Singers Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Kid Rock honored the memory of country legend George Jones on Thursday by gathering to perform at the late star’s funeral in Nashville, Tennessee.
The doors of The Grand Ole Opry House were thrown open for family, friends and fans to mourn the loss of the icon together during an emotional three-hour service at the country music mecca, and the auditorium was filled with the sound of music.
Jones’ widow Nancy sat with former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and singing couple Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood as pals stepped up to the podium, with Tanya Tucker and the Imperials kicking off the performances with a cover of gospel classic, The Old Rugged Cross.
Randy Travis paid tribute to his old collaborator with a rendition of Amazing Grace, accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. Explaining his choice of track, he said, “When I heard him do this song, it literally gave me chills.”
Paisley revealed he had bonded with Jones after the veteran allowed him to keep his first horse on his family’s farm, while Daniels delivered a moving speech about his longtime pal’s ability to make music for all kinds of audiences: “He sang for us all, the non-stop partiers, the guys who are alone and the girl done wrong, the puppy lovers, the extrovert, the introvert and the guy at the end of the bar who never seems to go home… George had a song for everybody.”
Gill shared his memories of Jones, the man who gave him the nickname Sweet Pea, and confessed that he wasn’t initially a fan of the moniker – although he has since learned to love it. He said, “The great thing is, every time someone calls me Sweet Pea, I’ll get to think about him.”
Kid Rock injected a little humour into the memorial as he took the microphone to belt out the original tune Best of Me, asking Nancy to imagine that her late husband was actually the one singing, before quipping, “I know that’s a huge (leap of) imagination. Unshaven, long-haired confused country hip-hop rock ‘n’ roller trying to sing George Jones.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also spoke at the funeral, as did Wynonna Judd, Laura Bush, and Alan Jackson – who postponed two concerts to attend the memorial. He closed the service with Jones’ most famous song, He Stopped Loving Her Today.
Jones, 81, passed away on April 26.