The new George Jones Museum in downtown Nashville chronicles the life and legacy of one of country music's legends.
Adding to the list of Nashville’s growing spots to dip into the history behind country music’s legends is the brand new George Jones Museum. A self-guided tour experience takes you through the life of one of country music’s most prominent names, from his humble beginnings in Saratoga, Texas (where he was born on Sept. 12, 1931) to his death in 2013.
The museum chronicles both the highs and lows of Jones’ life and career, including his widely known struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction.
Along the way, you’ll see a variety of costumes, instruments and other artifacts that tell the story of “The Possum,” one of Jones’ nicknames (given to him because of the shape of his nose and facial features).
One of the unique items is his very first guitar — a Gene Autry with a horse and lariat on the front that was a childhood gift from his parents that they bought from the Jefferson Music Company in Beaumont, Texas. There’s an interesting story behind this guitar and how if found its way back to Jones years after he had sold it at a pawn shop.
His first paying gig at 12 years old was on a Texas street corner where he earned $25 in one afternoon (more than his sister had made in one year), and like any normal pre-teen, he spent it all at a nearby arcade. Jones’ father made him perform on street corners to earn liquor money, and Jones ran away from home in 1947 after one of his father’s drunken rages. Visitors learn of the early roots of Jones’ battle with alcohol dating back to his first arrest when he was 16 years old for public drunkenness.
The museum’s fascinating journey takes you through Jones’ early involvement with radio stations as well as his stint in the United States Marine Corps. It’s fun to explore the 1950s era when Jones made his recording debut and landed on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in 1956. This time period also includes his participation on the famous Louisiana Hayride circuit along with Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
As you move through the next few decades, you’ll learn about the country star’s other nickname — “No Show Jones” — given to him for his habit of not appearing at concerts. In addition, the museum takes you through Jones’ four marriages, including his romance with fellow country star Tammy Wynette in the late 1960s and his fourth and final wife, Nancy Sepulvado, whom he met on a blind date. You’ll learn how instrumental Nancy was in helping Jones tackle his addictions — in fact, Jones played his first show sober in 1984. The museum also shares the facts behind some of Jones’ most infamous stories, including the lawn mower!
Interactive stations throughout the George Jones Museum allow you to listen to original studio recordings and hits (with video footage) from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Pop into the Sing Along Studio to record vocals on “High Tech Redneck” just for fun. A nearby theater offers giant rocking chairs to relax in while watching clips from the George Jones TV Show. Kids may enjoy seeing his collections of guns, knives, belt buckles and autographed footballs along with his numerous music awards. You should set aside two hours to do the museum justice.
The George Jones Museum is located at 128 Second Ave. N., Nashville. Hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily. Admission is $20 adults, $15 ages 6 – 15, free ages 5 and younger. Call 615-818-0128 or visit georgejonesmuseum.com.