Friday the 13th has long been considered unlucky — unless you’re spending the day listening to George Jones. His 1983 chart-topper, “I Always Get Lucky With You,” was a tune that not only proved fortunate for the singer, it also became a money-maker for its songwriters.
Co-writer Merle Haggard recorded the love song first and put it on his 1981 Big City album, but didn’t release it as a single. His collaborators on “I Always Get Lucky With You” were Freddy Powers, Gary Church and Tex Whitson, who was also his manager. And it was Whitson who pitched the song to producer Billy Sherrill, Jones’ longtime collaborator. Jones and Haggard, who had recorded an album of duets a year earlier, were reportedly not on speaking terms at the time Jones was approached with the song. (Their friendship quickly mended.) Nevertheless, Jones, who was in the midst of a huge comeback from his troubles with drugs and alcohol, recorded the song for the album Shine On, and it was released as the second single from the LP.
“I’d get mad at him over the years because of his self-damage, but everything I said to him was out of love,” Haggard wrote in an article for Rolling Stone after his friend died. “Imagine you’re George Jones, and every night you’re expected to sing as good as you did on a song like ‘She Thinks I Still Care.’ He was a shy country boy from East Texas walking around with that on his shoulders. He knew people expected him to be the greatest country singer that ever lived. He was the Babe Ruth of country music, and people expected a home run every time.”
“I Always Get Lucky With You” became the ninth chart home run for Jones, knocking Haggard out of the Number One spot. (It took over the country penthouse from the Hag’s duet with Willie Nelson, “Pancho and Lefty.”) It would be the last chart-topping single the Possum would ever have.
Jones would continue to perform the song live, but often changed up the words, singing (as in the above clip), “I’ve always been lucky with you.” No doubt the inspiration for the change in lyrics was his long marriage to fourth wife Nancy, whom he met in 1981. Making 1983 even luckier, the couple wed that year.