Two years after their divorce, George Jones still regularly made the drive to Tammy Wynette’s Nashville home. Once there, he’d take several fast spins around the circular driveway they once shared before turning around and heading two hours back home to Alabama.
Country music has never known a more passionate, chart-topping and heartbreaking love than George and Tammy’s story. During their six-year marriage, they lived in a lavish 14-bathroom mansion, toured the nation in an oversize 12-bed bus that read “Mr. & Mrs. Country Music” on its side, and created beautiful music together. In the end, their love was undercut by George’s binge drinking and Tammy’s dependency on prescription drugs. “They both had their own demons, and they couldn’t get over it,” Tammy’s daughter Jackie Daly tells Closer exclusively.
Tammy, who was raised by her grandparents on a cotton farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, had had a crush on George since her youth. The “Stand By Your Man” singer-songwriter would already be a star in her own right by the time they met in a Nashville recording studio in the late 1960s. “I loved him from the start,” Tammy confessed. George, meanwhile, fell for Tammy during their tour together, but he kept his feelings quiet because they were both married to others. When Tammy returned home from the road to find her daughters gravely ill from food poisoning and her husband returning from a bender, it provided George with an opening. “I love Tammy, and she loves me too,” George told Tammy’s husband. “Even though we’d never even gone out together, we grabbed the kids and got out of there that night,” he said.
The couple, who wed in 1966, loved and fought with equal intensity. Tammy told of a time George drunkenly shot up their Florida home with a rifle — although he denied it — and was hospitalized for 10 days. Tammy, meanwhile, grew dependent on painkillers, Valium and eventually shots of Demerol, after a hysterectomy following the birth of their daughter Georgette in 1970. “It was no different to Prince, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis. She looked at it like, ‘It’s prescription drugs, so it’s OK,” says Daly. “It wasn’t.”
Tammy sometimes threatened divorce in hope of scaring George straight, but ended up filing for real in 1975. From then on, they lived apart, even married others, but still recorded and toured together. “I think we still love each other,” he said in 1977. “I know I love her.”
George finally quit alcohol in 1999 after a serious car crash, but it wasn’t soon enough for a second chance with Tammy, who died from a blood clot a year earlier. “A couple of weeks before she passed away, we had a really long heart-to-heart,” Georgette Jones tells Closer. “She told me, ‘Your dad will always be the love of my life.’ She regretted that things didn’t work out differently and that they couldn’t have met at a different time in their lives.”