Nancy Jones is convinced that God sent her to George Jones to save the country legend from himself.
The former Nancy Sepulvado wasn’t even a fan of the iconic singer when a friend dragged her along to a concert in New York in 1981. She tells Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper that changed as soon as he started to sing.
“My God, he walked on stage and the crowd goes wild,” she says. “And that voice. I thought, ‘How is that coming out of that man’s mouth? Dang, he’s good.’”
They soon became a couple, and married two years later. But Nancy had her work cut out for her; at the time, Jones had earned the well-deserved nickname No Show Jones due to his chronic absences from performances, which were caused by his drinking and drug use. She set about trying to rescue what was at the time a failing career, firing much of Jones’ team and taking over. She convinced him to contact all of the booking agents he had burned in the past and play the shows he had previously skipped out on.
“And he did show up at every one,” she recalls. “Sometimes he showed up with a little too much to drink, but he got it done.”
But Nancy’s trials were far from over. She faced an 18-year battle to try to get Jones to stay sober — one that she says was filled with tears, arguments and even violence.
“You can’t walk around and say I never got slapped, I never got hit. You know that’s a lie,” she tells the Tennessean. “I’d say yes on that one.”
Their marriage was “a roller coaster,” she says. “George was the sweetest man you could meet. But when George would drink, there was a devil that jumped inside of him.”
Despite multiple attempts over the years, Jones didn’t get sober until a car accident in 1999 finally scared him straight. He ran into a bridge near his home in his SUV, suffering a lacerated liver, punctured lung and internal bleeding. He spent 13 days in the hospital. Investigators found a pint bottle of vodka under his passenger seat that had previously been opened. Jones later pleaded guilty to charges of driving while impaired and violating Tennessee’s open container law.
Nancy says her husband made a deal with God after that. “He said, ‘God if you let me get over this, I’ll never touch a cigarette or liquor again,’” she recalls. “I was warm all over. This time he meant it.” She says he was sober for the rest of his days, until his death in 2013.
“God put me with him to help him get the devil out of him,” she states. “God put me there to do a job and I did it.”
She also spearheaded the George Jones Museum, which opened in Nashville on April 23. The museum spans more than 44,000 square feet and features memorabilia and photos, video displays and interactive experiences. It also includes a 40-seat rocking chair theater that shows clips from Jones television broadcasts, concert appearances and interviews. For more information on the museum, visit Jones’ website.