If, like us, you’ve been hooked on every moment of the TV series, George & Tammy, then this list is the perfect way to keep the drama going after the show has ended.
The First Lady of Country Music and the King of Country Heartbreak began one of country music’s more dramatic romances when they got together in the late 60s, but along the way they recorded some of the greatest country duets of all time; often mirroring what was happening in their own real life stormy relationship.
George and Tammy had each been married twice before when they became an item in 1969, and their relationship got off to a typically tumultuous start when George went over to Tammy’s house to have dinner with her and her then husband, the songwriter Don Chapel, and ended up flipping the table and leaving with Tammy and her kids after declaring his love for her.
Their marriage lasted until 1976, but even after it was over, they remained friends, recording and performing live onstage together. Some of their finest moments in the studio came after they divorced.
Here are 15 of the best songs by George Jones and Tammy Wynette (and sometimes little eight-year-old Tina too).
On paper it’s a terrible idea for a song. George and Tammy singing their own wedding vows. In anyone else’s hands it would have been a complete disaster, but the troubled pair always found a way of making anything mawkish or overly melodramatic feel simple and oddly sweet without ever being cloying.
Better known as a hit for Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty in 1971, George and Tammy included their version on Let’s Build A World Together a couple of years later and imbued the romantic mini-tragedy with an almost painful amount of pathos.
Tammy and George had divorced in 1975 but they enjoyed their biggest chart successes from that point on. Their 1976 post-break up album spawned two chart toppers: the title track and a countrified version of this easy listening classic from the 1940s. Reimagined as a country duet, no heartstrings were left untugged as they struggled to keep a healthy distance from each other after the divorce.
Recorded in 1977 as a new song for their Greatest Hits album, the song tells the story of a woman who leaves her lover in Tennessee to move to California to follow her dreams of becoming a star, believing that "silver screens and limousines" are waiting for her there.
Fast forward five years and she's working in a random bar somewhere, while George sits looking out of the windows of his Tennessee mansion wondering what happened to the woman he loved all those years ago.
“We thought our love would go on forever, side by side,” George sings, before delivering the fatal blow. “But here we stand like strangers at the great divide”. Tammy and George could always sing the hell out of a break up ballad. Perfectly suited to documenting a relationship at its end and picking over the pieces, it often felt like the more heartbreaking it was, the better they sang it.
George and Tammy might have been the king and queen of country heartbreak, but they were always up for a little bit of fun too. It was last chance saloon for them in this perky deep cut off the Golden Ring album from 1976 as they dished out relationship ultimatums to each other.
When it was fun, it was a lot of fun! George and Tammy rhyme “Chevrolet” with “Flamin’ Suzette” in this tongue-in-cheek Bobby Braddock cut from 1973. Proudly declaring Merle Haggard and Ferlin Husky to be their Bach and Tchaikovsky as they list off of all the unworldly ways their down-to-earth romance is more genuine than that of their continent hopping jet setting friends.
Another hit from Bobby Braddock’s pen, ‘Something To Brag About’ had already been a hit for Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery a year before George and Tammy cut it. A cutesy back and forth between two lovers who have nothing to boast about except each other.
By 1980 George and Tammy had been divorced for five years and they hadn’t made a record together since Golden Ring in 1976. Tammy had married George Richey in 1978 and George Jones had spiralled into an abyss of alcohol and drugs, often disappearing for weeks on end.
Billy Sherrill ramped up the glossy eighties production on their 1980 album Together Again and the album opener was this classic country cheating song that played with the double meaning of “sneakers”.
In his autobiography, George admitted that at the time he had found it difficult emotionally to be working with Tammy again and you can hear it in the delivery of every line.
Like a lot of the songs on George and Tammy and Tina, their 1975 album with Tammy’s then eight-year-old daughter Tina, ‘The Telephone Call’ really shouldn’t work as well as it does.
George calls home to speak to his wife, but young Tina picks up instead and has to relay the conversation to her mum while she’s under the dryer. From there on out they play the broken telephone game between them as Tina accidentally mishears every outpouring of affection from George.
Tammy for her part is reduced to responding off mic before she eventually walks out the door. Inexplicably sublime.
Written with Leon Payne, George Jones had already had a top 10 hit with ‘Take Me’ in 1966, but the song is best remembered for being the first single by George and his third wife five years later. A deeply romantic, almost spiritual love song, it was one of their most perfectly pitched duets. When Tammy and George’s respective opening lines come in, it hits you deep down in the very bottom of your soul.
Written by Tammy with David Lindsey and Glenn Douglas Tubb, the song's lyrics are a fairly upfront metaphor for their failed marriage. A young couple reflects on working hard to achieve the dream of owning a large two-story house but they work so hard to earn enough money for one that they rarely spend any time together.
When they finally do buy and move into their dream home they find that they’ve been so busy working separately from each other that they’ve grown apart and they end up living on different floors of their two story house. A lesson to us all not to be too ambitious.
By 1973 the cracks were already showing. Tammy had already filed for divorce at the beginning of the month and the song was released not long after their reconciliation. Written by George with Earl ‘Peanut’ Montgomery, it was a gentle reminder for George and Tammy to try to make a go of things however hard it was getting. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold on much longer and Tammy filed for divorce again in 1974 before it was finalised in January 1975.
Hidden away on George and Tammy and Tina was this cheeky little rockabilly country number. No sign of little Tina on this one, but George and Tammy are in fine form, swapping sassy barbs and bewailing the mysterious “it” that has ruined their relationship.
George and Tammy’s most glorious moment. Written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy, ‘Golden Ring’ follows a wedding ring through its life cycle, beginning with a young couple seeing it on display in a Chicago pawnshop. After picking out the ring because it was all they could afford, the couple marries in a wedding chapel later on that afternoon. In the third verse, the couple have been fighting the man accuses his wife of planning to leave him. The woman tells him she doesn’t love him anymore and “throws down the ring down as she walks out the door”.
In the final verse we’re back at the pawnshop once again, with a different couple looking on at the same ring back on display in its window.
Was there ever a better country duet? Quite simply, no.
Check out our Holler playlist of the Best George & Tammy Songs below: