Some of their best hits were about marriage, even when their own was falling apart.
Things were initially looking pretty good for the First Family of the country, or at least that’s how Wayne Oliver, who booked their shows remember it. Not that he could stop Jones from wandering off on the bus ride over and making Oliver chase him all over town while getting drunk and eating chicken. But damn, if the guy couldn’t play. Almost made up for the alcoholism slowly but surely ruining his life.
Wynette and the Smith sisters did their best to keep him away from drinks with chores, but some things were inevitable. A childhood friend of Jones, Peanutt Montgomery, recalls finding him lurching out of his car in the middle of the night after a bender, possibly almost dead. His free agent nature and addictive personality always seemed to lead him back to the bottle, and eventually, it became too much to keep the marriage afloat. After a shooting incident within the home and being carted off in a straitjacket, the marriage ended after only six years.
Wynette ended up getting most of the crew in the divorce but was naturally worried about keeping her audience after losing half her act. Naturally, when a romance is both connected in some sort of entertainment and out in the open, rumors will spread, sides will be taken, and plenty ended up blaming Wynette for the split. Not that Jones was doing any better, descending further down into a torrent of booze and causing him to form two separate personalities: The Duck and The Old Man. To hopefully remedy this, the Jones Boys tried getting the two of them back together. Not in a sitcom-y way, but at least back on the same stage to rekindle the singing spark. It kicked off a second wind for the two as a performing duo, including the song “Golden Rings”.
Wynette, eager to move on from Jones as a romantic partner, bounced around many partners and husbands, including Burt Reynolds. But she was always pursued by plenty of others, including former President Ronald Reagan, though she put an effective end to that in a sort of power play after getting close to him during a public performance of “Stand By Your Man”…right in front of the First Lady Nancy Reagan. Not that this stopped the fans of Jones from vandalizing her house with threats and insults, including an anonymous firebombing.
Jones had a bit of a hard time handling his friend Peanutt’s turn to Christianity, including a sort of showdown where he nearly shot Peanutt (just to add to the Paycheck parallels), but soon after dried out and came back to his crew with the strangely confident pitch for another album, along with the song “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. And though he ironically never truly got over Tammy, nor she over George, their tragic but passionate romance will always be known for the wonderful music it brought the world.
Well, that was a bit longer than I expected, but it ended up in about the same place. Besides the neat bit of trivia about Wynette having played Hank Hill’s mother on King of the Hill (Man, Judge can get people), this was a surprising one. Like I mentioned last time, there are some clear patterns forming amongst these stories of artists, namely in the raging alcoholism and sort of a redemption at the end, but the fact that this is a double act helps it stick out. Namely in that, while these two were mainly known for their marriage, their professional relationship and friendship evolved once it was over. I’m not much of an expert in any of this, but as far as I can tell, it’s not often two divorcees can truly reconnect like this, especially when in the pressure cooker of show business, even less so in the music industry, and near impossible given how bad things apparently got for them. But it’s almost inspiring to see how these two souls are drawn together time after time and able to churn out good works because of it. They might’ve been awful as husband and wife, but they were truly soul-mates on stage, and that in and of itself might be a miracle.