After George Jones and his first wife, Dorothy Bonvillion divorced in 1951, he was court ordered to pay her a support stipend of $35 per week. Unable to pay, George was found to be in contempt of court twice and even spent a few days in jail before his family could post bail.
It was through this minor run-in with the law that George received the advice if a district court judge who recommended George enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Seeing this as an opportunity to change his fortune, George Jones officially enlisted as a Marine on November 16th, 1951 at the age of 20.
George completed basic training at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot where he assumed his new identity as Private #1223231 with Platoon 419. After completing his basic training in 1952, George was stationed at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in San Jose, California. Although George served during the Korean War, he was not deployed overseas and fulfilled his duties at Moffett Field.
Music followed George even to the Marines. While on weekend leave, George met two local impresarios, “Cottonseed” Clark Fulks and Cliff “Cactus Jack” Johnson, who were nightclub musicians and radio disc jockeys. One evening after hearing George perform a Web Pierce song, Cottonseed offered to pay George $25 to sing with him every Saturday night.
Since the $100 a month he earned performing with Cottonseed exceeded his military salary, George usually found a way to spend his “weekends singing at dances, grand openings, auctions and other low-key events . . .even if it meant time in the brig for being AWOL during his military obligations.
While on extended leave, George would also appear on Cliffie Stone’s broadcast of “Hometown Jamboree” a live music show broadcast on KXLA in Los Angeles. George was a contemporary on the show with other up-and-coming artists like Buck Owens.
Although George honorably fulfilled his military duties, music was becoming the focus of his life. Even in one of George’s clearest memories from his time in the service centered on music. George recalled coming home to the base at 4am after a performance on New Year’s Day (1953) and learning that one of his idols, Hank Williams, had died.
Never abandoning music, George completed his service in November 1953 and returned to Beaumont, Texas as a civilian.
For more on how George Jones was discovered click HERE.
For a list of Country Music Stars who also served in the military click HERE.