George Jones announces retirement

81-year-old country legend readies farewell tour, album

After more than half a century on the road, living country legend George Jones has announced that he will retire following a 60-market farewell tour — titled “The Grand Tour,” in honor of his signature 1974 No. 1 hit — in 2013.

“The Possum” will also record a new studio album, which may contain songs penned by Dolly Parton. No street date has yet been scheduled. His last solo album of new original material, “The Rock: Stone Cold Country,” was released by Bandit in 2001.

Jones said in a statement, “It is tough to stop doing what I love, but the time has come.” His reps say he wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

The hard-living 81-year-old singer, who has been plagued by health problems throughout his career, was sidelined by an upper respiratory infection earlier this year. He has since returned to the road, and has more than two dozen dates booked through the end of the year.

Considered by many the greatest living exponent of classic honky tonk music, Texas-born Jones scored his first country hit with “Why Baby Why,” which reached No. 4 in 1955. He has logged 13 No. 1 country hits and 143 top 40 singles; only the late Eddy Arnold accounted for more chart records.