If you’ve tuned into George & Tammy and are just now learning of George Jones’s nickname, you might be wondering why he was called ‘the possum’.
The Showtime series, premiering Sunday, December 4, explores the years in which George Jones and Tammy Wynette were in and out of each other’s lives. A whirlwind romance quickly forged one of country music’s most powerful couples, who created some of the most iconic country songs of all time.
Throughout George & Tammy, George’s many nickname feature prominently. Notably, ‘the possum’, which was a favorite with the singer and amongst his fans. So, let’s unpack why George Jones earned this nickname.
Why did they call George Jones ‘the possum’?
At the start of George Jones’s career singing, he quickly earned the nickname, “the possum.” This was after the release of his album, George Jones Sings White Lightning and Other Favorites (1959).
In 2009, Jones explained to The Boot how this nickname came about: “T. Tommy Cutrer was a disc jockey. Everybody loved him. He was one of the old-timers on the all-night shows along with Ralph Emery, and those two got started calling me ‘The Possum’,” Jones revealed.
“I had an album out with a side view of me with a crew cut. I was very young, and my nose looked more turned up, and I’ve got little beady eyes so I guess I did look like a possum! So they both laid into me and called me ‘Possum,’ and it got everywhere. There was no way I could stop that, so (I thought) I’ll just have to live with that!”
George’s nickname led to the Possum Holler
Embracing the nickname given to him by T. Tommy Cutrer, George Jones would go on to use ‘the possum’ as the name for his Nashville venue.
In 1967, after moving to the Songwriting Capital, Jones opened up Possum Holler on Nashville’s famous lower Broadway Street. It was situated across from Ernest Tubb’s record shop, next to the famous bar Tootsie’s and on the other side from the Ryman Auditorium, the then-home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Possum Holler became a hub for country musicians in Tennessee. His band, The Jones Boys, became the house band when they weren’t touring. Artists such as Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton descended on Possum Holler as it became a music hub. Eventually, Possum Holler was shut down by the building’s owner after a maintenance problem.
Jones would open a number of other venues throughout his career, although some think none can compare to the original Possum Holler.
George Jones had other nicknames besides ‘the possum’
The He Stopped Loving Her Today singer wasn’t just known as “the possum,” as he had a number of different established nicknames.
One of Jones’s most (in)famous nicknames was ‘No Show Jones’. This nickname stuck with Jones for many years, due to his failure to show up to many of his concerts.
“I think about the dates that I missed, and I’ll see those mamas and daddies and some grandkids walking down the old country dirt road … walking to town maybe a mile, and they’ve been saving their money for a couple months just to get there and to be let down … I guess that hurts me worse than anything else,” Jones reflected on in an interview.
“‘No Show Jones’ — I never did like that, but I played around with it with a song … made peace with it. I didn’t think I’d ever live it down, but it’s gotten so much better. Nobody calls me ‘No Show’ any more.”
Did Tammy Wynette have a nickname?
George Jones’s partner, Tammy Wynette, also became known by a moniker. Her most popular nickname was The First Lady Of Country Music. Wynette earned this nickname after becoming the first female country singer to sell a million copies of a single album, which was Tammy’s Greatest Hits in 1970.
Wynette also reportedly had the nickname the Heroine of Heartache, after touching on the subject matter in her songwriting.
Watch new episodes of George & Tammy Sundays on Showtime.