The Life of George Jones Part 1: “My Wife Nancy Saved Me From Murderous Drug Dealers” (1996)
Part one of a two-part sample from George’s autobiography.
Originally published in the April 16, 1996, issue of Country Weekly featuring George on the cover. This story is presented here in its entirety.
George Jones’ dramatic autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All, reveals the incredible courage of his wife Nancy, who fought to save him from a cocaine hell. She won her battle, even though ruthless cocaine pushers tried to murder her and even kidnapped her teenage daughter. Here, especially for Country Weekly readers, is the first installment of a two-part series from the compelling new book, which will be published May 6.
God should give all of the angels a name, and each should be called Nancy.
No teenage boy ever fell harder for a girl than I fell for Nancy Sepulvado. When I met my future wife on a blind date in November 1981, I had no idea that someday she would save my life.
It wasn’t long before Nancy realized I was on cocaine. I got high one night and hit her, but Nancy forgave me. She believed there was a “devil” living inside of me and she was determined to get the devil out.
Nancy, her teenage daughter Adina and I were living in Muscle Shoals, Ala., when Nancy heard that drug dealers had taken out a life insurance policy on me.
Nancy figured they would try to kill me through an overdose. To protect me, she rarely left me by myself. She’d send Adina for groceries, even though Adina wasn’t legally old enough to drive.
Nancy’s only ally was a guy named “Big Daddy,” a nightclub owner who knew the drug peddlers. He would tip her off whenever the pushers managed to get me alone.
Nancy often walked in just as the hoods were shoveling cocaine up my nostrils, while I sat there in a helpless haze, like a zombie. The hoods quickly grew to hate Nancy.
Big Daddy warned her these men wanted her out of my life . . . permanently.
One night, Nancy was driving across a bridge over a river, with Adina beside her, when suddenly another car began ramming her car from the rear. Nancy lost control, and her car veered toward the railing. Nancy and Adina were terrified that they’d crash through the rail and plunge to their deaths.
Nancy desperately struggled with the wheel. She turned sharply left—right into the face of oncoming traffic. Each time she was about to have a head-on collision, she’d swerve to the right, only to have the car behind ram her again and try to knock her off the bridge. Finally, Nancy got over the bridge, then the mysterious car behind her roared away.
After that, my bouts with paranoia, common with cocaine users, got worse. I was convinced my enemies were stalking me. I would bolt the doors and windows and sit with a loaded pistol, waiting for them to burst through the doors and try to kill Nancy and me.
I’d go to sleep at sunrise. I felt safer then. Nancy would then slip out the door to drive Adina to school.
One day, she was getting ready to pick up Adina at school when the phone rang. “Nancy,” said a sinister voice, “we want to come over and see George.”
Nancy recognized the voice of one of the drug pushers and told him to go to hell.
“But what about Adina?” the man asked.
“What do you mean?” Nancy said.
“We have her,” he said.
The line went dead.
Nancy’s daughter had been kidnapped by drug dealers wanting to get to me. Nancy lost it. She began to cry and scream.
We both knew there was no use calling the police because they were in bed with the criminals. Then the telephone rang again. This time it was Big Daddy. He told Nancy that Adina was safe with him inside his nightclub. I warned Nancy that it might be a setup, but all she could think about was her daughter was in trouble. Nancy would march into gunfire for anyone she loved. So she drove to Big Daddy’s dive and burst in the door yelling, “Where is my girl?” I think Nancy had a pistol in her purse.
Big Daddy signaled her and she walked over to him. There, tucked under the bar, sat a frightened Adina. I think Big Daddy had given her popcorn and Coca-Cola.
When Nancy and her daughter came safely home, she put her key in the lock, but the door eased open by itself. While she was rescuing Adina, the thugs had come by and mercilessly crammed cocaine up my nose until I was out of my mind.
Later, we decided to slip out of Alabama by dark of night. But suddenly red lights came on behind us, sirens blared and police cars forced our car to the curb.
“Out of the car!” a cop yelled at Nancy. “You ran that last red light.”
When Nancy called him a liar, the cop spun her around and slammed her against the car. Nancy was kicking and screaming as he handcuffed her. We were hauled to jail and Nancy was thrown into a cell.
“How much are they paying you crooked cops?” she demanded. When an officer told her to calm down, she spat on him through the bars. “George,” she said, “Don’t you realize what they’re going to do? They’re going to leave me in this cell and take you somewhere and fill you full of cocaine.”
I was driven by uniformed officers to the recreation hall. On the table in a back room I saw a familiar sight—a pile of cocaine. I was pushed into a chair while someone stood on each side of me, shoveling tiny spoonfuls of the powder up my nose and yelling at me to inhale harder. Then I was taken back to the jail.
Without explanation, Nancy was released and ordered to take me home. When the jailer opened her cell, she kicked him until another officer grabbed her, and she kicked the hell out of him, too. Yet no charges were filed. Obviously, the cops put her in a cell only so they could take me to their bosses and pump me full of cocaine.
That night, Big Daddy told Nancy what he’d said earlier about certain people in Alabama holding a fat life insurance policy on me. Sometime later, when we were living in Louisiana, we got a call informing us that Big Daddy’s head was found in a parking lot—detached from his body! His murder remains unsolved to this day.
And still, Nancy stayed with me.
I quit drinking and using drugs because I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. My body and mind gave out, and I gave in to anybody or anything that would help me get sober.
I got so far down that I would have been willing to move to a reservation and eat herbs and roots if that would have guaranteed sobriety. But I didn’t have to do that. I only had to yield to a good woman’s love.
They say love can change the world. I’m here to testify that it changed one man. Friends, family, doctors, therapists and ministers had tried to save me, but to no avail. But finally the power of love from one woman, Nancy Jones, made the difference.
George’s First Gig . . . At Age 11!
George Jones was only 11 when he first made money by performing, earning more in two hours than his adult sister did in a year—then he blew it all in a penny arcade.
In this excerpt from his book, George tells the story about his first paid performance:
“I was interested in music as far back as I can remember. My dad saw my enthusiasm and one day surprised me by buying me my first guitar, a shiny Gene Autry with a horse and lariat on the front.
“I took it home and it hardly ever left my hands. I even slept with it a time or two. I learned to play it, note by note.
“I was 11 when I first sang for pay and it happened by accident. Barefoot and wearing bib overalls rolled up to the knee, I carried that guitar to a penny arcade in Beaumont, Texas. I climbed up on a shoeshine stand in front of the arcade and began to play and sing.
“People gathered, then somebody threw a nickel and I was astonished. I played on and the change continued to fly. Somebody placed a cup near my feet, and I could hear the coins hitting the cup. That was true music to my ears.
“Two hours later, after I had sung every song I knew two or three times, I counted my change. I had more than $24! It was more money than I had ever seen. My family could have eaten for a week on that much money in 1942. But they never saw it.
“Walking on air, I stepped inside the arcade with $24 in my pockets. I’m not sure I left there with a cent. That was my first time to earn money for singing—and my first time to blow it afterward.
“My sister Helen worked all day cleaning a woman’s house, raking her yard and more, for only 25 cents. She did that 52 weeks before her salary was raised to 50 cents. She was 10 years older than me, and I had made as much money in two hours as she would in a year.”
From the book I Lived to Tell It All, by George Jones and Tom Carter.
Copyright © 1996 by George Jones. Reprinted with permission of Villard Books.