(Yahoo!) - George Jones died the same day that the West Coast's most prominent country music festival, Stagecoach, began. And while it would hardly be accurate to say that Jones's passing cast a huge pall over the rowdy, beer-fueled proceedings, a couple of the opening-day performers did attempt to play Possum, as it were.
Friday's headliner, Toby Keith, honored Jones's death "at 81 party-ass, no-show years old!"--with his indelicate choice of eulogistic language perhaps influenced by his being "hammered," as he put it. Keith urged the mostly twentysomething festival attendees to spend "24 or 48 hours on your way out of here" compiling their own Jones playlists, and cited "how important he was to our industry, because none of us would be here today if we didn’t have four or five cats like George Jones starting it for us."
Would there be covers? Yes, there would. First Keith sang the signature Jones ballad "She Thinks I Still Care," with his female backup singers adding the properly lush country-politan touches. Speaking of "lush," Keith changed the second verse's lyrics to "She thinks I got drunk and I went to California/Where did she get such an idea?"
Then: "Let’s do one more Possum song! It’s about drinking!" That would be, of course, Jones's first big smash, "White Lightning," with Keith attempting some but not all of the vocal tics that made the song a novelty hit more than 50 years ago. As the band brought that barnburner to a close, Keith tipped his red solo cup to the crowd and said, "Godspeed, George. Rest in peace. You already did your part."
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