In the 40 years that acclaimed German record label Bear Family has been reissuing classic, career-spanning CD boxed sets, one of the artists whose early work has been on customers’ wish lists is country legend George Jones. Christmas has come early for Jones fans as the label announces the February release of a sprawling six-disc collection encompassing all of Jones’ early recordings from the Starday and Mercury labels.
Titled George Jones: Birth of a Legend – The Truly Complete Starday and Mercury Recordings 1954-1961, the set will include 200 tracks with a total running time of over seven-and-a-half hours. More than 20 of the tracks included are previously unissued takes or never-before-released songs. A deluxe 174-page hardcover book will accompany the box. As a special treat for Jones’ completists, the set includes his failed rockabilly single, “Rock It” b/w “How Come It” (released in 1956 with the name “Thumper Jones” in an effort not to derail his country career) and all of his soundalike records for the Dixie label, which found the singer, for instance, doing his best Elvis Presley imitation on “Heartbreak Hotel.” He also tackles a number of Hank Williams tunes as well as songs by Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and more.
Of course, the early Jones classics are included as well, from his first hit, “Why Baby Why,” and first Number One, “White Lightning,” to now-immortal tunes including “Tender Years” and the plaintive “Window Up Above.” The set also features several rare early duets Jones performed with, among others, Margie Singleton and Jeanette Hicks.
The all-encompassing CD set has been in the works for more than two decades, during which time several multi-label compilations have collected various tracks from this fertile time period in Jones’ remarkable career. Jones would release music on several labels throughout his next six decades, including his own imprint, Bandit Records, toward the end of his life. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, the singer gave his last concert on April 6th, 2013. He died in a Nashville hospital three weeks later at 81.
George Jones: Birth of a Legend – The Truly Complete Starday and Mercury Recordings 1954-1961 will be available February 24th, 2017, and can be pre-ordered at the Bear Family website.