of George Jones’ and Tammy Wynette’s, ”when you would say her name, he would spit. And when you’d say his name, she’d shake.” It wasn’t much better during six years of marriage (1969-75) and their musical partnership, which took them to the top of the country charts three times: ”His nippin’ and my naggin’,” sums up Wynette, 53. In a town of tempestuous unions, theirs ranks as one of the stormiest.
So when the former President and First Lady of country music reunited to record the just-released One, their first album in 15 years, it was tantamount to a Beatles reunion. ”I didn’t really think it would happen,” says Jones, 63, who admits that he was hoping it would.
Wynette broke the ice last year when she appeared on Jones’ record The Bradley Barn Sessions. ”We rediscovered our loyalty, and I think our patience and endurance speak well of both of us, after what we’ve been through,” says Wynette, who, with maturity, has come to anticipate Jones’ unconventional style. ”He doesn’t open his mouth a lot — he sings through his teeth. But I’ve learned that when he dips his chin down, he’s going for a low note, and when he slings his head back, he’s going high.”
The big question for the couple now is whether youth-oriented country radio will play these relative old-timers. ”They’ve took the heart and soul out of country,” laments Jones. ”But sooner or later it’ll come back to the real stuff. I figure we’ll still be around when it does.”
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