It is really a strange feeling to have about someone you have never met, but I have been bummed for three straight days about the death of George Jones. Like a lot of older country artists, I basically ignored the Possum throughout my youth years, associating his music with the twangiest of country sounds that I, in my infinite wisdom of adolescence, thought were corny and cheesy. But about the time I left for college, my appreciation for music that I would label as “real” (aka actual musicians with true, natural voices) increased, specifically in the genre of classic country. And there was no musician whose voice and life was “realer” than that of George Jones. Literally no one sounds like George Jones. If you are like me and enjoy singing to music at the top of your lungs in your car, try sometime to mimic a George Jones song. You have no chance. No matter how talented you may be, you simply can’t make your voice have close to the gravely, mountain sound of George Jones. His voice is raw, scratchy, deep and with a beautiful baritone timber that is as unique as any in modern American music. I remember when I first got my hands on a copy of one of my favorite CDs, “The Bradley Barn Sessions”, which was a compilation of Jones singing with other country artists. Even though the album contained duets with people I also really liked (Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, etc), Jones was clearly the star, in large part due to his voice. It had such a unique character, that even the best of those around him could not compete.
If there ever were a singer who expresses the emotion of what it is like to truly live life to its fullest, through good times and bad, it is George Jones. His New York Times obituary (which is absolutely incredible) is entitled “His Life was a Country Song,” and that couldn’t be more true. Besides his voice, he was a completely normal person, blessed not with much in the category of good looks or self-control, but filled with a desire to span the gamut of emotions of life. Throughout 81 years, he lived life to its absolute maximum, sharing personal triumphs, tragedies, #1 records, failed business deals, passionate love affairs, tumultuous divorces and every emotion in between. He truly (to paraphrase Thoreau) “sucked the marrow out of life” and did it by displaying all the strengths and weaknesses of human existence. If you were a fan, his songs could move you (take a second to read this amazing writeup about his life in Esquire…if we all could be so lucky to have this effect on someone) but more than any other singer, their power came primarily because it was his unique voice singing them. His death is yet another reminder that the generation of musicians and music I love the most, Cash/Jennings/Haggard/Willie/Conway/Hank/Kristofferson, is almost gone. His life was a testament to overcoming adversity and also was a heck of a good story. I will miss him. Here he is singing the song that may have most embodied his life, “Choices.” RIP Possum:
To the news of the weekend:
— This weekend marked the unofficial kickoff of the big-time Summer Basketball Recruiting Season. Over the course of the next couple of months, two important things will happen. First, the players in the class will play their most important basketball of their young lives. What they do over the next two months will end up determining where they get ranked, what teams end up giving them offers and how they will be perceived against their peers. Most of the initial views on the players have taken shape, but it is during these two months that players can rise out of nowhere (Anthony Davis) or showcase their preeminence. Second, this is also the time where, in my opinion, kids make the vast majority of their decisions. Whether they announce in the summer or not, probably 80% of recruits essentially decide where they are going, or get to the final two schools, based on these two months. Over the next week, we will be profiling the 2014 class and letting you know not only who UK is recruiting, but what decisions must be made. The most important however developed early this weekend with the comment by Center Jahlil Okafor that he and Point Guard Tyus Jones were 99% likely to go to the same school. Even though one is from Chicago and the other Minnesota, their connection is such that they say they want to be at the same school. This puts UK in an interesting position, since the Cats are also recruiting Point Guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, the player that many believe will end up ranked #1 in the class. He is a superstar and has hit another gear this summer. Calipari seems enamored by Mudiay, but Mudiay has said he doesn’t see himself playing with Jones, since both are point guards. So do you take the #1 player in the hand (along by the way with Karl Towns who has already committed) or the potential for a 2 person package deal (of players who could be ranked #2 and #3)? My guess is Calipari goes with Mudiay and hope to works everything else out..but it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks develop.
Two UK stars come together:
— News this weekend leaked of a decision that was made some time back, specifically that Kentucky turned down an invitation to the Maui Invitational in 2014. John Calipari has made clear that he doesn’t like the Maui Tournaments (and similar three games in three day events). The Maui Tournament is always a good one for fans, however it is one that few can actually attend, due in large part to price and distance. With the NCAA rules as they currently are situated, teams have the ability to play in 4 game “Tournaments” that only count for one game on the schedule. Almost everyone does it, and I am sure Kentucky will find a similar event in 2014, probably one like they did last year versus Maryland in Brooklyn. But I admit to being somewhat disappointed by the decision. While I understand it, the travel is long and the loss of home game revenue hurts, I had a lot of fun in 2010 and was looking forward to another trip next year.
By the way, Ramel Bradley recently took himself to Washington:
— Word broke on Saturday that Rod Strickland will not be taking the Depaul Assistant Coach’s job as previously reported. According to a couple of people I spoke with, the original reports of Strickland taking the job were premature and it ended up not panning out over the course of this week. What remains to be seen is whether Strickland will remain at Kentucky. He is still currently a part of the staff, but it is unclear whether that will still be the case next year. I am a big fan of Strickland and whether in Lexington or beyond, hope he has much success.
— On the football side of things, it was another HUGE weekend for Mark Stoops with two BIG commitments on Saturday. Three star TE Darryl Long picked the Cats over Pittsburgh and Louisville, in a commitment that had been speculated for some time. Long is another Ohio kid recruited by Vince Marrow and is considered to be a solid contributor whose offer sheet may increase as the year goes on. The commitment of three star Defensive End Tymere Dubose from Youngstown. Dubose is a big time talent, who picked Kentucky over Michigan State, West Virginia, Louisville and others. He is considered to be a player who may get bumped up into four star range and is likely to be pursued by many big time programs as the year continues. He is yet another example of this staff’s ability in Ohio in general, and the Youngstown area specifically. With his commitment, UK’s class is now ranked #20 and expected to rise. Amazingly, UK could be looking at a Top 10-15 recruiting class…a truly remarkable achievement.
The weekend was a peaceful one for me, but a hectic area in other parts (the Louisville fans who went after Erin Calipari on Twitter were the worst of the worst). However a new week is ahead, complete with Derby prep and much more. If you get a chance, click on the TWINSPIRES.COM logo on the right and get an account. You get a $20 bonus in free money just for signing up with the KSR promo code. Should be a fun week, with radio starting at 10. Before we let you go, Alan Cutler to make you happy: