by Dennis Dalman
A “little girl” who grew up in St. Stephen – now the brilliant singer Brittany Allyn – walked with pallbearers at the funeral of her “friend, mentor, employer, country music legend and American music icon” George Jones.
“Many times I have wondered how a little girl from St. Stephen, Minn. could somehow wind up singing for what many believe to be the greatest country singer there has ever been,” Allyn wrote on her website.
Jones, who died April 26, was mourned and praised May 2 at a public funeral at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. The funeral was broadcast live by a Nashville radio station.
Allyn (nee Trobec) had been a member of the George Jones touring show for seven years. In 1995, she was working as a back-up singer for Lorrie Morgan when she learned Jones had heard a tape Allyn had made and liked what he heard. Jones’ wife, Nancy, called Allyn and asked her if she would join Jones’ show. Stunned and honored as she was to be asked, she declined the offer out of deference to Morgan and stayed with Morgan, who herself had once sung in Jones’ band.
Allyn was doubly stunned, once again, when 11 years later, in 2006, Jones’ bandleader called Allyn and asked if she’d join the touring show.
“I’d been in this business long enough to know that opportunities rarely come around once, let alone twice,” she said. “That time, I said ‘yes.'”
Allyn, whose home base is Nashville, has sung with Jones in his shows hundreds of times.
Here is what she wrote in tribute to him:
“George was 74 when I joined the band. It was my job to phrase with him – to listen to him intently every night. With just one word he could send chills through me and bring tears to my eyes. As a singer myself, I know how we tend to look at a lyric and choose the words to focus on. With George, many times the words he chose came as a surprise to me. As time went by, I came to realize George sang every word that way –there were no throw-away lyrics for him. He would sing a word and not let it go until he had wrung every ounce of emotion out of it. I don’t know of another artist in any genre of music that can or could do that to the extent George did.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.