The number of truly iconic singers is dwindling, particularly in these days of computerized voice alterations that can make Gilbert Gottfried sound like Dean Martin. The ability to carry a tune— and do it extremely well — is a gift, much in the same way an inordinate amount of athletic talent can land you in the professional ranks. Not everyone who picks up a football or baseball is destined to become the next Kenny Vaccaro or Shelby Miller. The same should be expected of anyone who grabs a microphone.

We lost one of the all-time legends, country music or otherwise, Friday with the passing of George Jones at age 81. Jones’ unique lyrics and sound led to him being called “the voice of heartbreak” on more than one occasion during a career that spanned almost 60 years.

Aside from an instantly recognizable voice, perhaps what endured Jones to millions around the world was the truth in his songs — and many of those truths were firsthand experiences. Though Jones will be remembered as a legend, he won’t be mistaken for a saint, which, ironically, aided Jones in transforming well-crafted words and melodies into universal truths.

The backbone of Jones’ musical repertoire consisted of tunes about either a broken heart, or an overextended liver caused by the aforementioned “affliction.”

Jones was not perfect, but he was real, which is quite ironic as, in this current era of “reality-based everything,” far too much is staged, yet still consumed by the masses. 

A phrase was coined in the late 80s/early 90s of “cookie cutter ballparks” in Major League Baseball, which referred to many stadiums built in the 1960s having the same basic field dimensions and general appearance. That led to the surge in new stadiums over the past 20 years — of which the Ballpark in Arlington was among the first — that trumpet their uniqueness and have returned to the looks of venues from a bygone era.

Let’s hope those in entertainment soon follow suit. As it stands now, it’s hard to tell one singer, song, movie or television show from the rest.

Mainstream country music left its traditional roots long before the ‘Possum’ passed from this earth. ‘Country’ music has gone the way of MTV, which consists mostly of reality shows; the History Channel, which focuses most of its programming on a pawn shop; and TV Land, which rarely televises a rerun that occurred prior to 2000. It’s all false advertising in its purest sense.

History and tradition are far too often sacrificed in favor of flash in the pan trends and fads, and that can apply to entertainment, sports, politics and even religion. Ignorance toward history in general, particularly milestone events and legendary figures, aggravates me to no end.

It’s been said on countless occasions you must remember where you came from to know where you’re going. Without paying respect to those who paved the way before us, becoming a student of history and applying that knowledge as we go forward, the answer to the Possum’s lyrical question, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” is sadly, no one — in song, or otherwise.


Following in the “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” theme for the day, the landscape of the Brownwood Lions football program has changed dramatically since the last time I attempted a column.

On Monday, we learned former Brownwood head football coach and athletic director Bob Shipley had stepped down after four seasons to pursue an opportunity with the University of Texas. Later that day, Brownwood ISD Superintendent Dr. Reece Blincoe stated defensive coordinator Chuck Howard would be his recommendation to the Board of Trustees to fill the vacancy. By the end of the lunch hour Thursday, Howard was the man in charge of Lions football, and Brownwood athletics in general.

Now that’s a whirlwind week.

I personally enjoyed the working relationship I had with Coach Shipley — he always went out of his way to help with any request I made. I know I’m definitely not the only person who can say that in Brownwood.

As far as the on the field product, who can argue against what he accomplished in four seasons? A 38-14 record with four playoff appearances and two district championships, and a controversially officiated state semifinal game in 2010 might have been all that stood in the way of a state championship.

Now it’s Coach Howard’s turn to leave his mark on the program. With a career as an assistant that spans 24 years — including the last four in Brownwood — Howard will make his head coaching debut in one of the premier locations in all of Texas.

Eyes are always on the Lions football team in the fall, and perhaps they will be glaring more so this season with the coaching change. 

I look forward to working more closely with Coach Howard in the future and wish him all the best as the Lions continue their quest for state championship No. 8.


Derrick Stuckly is the editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at