Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

George Jones' grave
George Jones' grave
Above: George Jones’ grave

That question from one of George Jones’ biggest hits is now hitting us right between the eyes.

“You know this ol’ world is full of singers, but just a few were chosen to tear your heart out when they sang.”

At the time the song was released in 1985, most of the artists mentioned in the song were still living. Some still are, but they, along with other legends who weren’t mentioned in the song, won’t be around forever.

This past week, country legend Kenny Rogers announced his retirement. He’s one of many who are turning in their bus keys. Ronnie Milsap is currently on his farewell tour, and The Eagles’ most recent tour was rumored to be its last.

Can anybody really blame them for wanting to retire? They’re getting older, they have families and they’ve earned the right to hang it up.

I think we, the fans, have a hard time letting go because we know these are the last artists in that league.

Think about it: How many artists have you heard that honestly have the same impact?

Some newer artists like Garth Brooks will certainly be remembered down the road. But will his music be remembered the same way Elvis and Johnny Cash are remembered?

The ‘90s are where we enter a problem area. There were several artists who made great music and were great entertainers, such as Brooks, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson. The problem is the record companies were still in charge of everything.

YouTube and Myspace weren’t around to help get artists noticed, so those artists were still subject to the decisions of the music industry, which weren’t always the wisest.

More recent artists have been championed by music legends. Merle Haggard speaks highly of Sturgill Simpson, and John Prine speaks highly of Kasey Musgraves. But is two enough?

There are artists making music comparable to the most classic songs of all time, but you won’t hear them on the radio, and you won’t see them on MTV or CMT, although that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

Can someone reach legendary status without becoming popular in the mainstream? I don’t think so, but stranger things have happened.

We’ve made it harder for artists to reach that point. We buy whatever the record companies tell us is cool. We listen to radio stations owned by record companies. We read magazines owned by record companies. We watch TV music stations owned by record companies. We go to music websites owned by record companies.

If those are your main avenues for finding music, is it any wonder why you’re only getting the stale products of the industry?

It seems like there are legends either passing away or retiring every day.

So, who IS going to fill their shoes? As Vince Gill, one of the few who can, said, “It’s my belief that they don’t make those shoes anymore.”