Few would argue that Texas-born artist George Jones is one of the greatest country music legends of all time, thanks to his gorgeous voice, unique vocal style (he can pull single words apart like pieces of taffy), and impeccable sense for ear-catching honky-tonk. He doesn’t just sing, he gets inside the lyrics, turning the simplest words into something gut-wrenching.

George has a wild past that at one point earned him the nickname “No Show Jones.” But he also has 14 Number One records under his belt, starting way back in 1959 with “White Lightning” and he’s recorded hundreds of timeless gems as “She Thinks I Still Care,” “A Good Year for The Roses,” “Choices,” “The Cold Hard Truth,” and, of course, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

All this makes the news that Jones will be saying farewell in one last “Grand Tour” more than a little bittersweet.

The Possum,” his nickname after giving up drinking 20 years ago, says he plans to finally retire from touring in 2013. In a message on his website, George, who will turn 81 in September, says, “It is tough to stop doing what I love, but the time has come.”

The Possum has been ill in recent months. He was hospitalized this past spring due to an upper respiratory infection, and had to cancel some shows.

Jones is currently back on the road, with dates scheduled through the end of 2012. But his big farewell tour will begin in 2013. He is expected to visit 60 cities, though the specific dates and venues have not yet been announced. Jones is calling it the Grand Tour, after his enduring No. 1 hit from 1974.

Jones also plans to record a new album, and fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Dolly Parton has been writing songs for him.

As one of the biggest legends in country music–an enduring favorite for many fans–George has recorded a huge number of  songs that have helped define country music over the last 50 years (and 143 of them made the Top 40). The best known of these, however, is certainly “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Zac Brown is one of many artists, and fans, who feels that song is one of the greatest country songs ever recorded.

“When I think about a song that defines country music,” Brown told Houston station KILT earlier this year, “it’s got to be ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ When that string section kicks in, the production behind it, the voice, the whole thing…that’s a powerful, powerful song.”

– Kurt Wolff/CBS Local and Linda Lee/99.5 WYCD