Mystery of the George Jones tapes—legit or just a hoax?

George Jones CDs

George Jones’ music legacy lives on just as stories about his hell-raising years do. Now there’s a mystery surrounding the legendary country music singer, and it’s waiting to be cracked.

Turns out some tapes have been discovered, and if they’re legit, the late icon might dominate headlines again but for reasons other than bar fights, booze, and drugs.

Central to the mystery are tapes stored in different places over the years, ending up in a bank vault in Tennessee. The tapes are labeled. Eight boxes, according to The Knoxville News, are believed to contain “Master copies of live performances of George Jones and the Jones Boys recorded in 1966…”

George Jones CDs
Photo by Indie Art South

How did those tapes get to be first stored in a bank vault in New Orleans, and then get shipped to the Tennessee vault?

It’s a long story covered well by the newspaper. In a nutshell, a couple of music producers who “worked side gigs as drug dealers…used the recordings as collateral to post bail.”

If the tapes do hold those recordings, the monetary value would be astronomical. They were estimated at a worth of $1 million in the 1980s. Although the era of the recordings, in terms of Jones’ career, was marked by substance abuse, Jones’ voice didn’t seem to suffer ill effects.

We know based on his autobiography and from interviews he gave that Jones leaned on alcohol and drugs for quite some time until all of it almost put him in his grave. Booze, uppers, cocaine—those were substances of choice for many in the music industry regardless of genre or state. They still are today for some artists.

The story recounted by The Knoxville News (linked above) is well worth a read if you’re a George Jones fan. The account reads like a dime novel.

Texas Monthly has a very good biographical sketch of Jones based on firsthand interviews. It’s always a wonder how a human being can inflict that much damage on his body and live to tell the tale.

Regarding the tapes, the court handed them to an attorney in Tennessee until rights are worked out. A recent ruling will enable one of the producers, David L. Snoddy who was charged in a federal case in the early 1980s for drug trafficking, to proceed with claiming part interest in the tapes. The other producer is dead.

Are the tapes legit, or are they a hoax that enabled two men facing drug charges to put the tapes up to secure bail ahead of trial? No one knows for sure what’s on those tapes.

Time will tell as the court sorts the mystery out.

We can only hope the tapes are being stored in a manner that won’t destroy them. If, as one of the producer-dealers claimed, the tapes do hold recordings of live performances of 35 songs, Jones’ fans can anticipate a field day of musical pleasure if and when they are remastered and released.

For now, the legal ownership of the tapes and the contents remain a mystery.

(Kay B. Day/May 18, 2020)

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