One of the most popular tunes by legendary country singer George Jones was “The One I Loved Back Then (The Corvette Song).”
Written by Gary Gentry and recorded by Jones for his 1985 album “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” the song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot Country Singles chart in early 1986. It tells the story of a man’s fascination with fast cars and beautiful women. As the song relates, he and his girlfriend are cruising in his Corvette when they stop at a convenience store. The clerk, apparently noticing the Corvette outside, tells the driver he used to have one just like it back in 1963, but “the man down at the bank” took it away from him, referring, we think, to the repo guy. In the next verse, the singer offers the clerk his keys to the Corvette and says he can “take her for a spin.” In a surprise twist, though, the clerk says it’s not the Corvette he’s talking about, but the driver’s girlfriend waiting out in the car.
As you listened to that song over the years, you may have been wondering if George Jones ever actually owned a Corvette himself.
Well, he did – this 1978 two-tone Corvette special-ordered by “The Possum,” as Jones was affectionately known.
This historic car just became the first celebrity-owned Corvette donated to the National Corvette Museum, thanks to the generous gift of Lifetime Members Lon and Anne Helton of Nashville, Tenn., and Timothy and Donna Vincent of Broussard, La., revealed Friday during the NCM’s 26th Anniversary Celebration.
Lon, a past-chair of the NCM Board of Directors and host of the radio series Country Countdown USA, says he once asked Jones about the car years ago.
“In 1986 or ’87 when I was doing one of my first interviews with him,” Lon recalled, “I asked him if owning a Corvette affected his decision to cut the song called ‘The Corvette Song’ and he said, ‘Oh, absolutely.'”
Jones special ordered the ’78 Corvette in a one-off paint scheme of Corvette Dark Brown and Corvette Light Beige because he liked the look of the Indy Pace that year that was done, of course, in a similar black and silver scheme.
Jones eventually sold the car to Valarie C. Lee in 2000 and even autographed the dash for her. Ronnie Collins later bought it and then sold “The Possum” (his nickname for the car, in honor of Jones’ nickname) to his friend, Donna Vincent, a big fan of the country singer, and her husband. The deal also included Jones’ front license plate reading “POSSUM” and a Tennessee plate reading “NO SHOW,” Jones’ nickname since he was known for sometimes missing concert appearances.
The Vincents loaned the Corvette to the NCM in 2012 for a Country Music Stars and Cars exhibit, so when they recently decided to part with the car, the Museum was the obvious choice.
Lon says he was thrilled to be a part of the ensuing donation process. “When (NCM President and CEO Dr. Sean Preston) first presented this at the board meeting, it seemed like a no brainer,” Lon said. “My whole life has been my two passions – country music and Corvette – two uniquely American, iconic things. If our name wasn’t on this, I’d get questions from friends and relatives saying ‘Geez, you’re in the country music business, and this is a country music car and someone else’s name is on it? We are glad to have our name on something for years to come that’s tied to our two passions.”
Timmie Vincent said he and his wife were excited to partner with the Heltons to preserve the car’s history and make its permanent home the NCM where everyone can enjoy it.
“We’ve had celebrity-owned cars on loan, but this is the first we will own,” Director of Collections / Curator Derek Moore said. “Having this Corvette helps us talk about the cross-cultural impact that the Corvette has. It’s an affordable car that the masses can purchase, but it’s also a car that celebrities own, love and drive.”
National Corvette Museum
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