Kenny Chesney and George Jones
04/26/2013 at 05:00 PM EDT
With the passing of country icon George Jones
, many will remember the singer's mythical stories of hard-living and never showing up for concerts.
But Kenny Chesney
says his friend was a supportive force in his life when he was just starting his career. And he recalls opening up for Jones during his reunion tour with Tammy Wynette in 1995.
"I thought I'd made it," Chesney said in a statement Friday. "Then one night, George asked me if I was heading home because he and [his wife] Nancy had a plane, and they'd take me. I remember sitting on that jet, thinking, 'This can't be happening.' Because he was George Jones and I was some kid from nowhere. I'm sure he knew, but he was generous to kids chasing the dream and I never forgot it."
Jones never forgot, either, and Chesney recalls getting a special visit from "Possum" Jones during a concert in 2011. "He even showed up in Lexington, Ky., two years ago to surprise me onstage for my birthday," says Chesney. "All the way from Nashville, to surprise me and sing 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' with me, which will be one of the greatest memories of my life."
Chesney says Jones's music will endure for years – and not just in the country world. "He had a voice that was the truth, raw and unfiltered. You can't get any realer, any more tortured or any more alive. No one can do what George Jones does, and that's why 50 years later, he still stands out as one of the greatest singers in any genre of all time."