One day in 1974, Country Music legend George Jones called Jimmie Hills’ barber shop and made an appointment. “No Show” Jones didn’t show up. Nor did he show up for the next several appointments. “He walked in one day and asked me to cut his hair,” says Jimmie. “He gave me a hundred dollar bill and told me to keep the change. He would come by the shop two or three times a week just for me to shampoo and style his hair. We got to be friends and would go out and have lunch together.” It was the beginning of a 22 year journey for Jimmie, often rocky and challenging, but never dull.
One evening, George dropped by Jimmie’s house and stayed several hours just to talk; said the Hills seemed like a good family. He asked 12-year-old Danny Hills to go to the car and get his shaving kit. “George opened it and pulled out the biggest roll of money I’d ever seen,” said Jimmie. He counted out three thousand dollars, offered it to Jimmie and said, “I want you to be my friend.”
“George, my friendship isn’t for sale. I don’t want your money. I’ll be your friend no matter what,” replied Jimmie. “After that, we became really good friends. I heard later that’s how he tested people to see if they were honest.”
George was troubled, but always generous. “I was giving him a hair cut one day and a woman came in the shop and saw his expensive ring with a guitar surrounded by diamonds. She said she’d like to have a ring like that. George pulled it off his finger and gave it to her,” says Jimmie. “I got the lady aside and told her not to take it. She gave it back. George was generous and would give you the shirt off his back.”
George came by the barbershop on several occasions, intoxicated and passed out in the chair. Jimmie and Ann always took him home. This was after George and Tammy Wynette had divorced and he was dating Linda Welborn, Peanutt Montgomery’s sister-in-law.
Jimmie was driving George home when the latter wanted to stop at a small cemetery. “If there is a God, those people wouldn’t be in those graves,” George said.
Jimmie rolled down the window and let in fresh air. A bee flew inside the car and stung George on the neck. “He got down on the floor and started praying. I laughed at ‘em. “Why are you laughing at me?” George asked. “Because you’re crazy.” That proved to be phrophetic.
George would frequently appear unannounced at the barber shop or at the Hills’ home and request Jimmie to drive him around and listen to him talk. He and Linda Welborn were having problems. One night, Jimmie was driving him in his Lincoln Town Car down the Natchez Trace, while George drank Jack Daniels from the bottle, tooted cocaine and talked about Linda. A herd of deer walked onto the road and paused. immie stopped the car. “Jimmie if you going to hunt deer get yo’self a shotgun,” said George. “Listen to me when I’m talking to you.” His behavior became more bizarre as time passed.
“That was one of numerous trips down the Trace. I bet I’ve driven a million miles up and down the Trace listening to my friend, George,” says Jimmie.
On another occasion, George stopped at the barber shop near closing time and asked Jimmie to buy him supper. Jimmie told him that Ann was cooking and would set out an extra plate as she had done on many occasions. George wanted to go to Bonanza Steakhouse. On the way there, George said someone had robbed him of $25,000. While crossing the Tennessee River bridge, George reached under the seat of the Lincoln, pulled out a pistol and put it to Jimmie’s head. “I’m going to kill the SOB,” said George. “I didn’t take your money,” Jimmie said and pushed the pistol away with his hand.
“Oh, I know you didn’t get it my son,” said George. “I would have given it to you because I love you like a brother.” George said he had been asleep on a couch at a car lot and the owner had taken his money out of his pocket. “I know where the SOB lives and you’re gonna help me kill’em,” said George. “Not me George!”
Jimmie tried to convince him to go home, but George was insistent. Finally, thinking that food might cause George to go to sleep, Jimmie stopped at an Omelette Shop in Muscle Shoals. A song writer, his wife and George’s girlfriend, Linda Welborn pulled up simultaneously and they all went inside and sat in the same booth.
“You remember being over at my house one night?” said George to the songwriter. “I seen you in the hallway. You got some money outta Linda’s purse.” George yanked out his pistol, stuck it between the man’s eyes and started pulling back the hammer. Jimmie grabbed George’s hand, punched him hard in the ribs and wrestled him down. Customers scattered like quail on the rise. One man jumped over the counter. The songwriter and company made a fast getaway. The manager called the cops.
“George, let’s get outta here!” exclaimed Jimmie. “They done called the law.” Jimmie pulled George out of the restaurant, put him in the Lincoln, and slammed the door on his ankle. “You broke my ankle! Oh God, you broke it,” George hollered.
Sirens were wailing and growing louder. Jimmie peeled rubber and made a getaway. “We drove around until 2 a.m.,” says Jimmie. “I expected the cops to be waiting for us but they weren’t. The police were real good to George and helped him all they could.” Jimmie put George to bed. The next evening, George came to the shop. “He didn’t remember anything,” says Jimmie.
George seemed to have a Guardian Angel. Maybe he was just lucky, but most likely it was his fans who looked out for him. George was late for a flight from Huntsville to Nashville and didn’t have time to park his new Lincoln. So he parked his new Lincoln on the sidewalk at the front door.
He called Jimmie . “I’ve left my car at Huntsville Airport. Can you go up there and get it?” “I guess. Why?” asked Jimmie. “I left it by the door and I’m afraid they’ll tow it off,” said George. Jimmie and Ann knew they would need a key so they called the dealership, explained what happened, picked up a new key and headed to Huntsville Airport.
“The car was parked in the front door – I mean up on the sidewalk, engine still running,” says Jimmie. “A note was on the dashboard. ‘Please to whom it may concern, I was in quite a hurry, this flight was very important. My name is George Jones with the Grand Ol Opry and I’ll be back tomorrow evening.’ It had probably been there four hours. Nobody touched it,” says Jimmie. He pushed aside the empty Beenie Weenie cans, pork rinds and cheese balls on the seat and drove it home.
The note is framed and now hangs in Jimmie’s den.
By: Jerry Barksdale