Tales From the Tour Bus (2017) s01e03 Episode Script

George Jones and Tammy Wynette Part 1

1 (country music plays) George Jones.
It's a pretty ordinary name for a guy whose life and talent were anything but ordinary.
It wasn't just the country music world that loved George.
Frank Sinatra once called him the second best singer in the world, and James Taylor and Elvis Costello both liked George Jones so much, they each wrote songs for him.
Now, whether you're a country music fan or not, that kind of respect deserves attention.
("Take Me" plays) Take me Take me to your darkest room Close every window and bolt every door The very first moment I heard your voice I'd be in darkness no more "Take Me" was the first song George and Tammy Wynette released as a single Barren dessert the first in a long string of hit songs they recorded together as husband and wife.
The very first moment I saw your smile It would be like heaven to me Even after they split up, they kept on singing together, which makes sense.
They had every chance to kill each other as husband and wife, and each of them took a stab at it at least once.
(theme music playing) George Jones named his backing band The Jones Boys.
They were actually real brothers Don, Gary, and Arnie Adams and they spent more time on the bus with George than just about anybody.
We was playing in Bandera, Texas, one night.
We would open up for George sometimes And he was out in the crowd, - drinking at the table.
- Thank you very much.
Right now, we'd like to introduce our boss to you.
We'd like everybody to get together, - give a great big hand, - (cheering) to America's number one country singer, George Jones.
(country music plays) Don: - He throwed the whiskey bottle at me on the bandstand.
- It missed me about that far.
- (bottle shatters) When we was finally got done that night, well, we just walked off-stage.
What-what, we quit.
Went and started loading the car and trailer up, and I heard gravel shuffling behind me when I was putting stuff in.
And I turned around and he took a swing, and I took the trailer door - (grunts) - and hit him in the face with it.
- (laughter) - It knocked him down, and the sheriff was standing down there and he said, "What do you want me to do with him, Don?" And I said, "Put him in jail.
" (laughter) So they put him in jail, and I took his car and went home.
(tires screech) And he called us and fired us the next day.
He had fired him four or five times before that ever happened.
He got be, kind of, like Donald Trump.
(laughter) Mike: George came from humble beginnings in Vidor, Texas.
Songwriter Peanutt Montgomery and his wife, Charlene, were running buddies with him for decades.
We were close, uh, as, I guess, buddies could get, you know.
I'd tell him I loved him, and he said, "Now, Peanutt, if we were any closer, we'd be gay.
" (laughter) Charlene: George came from the Big Thicket.
It's a little community there in Vidor tall pines and everybody there was like poverty people, but they didn't know they were poverty, because everybody lived the same life, so one had just about as much as the other.
And in the Thicket, they had their own little set of rules, standards, and values, and they stuck by those.
Mike: Long before the good people of East Texas had figured out how to make crystal meth, they made moonshine, which was also illegal, so it stands to reason that a boy from the Big Thicket would get his first number-one hit with a song about moonshine.
Well, a city slicker came, and he said, "I'm tough I think I want to taste that powerful stuff" He took one slug, and he drank it on down I heard him a-moaning as he hit the ground Mighty, mighty pleasing, pappy's corn squeezing Pshh! (hiccups) Ooh, White Lightning Gary: And the way he sang and phrased his words, there ain't nobody can even come close to him.
There ain't nothing in my pocket But three nickels and a dime But I'm holding To the pieces Of my dream We got started with George and couldn't have had a better teacher as far as the singing and the music, but, uh, he was such a a prick as far as, uh, off-stage, drinking, - and stuff like that.
- Yeah.
Gary: Paycheck worked for George four or five times.
Arnie: Him and George was two of a kind.
We kind of like grew up together, you know.
Paycheck, he was always drunk, and him and George fought all the time.
We was riding down to Virginia or somewhere late at night, and George and John was up in the front seat, and George was driving, and they got to arguing about something, because they argued all the time, and, uh, they started screaming at each other.
(chuckles) Paycheck said, "Well, just pull this son of a bitch over.
I'll just whip your ass.
" George said, "By God, all right.
" Pulled her over, and John jumped out, - and George took off.
- (guys laugh) George wasn't no scholar by no means.
We'd talked him into going into the hospital to dry out in, uh, Alabama.
They did an IQ test on him.
I asked the doctor, "What was the score?" He said, "62.
" - (guys laugh) - Where'd that put you? Well, dumb enough to work for him! George and I was riding along on the bus there one time and we was listening to the radio, and we heard a song that Johnny Paycheck had written.
It was called "Apartment Number Nine.
" Tammy Wynette: You'll find me waiting here In apartment number nine George said, "Man, who is that singing?" And it was young Tammy Wynette, who nobody'd heard of yet.
Mike: You can see where this is headed.
Scott Kennedy runs a Tammy Wynette museum, near the cotton fields where she grew up in Mississippi.
Scott: Tammy, along with everybody else in Tremont, Mississippi, picked cotton.
Tammy didn't like to pick cotton, but she had to.
When she was out there in those fields, to help pass the time away, well, she'd start singing, and it just made the cotton picking go better.
When she was picking that cotton down there, she was just waiting for the day and designing her costumes, when she was gonna be on the stage with her hero, George Jones, singing hit tunes.
Mike: Janette and her sister, Nanette, ought to know.
The Smith sisters took turns over the years doing Tammy's hair, as well as just about everybody else's in Nashville.
Jim Nabors.
Ray Charles.
Ah! Gene Kelly.
Jerry Lee Lewis.
Burt Reynolds.
Oh! Reba.
Tammy was born with the name Virginia Wynette Pugh.
She got married before she graduated from high school.
I think it was because she felt like she didn't belong to anybody.
It was pretty well known that Tammy always loved the boys.
She had to have a man in her life all of the time, and she made some of the worst dadgum choices.
Mike: Her first choice in terms of marriage was a young man by the name of Euple Byrd.
Now, Tammy had dated all the Byrd brothers, but she ended up marrying Euple.
It was, uh, a very tortured romance.
Mike: Big words for Jimmy McDonough, a Gonzo journalist with bylines in the Village Voice, Mojo, Spin, and Juggs.
They moved into a log cabin on her grand-pappy's property, and no running water, no electricity, no stove.
Immediately, they started making babies, and they ended up having three kids.
She gets a hairdresser's license, 'cause Euple wasn't bringing in any dough.
She was never really in poverty, except after she married Euple and lived in that cabin back there.
Both: Euple Byrd.
So this was a grim period in her life.
Tammy had suffered with depression and ended up getting shock treatment.
Janette: So, one day, she says to Euple, "I'm still going to Nashville to become a star.
I'm going to be a star.
" And Euple said, "Dream on, baby.
Dream on.
" At some point there, Tammy just decides, "I'm going to Nashville.
" She packs up her belongings, her kids there's a tricycle tied to the top of the roof - (engine starts, revs) - and she leaves Euple.
Mike: Choice number two for Tammy, after she left Euple, got her a little closer to her dream.
She took her three kids to Nashville and hitched her wagon to a man named Don Chapel.
Now, Don is a good songwriter and also a mediocre singer who wears a bad wig, but he's pitching songs to George Jones, and Jones is recording 'em.
Don had written a song for George, and Tammy was aware of that, so she gets in thick with Don Chapel.
I guess they fell in love or in heat.
Who knows? But they married.
Mike: It lasted all of about eight months.
That's how long it took for Don Chapel to introduce his new wife to George Jones.
It all happened in a cheap motel room.
They'd gone there to try to sell George a song.
She walked into the motel room, and he was in the bed with another woman.
I think it might have been two women.
Oh, dear God.
Tammy said, "He didn't even notice I was there.
" That, for Tammy Wynette, is a challenge.
Shortly after that meeting, Don and Tammy start doing shows with George Jones, and George walked out on stage one night and sang a song with Tammy.
Next thing you know, Jones and Tammy are getting cozy, you know, on the road.
And according to one tour manager, they had a little assignation in a motel.
He said that Jones' eyes were as big as saucers, and he said, "Do you know what she did? Tammy done sucked my toes.
" (chuckles) His toes? It really was his toes? That's probably right.
Mike: This act of passion apparently sealed the deal for George.
Now, no one knows exactly what Tammy's husband, Don, knew or didn't know, but for some reason, he invited George over for dinner.
Of course, Tammy is making ham and dumplings or whatever.
You know, she'd put on the spread, and Don Chapel talked to her like she was a piece of dung on his shoe.
And George Jones gets up, flips the table over, and throws a chair through the window.
George says, "Tammy, I love you, and you love me.
Get the kids.
We're out of here.
" Honey, she didn't even grab her coat.
She walked out that door and never looked back.
And it's the beginning of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
Both: Well, I'm gonna get on the old turnpike And I'm gonna ride I'm gonna leave this town till you decide Which one you want the most, them Opry stars or me Milwaukee, here I come from Nashville, Tennessee Jimmy: George and Tammy started touring together and rode together in a bus, and boys, and were Mr.
and Mrs.
Country Music.
They were like movie stars.
Mike: One of their first big admirers was Tammy's first husband, Euple Byrd.
One night we're out on the road, on concert, and Euple walks up to the stage and stands in line to get an autograph.
Both: Euple Byrd.
Nanette: And he says, "Can I have your autograph?" And Tammy says, "Dream on, baby.
Dream on.
" George and Tammy: No, we're not the jet set We're the old Chevrolet set Janette: She had that style.
What I think is very interesting, that Tammy Wynette let us do her hair, and she was a hairdresser.
In her first career, she did hair.
Baby fine, thin hair Tammy Wynette's hair was She had the hair of a frog.
Thank God for wigs.
Scott: Tammy Wynette was a lady, and she was classy, and so she looks at George and says, "Well, maybe I can 'teen' you up just a little bit.
" When I went to work for George, he had already been nicknamed "The Possum.
" The reason for that was 'cause he looked like one.
His eyes was Yeah, his eyes was, uh, way too close together.
Of course, you know, Tammy has that background in hairdos, so she thought, "Well, that little crew cut "you've been wearing for all these years, that's not gonna get that right now, George.
" So he wears it long, and she combs it back.
And some of their friends said, "Maybe it looks like Cornelius from The Planet of the Apes.
(dramatic music plays) Mike: Tammy was grooming George to be the perfect husband, but I think we all know it just doesn't work like that.
When Tammy married George, she was aware that he drank, and she really thought, "Well, I can change him," and that became very obvious quickly that that wasn't the case.
Tammy was not a boozer.
She didn't drink.
George Jones was an alcoholic.
He wanted to get drunk.
Mike: Wayne Oliver was a 20-year-old kid when he first encountered the legend.
He was one of several managers Jones would have over the years.
Started out George liked Bloody Marys.
You know, he liked to have a couple of them in the mornings with some celery, peppers, and spices he could get.
And then we'd go have lunch, and he'd like a couple beers, and then he'd go to Jack and Coke, sometimes straight Jack.
- He liked that whiskey.
- He did.
(both laugh) But George wanted to drink, believe me, brother, he'd get it.
I used to have to feed him raw potatoes.
People'd say, "Well, why do you carry a bag of potatoes around?" Because that starch would soak up that alcohol.
He would put salt all over 'em, and he loved them raw potatoes.
I remember one time when Jones and I were sitting on the bus, he said, "Come on, Nanette, have a drink with me.
" And I said, "George, I don't want a drink.
" So he goes back where the closets are, comes out with a bottle of vodka, hands it to me, and says, "Drink it.
" He gets drunk on his ass, man.
George goes on stage, he can't remember the words to the songs.
He didn't know if he was on stage or off stage.
He didn't know where he was.
Janette: They would sing real close to the microphone so he could read Tammy's lips.
(chuckles) Nanette: They would be singing, and Tammy'd go and she'd poke him, "Okay, it's your turn.
" She was always instructing him when to go.
Mike: There was no one George liked to spend his days drinking with more than country music legend, Waylon Jennings.
Sadly, his son, Shooter, was present during many of their marathon drinking sessions.
Well, I remember when I was little, George Jones would come over to our house, and there was one time when he just got drunk and he was, he would get angry, and he'd get angry at my dad.
And I think he called him a "Conway Twitty singing son of a bitch.
" Bum, bum, bum Shooter: And that's when my dad tied him to the tree.
(grunting) He was out there screaming, you know, "I'm the greatest country music singer of all time!" And my dad opened the door and said, "Yeah, and you're fucking tied to a tree," then slammed the door, you know? Then later, he was around, he was fine.
Mike: By all accounts, George had another problem with another Nashville legend.
Tammy had confided in him that she had been friendly with the great Porter Wagoner when she first got to town.
Porter Wagoner had okay, first of all, he had great hair.
He had a great pompadour.
He wore fabulous Nudie suits I mean, decked out to the nines with rhinestones.
George Jones and Porter Wagoner were booked on The Grand Ole Opry together, so George got to thinking that Porter and Tammy had something going on, like a romance.
- So, he saw Porter go to the bathroom, - (unzips) - so George follows Porter into the bathroom.
- (door opens) I do know that Porter Wagoner's penis proceeds him.
- I mean, his reputation - The reputation of the size of his penis - Both: Proceeds him.
- (laughs) Charlene: George walked up behind Porter, said, "I want to see what it is Tammy's so proud of.
" And he reached around Porter, got a hold of his penis, and twisted it real hard.
(grunting, scuffling) George said that Porter didn't move much on stage, but said he moved a lot down there in that bathroom.
He said his Nudie suit got to glittering all over the place.
Mike: A few years into the marriage, George and Tammy decided maybe it would be for the best if they got out of Nashville.
They started house hunting in Florida.
Charlene: When things go shaky, Tammy would say, "George, let's go out and look around at some houses.
" Well, that was right up George's alley.
George Jones loved interior decorating.
Red and black was his favorite color, and velvet paint (laughs) paintings.
Velvet wallpaper.
It's just ugh! The bed was mirrored with drapes down the side of the bed that were heavy velvet.
(laughing) It's the damnedest thing you've ever seen in your life.
Mike: Tammy let George decorate their plantation manor in Lakeland, Florida, with help from a local furniture store, and then he and Tammy returned the favor.
Tammy and I would like to tell you about some friends of ours, the folks at Badcock Home Furnishing Centers.
Both: Badcock.
- B-A-D-C-O-C-K.
- Badcock.
Both: Badcock.
Yeah, it's Badcock.
Take it from us, Badcock will treat you right.
Mike: George managed to decorate just about everything they owned, so Tammy set him loose on the only unrenovated space they had left.
We had bought a bus one time, and George had taken the bus, stripped it all down, and they put bunk beds and everything in it.
I mean, it looked nice and decorative, and stuff like that, with pictures hanging on the wall.
I mean, hanging.
Not fastened, but hanging.
He had the bunk beds setting on the floor.
Not nailed down, but just setting on there.
He kinda liked the shag carpet.
- We had shag everywhere.
- On the walls.
Gary: - So consequently, we was coming around a curve, and the driver couldn't drive to begin with.
He ran it off of a mountain.
Everything in there came crashing up to the front.
(chuckles) George got his chest bone cracked.
I got a bed rail upside my head.
(banging) We couldn't hardly get out, 'cause it was setting on its nose.
George, he didn't like to tour anyhow.
I don't think he really liked to be out there on stage.
Mike: It turns out the reigning king of country music didn't really like performing country music in public, according to Tammy and George's daughter, Tamala Georgette Jones.
Georgette Jones: He loved music so much, but he was very, very nervous when he would sing in public, 'cause he was worried about how what people would think about him.
And when he became popular and started doing well, people would just come up and hand him drinks and he realized after he had one or two, he wasn't nervous anymore.
He didn't really think that that was going to turn into two or three, to five or six, to 10 or 12, to every night, to all the time.
He'd get drunk, and he'd miss shows and refuse to go on and just - he was a belligerent - Arnie: Mm-hmm.
Gary: Just a very belligerent guy.
George would take off in the middle of the night, and you couldn't find him.
Mike: Old Possum had a knack for disappearing throughout his long career, which probably explains why he had so many managers.
Gerald Murray put in his time on the bus.
George, he hadn't called in a couple of nights, so I started getting worried just a little bit.
We didn't know where he was.
All of a sudden, one day, he come driving up, and I said, "Man, where have you been?" He said, "Oh, I've just been out riding around.
" And said, "Well, where'd you get that white truck?" He said, "Well, I bought it down at that Chevrolet place.
" I sat down, looked at the mileage, And I said, "Where'd you ride to?" And he said, "Ah.
" He said, "I just wanted to go riding around.
" He said, "I picked up this guy down there, "and he was, uh, just kind of homeless.
"We got going down the road, and I said, 'Well, where you going?' And he said, 'Four mile.
'" And George said, "Uh, four miles to where?" The guy said, "Four miles.
" So they drive on a little piece and then George asked him, he said, "Uh, four miles to where?" He said, "Four miles.
" So they just keep on riding down the road right there, and George going four miles to somewhere, he don't know where, until he finally realizes that the guy was saying Fort Myers Florida.
Mike: By the time George figured out where the guy was headed, he'd probably driven over 600 miles, four miles at a time.
I said, "What did you do? And he said, "Well, I gave him a little bit of money, you know.
" And I said, "How much money did you give him?" He said, "It wasn't all that much.
" I said, "Well, how much did you keep?" He said, "Well, I kept $20 to get gas, so I could get home.
" And I said, "$20?" I said, "But when you left, you had 25,000.
" (cash register dings) We were always looking for Jones, because he got to be "No-Show Jones.
" Possum got to be No-Show.
They booked him for The Johnny Carson Show.
He wouldn't go.
He said, "They'll make fun of me.
" And, uh, he missed it.
That's when he was named No-Show Jones.
I'm not sure that George Jones ever thought about being a star or wanted to be a star.
And Or ever knew he was as star.
Or ever knew he was as star, and he didn't give a damn about money.
He just didn't.
He was with somebody tough like Waylon, and he was in a bathroom, and they were bragging about how much money they'd made that night.
And George just started peeling off $100 bills and flushing them down the toilet, you know.
He just had no respect for money.
George was a car fanatic.
One year, I was with him, he had 36 brand-new cars.
My favorite car of George's was this Pontiac Bonneville that had 4,000 silver dollars embedded in the dash of the car and throughout the floor.
And it had bullhorns on the front of the car, and the horn made a sound like a dying bull.
(bull bellows) That was what was amazing about Jones.
This was a guy who just didn't give a damn and did whatever he wanted to do for his own amusement.
That was an essential part of this guy, and it had to be hard to live with.
Mike: - When George became especially hard to live with, Tammy would turn to their lawyer, this guy, Jon Lentz.
One night I was at home, and Tammy called and said, "Can you please come over here?" George wanted to get some more whiskey (bottle shatters) and she threw all of the car keys in the bushes where he couldn't find them.
So he decided to ride his power mower toward Melrose Liquors.
And we got in my car and headed down Franklin Road.
Well, low and behold, as I looked across the highway, there was George coming back the other way.
He'd already gotten to Melrose Liquors.
The thing's going five miles an hour.
He didn't even turn the blade off, I mean, so it's throwing rocks everywhere.
And in his lap he had a little brown sack.
I made a U-turn on Franklin Road, pulled up beside George.
Tammy just rolled down the window and let him have it.
I hardly ever heard her curse, and she said, "You stupid son of a bitch, you're gonna get killed!" And George acted completely oblivious to all of this.
He would not acknowledge our presence.
He didn't look at Tammy.
He didn't look at the car.
He just kept driving this power mower down the highway.
When we got back to the house, George stopped.
He turned around and looked at me, he said, "Hi, Jon.
" I said, "Hi, George.
" And he said, "Well, "as you can see my wife is a little upset with me, "so if you don't mind, I'm going to excuse myself, go to my bedroom, lock myself in, and get drunk.
" One time, she took the keys from the lawn mower.
They used to have a bunch of a horses, and he got on the horse.
- - Next thing we knew, we got a phone call from the bar that George had got on the horse, rode it downtown, and tied it out front.
- (neighs) - So we went down, and George was so blitzed by the time we got there, he couldn't ride the horse back.
Mike: From the very beginning of their romance, there was never any question about what Tammy would do if the marriage got rocky.
But if you love him You'll forgive him Even though he's hard To understand Nanette: She wanted to stand by her man, and by God, she did, through thick and thin, through hell and fire and brimstone.
After all He's just a man Stand by your man I mean, it was just the song for all of the women all over the world and all of the gay people all over the world.
They loved that "Stand By Your Man.
" And show the world you love him And there she was, standing by her man.
That's the way all their fans looked at it, and they was just eating it up.
Stand by Your man (applause) (theme music playing)