Possum's widow shares stories with songwriting students

Typical college courses end in a flurry of projects, guest speakers, presentations and final papers as students and professors gather all they need to wind up a semester.

Few get the “Cold Hard Truth” of a course subject’s life straight from one who shared it. Then again, few experiential learning courses are a learning experience like the MTSU Commercial Songwriting Program class on “The Life and Music of George Jones.”

MTSU recording industry students got “The Grand Tour” of the late country icon’s Nashville museum, plus a surprise campus visit from the woman of whom he lovingly sang “She’s My Rock,” Nancy Jones, during two special opportunities this fall.

Nancy Jones, center, wife of the late country music icon George Jones, answers a question from MTSU junior Megan Johnson, left, while junior Georgia Brown, center right, and fellow recording industry students listen in the Center for Popular Music during a special campus visit. Jones, who established a scholarship at MTSU for Department of Recording Industry majors shortly after her husband’s 2013 death, discuss her husband’s music and their 30-plus years of adventures in the entertainment industry. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Commercial Songwriting Program director Odie Blackmon arranged the students’ excursion to the museum on Nashville’s Second Avenue as a treat, inviting memorabilia expert Warwick Stone to join the adventure and offer his expertise and commentary during their tour.

Then Blackmon learned that Nancy Jones, who established a scholarship for Department of Recording Industry majors shortly after her husband’s 2013 death, wanted to stop by and talk with the students during Blackmon’s class.

The Shreveport, Louisiana, native said it was her first public sit-down visit with a group wanting to learn about the man first known as “Possum” and later, thanks to his substance-abuse problems, as “No-Show Jones.”

Nancy Jones, center, wife of the late country music icon George Jones, is surrounded by MTSU recording industry while she makes a point about her husband’s music and their 30-plus years of adventures in the entertainment industry during a special campus visit in the Center for Popular Music. Jones, who established a scholarship at MTSU for Department of Recording Industry majors shortly after her husband’s 2013 death, also has been a strong supporter of and adviser for the university’s experiential learning class, “The Life and Music of George Jones,” taught by Commercial Songwriting Program director Odie Blackmon. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

She kept the audience spellbound with stories of her adventures, by turns hilarious and poignant, with Jones, telling of their first meeting in 1981, their spur-of-the-moment 1983 wedding with only two family witnesses and a preacher, their years of traveling and struggling together, and how she finally convinced the bashful legend to open a museum for the career memorabilia he preferred to give away.

“People know the stories of George Jones, but you REALLY don’t know the stories of George Jones,” she said with a laugh. “Odie loved George so much, and he did a lot of research (for this class) to find out that this was such a kind, good-hearted man, but demons will get inside you, and it’s hard to get ’em out once they take control.

“That’s why I wanted to do the scholarship, too, so people could understand that he was a great guy, not just what you’d hear: ‘Oh, he did this, he did that.’ Some of it’s true, but a lot of it’s not. I wanted y’all to have the opportunity to learn about him and how great country music is, because that was his heart.”

Thank you to MTSU Office of News and Media Relations.

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