New mural pays homage to George Jones’ mower ride

By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

The mural depicts the night the country music legend rode a mower to a local liquor store.

A lawn mower ride that has become part of country music lore has been memorialized with a mural on a wall in Nashville, Tennessee, according to story published on TheBoot.com website.

The new mural references an infamous night in the life of late country music superstar George Jones when he hopped on a riding mower for an 8-mile trip from his Nashville home to a liquor store in Beaumont. Already in the middle of a multi-day drinking binge — Jones battled alcoholism and pill addiction throughout his life — he ran out of booze, and his then-wife Shirley Corley hid the keys to all of the couple’s cars to keep him from driving drunk.

Corley's plan might have succeeded had she not forgotten about the John Deere tractor-style mower they also owned. "I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our property,” said Jones in his autobiography, “I Lived to Tell It All” (quote via the Houston Press).

“There, gleaming in the glow, was that 10-horsepower rotary engine under a seat, a key glistening in the ignition,” continued Jones in the memoir. “I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store but get there I did.”

The new mural can be found at 2401 8th Avenue South, the site of, appropriately enough, a liquor store. On an outside wall of Colonial Liquors, artist Shawn Katz has painted “the Possum,” his mission accomplished, driving his bright green mower home, a six-pack of beer in his lap.

Jones’ midnight mower odyssey became a legend in country music circles, and he himself immortalized it in his “Honky-Tonk Song.” He had a sense of humor about the incident and can be seen riding lawn mowers in two country music videos: Vince Gill's "One More Last Chance" and Hank Williams Jr.'s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.”

Strangely, Moline, Illinois-based Deere and Co. never used Jones in any commercials for their riding mowers.