Randy Travis Debuts George Jones Tribute

Photo by Ivor Karabatkovic

Five of the people who knew George Jones best came together today (June 7) to pay tribute to the late legend at a special CMA Music Festival panel moderated by Country Weekly.

Led by George’s wife of 30 years, Nancy Jones, the panel also included George’s longtime drummer Bobby Birkhead, and artists and friends Jamey Johnson, John Rich and Randy Travis.

For nearly an hour, the five shared their own memories of George, who passed away April 26 in Nashville. For Nancy, that meant some awfully emotional moments, but she persevered, entertaining the assembled crowd with a riotous story of how she once stopped an impatient George from blowing his car's horn by coming out of the house dressed in only her underwear. The fans erupted into laughter.

Most poignantly, however, were Nancy's closing remarks, in which she revealed George's last words. “‘Hiya. I’ve been looking for you. I’m George Jones,’” Nancy recalls George saying. “I believe he was introducing himself to God.”

Randy Travis came bearing a special tribute to George: a song titled “Tonight I’m Playing Possum.” Written by Keith Gattis, the tune, which also features Joe Nichols, name-checks many of the Possum's most famous songs in the lyrics. After playing the studio version of the song for the audience—and Nancy—Randy noted that it was the first time anyone had ever publicly heard the single, which is available on iTunes this Tuesday.

“I hope it touches you as much as it did me when I first heard this demo,” Randy shared.

Judging by the fans' standing ovation, it surely did.

Look for more on the George Jones panel in an upcoming issue of Country Weekly, and preview Randy's song at the 36:00 mark in the video below.

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