"George Jones was the greatest country music singer," said Country Music Hall of Fame historian Michael McCall. "Whether he was expressing sadness he did it better than anybody else with the saddest song you've heard. Or if he was expressing joy it was the happiest song you'd ever heard."
Inside the lower Broadway honky-tonks, singers did their best to pay tribute to Jones Friday.
"I do quite a bit, but not as much as others because it's so hard to sing," said Dave Cox, singing at Roberts Western World. "When you try to sing like him, it just comes off cliché, because he was so one-of-a-kind. So perfect."
Honky Tonk Central was packed with mostly young fans who sang along with Hoss Skelton as he performed Jones' biggest hit, and what many call the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
"George Jones was one of a kind. There will never be another George Jones" said Skelton who admitted to getting choked up at the news. "He was the only one who could just reach in there and just rip your heart out with a song and George is going to be deeply, deeply missed."
Fans also began leaving flowers at Jones' residence Friday afternoon.
Kix Brooks said he was such a big fan of George Jones that he bought his T-shirt and wore it all over town when he first moved to Nashville more than three decades ago.
Like so many country stars, Brooks planned to be at the November finale in Nashville for what Jones termed would be his "last nationwide tour."
Brooks told Nashville's News 2 that he talked with Jones' wife Nancy Thursday about the tour and his upcoming birthday celebration.
Nancy Jones told Brooks, "George wasn't doing too good," but they talked about him getting well enough to continue the tour.
Despite saying it was "complete shock" that Jones is gone, Brooks said "this is no time for regrets or wishing we had more, this is a time for celebration, cause he was a great guy and we need to celebrate that he was part of our lives."
Jones, 81, was hospitalized on April 16 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
Jones is survived by his loving wife of 30 years Nancy Jones, his sister Helen Scroggins, and by his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Several country singers are also paying their respect via Twitter on Friday.
"My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all time favorite singer," Dolly Parton wrote.
Merle Haggard added, "The world may have lost the greatest country singer that ever lived."
In a statement to Nashville's News 2 longtime friend and country singer Alan Jackson said, "Well, heaven better get ready for some great country music. While George was known for his wild and crazy days, I've known him for 25 years as a friend. He had grown into a real good man. Of course, he will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music - there'll never be another. Like the song says, 'You know this old world is full of singers, but just a few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing. Imagine life without them…Who's gonna fill their shoes.'"
Loretta Lynn added, "It's a sad day for country music and a great loss for those of us who knew him. I was blessed to call George my friend. He was one of the best country singers there ever was. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nancy, and all of his family. It's a sad, sad day."