George Jones' Widow, Cracker Barrel Named in $5 Million Lawsuit

A former Jones producer is suing Nancy Jones, the restaurant chain and Concord Music Group for releasing an album without his permission

A George Jones album released by Concord Music Group and Cracker Barrel is the subject of a $5 million lawsuit. Credit: David Redfern/Redferns

Nancy Jones, the widow of Country Music Hall of Fame legend George Jones, is among those being sued by Earl "Peanutt" Montgomery, a songwriter, musician and producer whose works include 73 songs cut by Jones, nearly 40 of which were released as singles by the late entertainer.

The suit, according to the Tennessean, stems from the release, without Montgomery's permission, of an album that had languished on the shelf for decades. Concord Music Group and Cracker Barrel, who collaboratively issued the LP on Concord's Rounder Records label in 2017, are also named in the suit filed in federal court in Nashville.

Montgomery's lawsuit claims that in the late Seventies Jones proposed to Montgomery the idea of recording an album featuring the singer backed by the Smoky Mountain Boys, the longtime band that performed and recorded with Grand Ole Opry icon Roy Acuff.

The suit alleges that Jones wanted Montgomery, the brother of Jones' onetime duet partner Melba Montgomery, "to produce and own [the album] as his retirement package for all his years of service and friendship to Mr. Jones." Cut at Doc's Place Recording Studio in Nashville, the album went unreleased by CBS, Jones' label at the time. As producer of the project, Montgomery maintained possession of the original mixed version of the album, although the master tapes remained at the studio.

After Jones died in April 2013, Nancy Jones sold her husband's intellectual property and other assets to Concord Music for a reported $30 million. Montgomery produced the original recordings but was neither paid for his work nor credited in the liner notes accompanying the album, the suit claims.

In addition to writing hits for Jones, including his Number One duet with Tammy Wynette, "We're Gonna Hold On," Montgomery wrote or co-wrote songs recorded by Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Paycheck, Connie Smith and others. In 1978, after Jones fired a pistol at Montgomery, he was charged with assault with intent to commit murder. The charge was later dropped, but by that time, the singer had spiraled into drug and alcohol addiction, and in December 1979, Montgomery signed papers to have him checked into a rehab hospital in Alabama. Two months later, Jones would record the future country classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman.

Montgomery and his wife, Charlene, currently own and operate a recording studio and music-publishing company in Sheffield, Alabama.