When George Jones and Tammy Wynette stepped onstage for the MCA Records show during the recent International Country Music Fan Fair, their reunion was a country music fan's dream. It was their first time on stage together in 17 years, and the significance of that historic moment in country music wasn't lost on the thousands of rain-soaked fans in the audience.
Those who weren't at Fan Fair may still get a chance to see Jones & Wynette perform at one of 30 concert dates the duo has scheduled between now and the end of the year. Their first show together was June 9 in Tupelo, Miss. Subsequent stops include Warrington, Del.; Columbus, Ohio; Tulsa, Okla.; Beaumont, Texas; Knoxville, Tenn.; Monroe, La.; and Europe.
"Some are asking, "Do we need to put a stage up or a boxing ring?' " says Nancy Jones, George's wife and manager, jokingly referring to Jones and Wynette's turbulent marriage. But the storms have subsided, and the two say they are enjoying the same chemistry musically that they had nearly 20 years ago.
"We redid Golden Ring on The Bradley Barn Sessions," Jones says of his reunion with Wynette on last year's all-star duet album. "Just as soon as we got started on that, it was like the old days. Everything fell in place. She knew what to do when I did it, and I knew what to do when she did it. We hadn't forgotten a thing."
Wynette thinks they sound better than before. "I think we actually did it better than we did the first time," she says of Golden Ring. "We were a little bit more mellow."
Jones agrees and says these days they sing in lower keys. "We've mellowed out quite a bit," he says. "We don't try to scream like we used to. We've lowered our keys, and it probably sounds better."
Jones & Wynette's just-released MCA duet album, One, showcases the duo performing such classics as All I Have To Offer You (Is Me) and (She's Just) An Old Love Turned Memory, as well as a salute to country's new breed, They're Playing Our Song. Both say they are looking forward to performing the new material as well as some of their classic hits. "It is going to bring back memories when we hit the stage," Jones says. "I think people are going to want to see us perform together, and they're going to enjoy the show we've got lined up for them."
Nancy Jones is concerned that attending the shows and buying the record may be the only way fans hear Jones & Wynette's new material, because radio isn't receptive. "Radio won't play older acts, and that's a shame," she says. "But don't think that I'll lay down. I'll approach it from another angle."
Mrs. Jones says she doesn't think MCA Records became the company it is by backing away from a challenge, and she plans to work with it to get the maximum exposure for the Jones & Wynette album.
She thinks most deejays are willing to give George and Tammy's new material a try, but says radio consultants control what is aired and don't support older artists. She thinks they'd change their minds if they came to a show, and she issues this challenge: "If any consultants would like to go to a show, I'll be happy to walk them in," she says. "I'll send for them in my bus. I will see that they fly to these shows. I will do anything as long as they will go see country music and history being made today."
Nancy Jones says she's not angry at country radio but is frustrated with the industry because of the treatment older artists receive. She cites a recent example involving George's former label, Sony Records. His album Wine Colored Roses was certified gold earlier this year. Nancy Jones says she has called twice, and Sony has yet to send her George's gold album. (Sony did mail Jones his platinum award for Super Hits.)
For their part, Jones & Wynette just plan to continue making the music they love. "I've been at it since '56, and I've never quit," Jones says. "It's just wonderful to experience and do different things in this business. We both have so many great fans still out there. . . . We're still kicking up our heels, having a great time, and working more than we want to. And as long as the fans are still out there and come to see us, there's no reason to quit."
"I'm not budging," Wynette says to her partner. "Are you?"