Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

There are some people you never forget.  Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is one of them.  Understandably, his name usually precedes him.  Who would have the nerve to call themselves “Tremendous?” I first heard about him in Springfield, Missouri where I was enrolled in college and working at night as the manager of the shoe department at Shopper’s Fair. 

Weeks after Charlie’s visit to town, real estate agents and insurance salesman were chortling over his “motivational speech.”  A few years later, when I was invited to attend one of his sessions at a nearby Holiday Inn, I decided to go.

Now, understand.  I am not into listening to speeches.  I give speeches for a living so sitting through one is too much like work.  Years later, I sat in my office in the White House when I could have been outside listening to heads of state talk to audiences on the South Lawn.  As a motivational speaker, I must have shared the stage with Zig Ziglar fifty times and never heard him once.  So, I am not big into listening to speeches of any kind.  But Charlie “Tremendous” Jones?  I just had to witness such hubris for myself.

Like thousands before me, I was blown away.  He had given his material so often that it was loaded.  There was double, triple, quadruple entendre.  Maybe more.  I was in my twenties at the time and as a young man I probably missed a lot.  He was not only funny, iconoclastic, ironic and outrageous; he was also corny and deeply sarcastic.  You had to be on your toes to grasp it all. An hour passed like five minutes.

I especially enjoyed the violence of his sarcasm.  Even today when I hear a professor or preacher sanctimoniously inveigh against the evils of sarcasm I remember Charlie, who along with Gandhi, and Churchill loved to make a point by be being sarcastic.  (Even Jesus was sarcastic, unless you believe that the Samaritan woman really was a dog.)

Now, this was the 1970’s.  Early in his speech he passed out wooden half dollars with the words “2 it” on them.  Everyone in the audience had one of the puzzling wooden coins.  And near the end, when he was rattling off all the reasons why we should do the things we should do he invoked that time honored mantra of procrastination.  “Well, I will when I get around to it.”

“Take out your coin,” Charlie roared, “And look at it.  Your excuses are over! You already have a round ‘2 it.’ Now, get it done.”

As life would have it, many years later I ended up sharing the stage with Charlie on many occasions.  We once flew first class to Australia together where we were the show for a corporate weekend gig.  We were last together at a Mark Victor Hansen’s Mega Speaker’s Program in Los Angeles.   And over the years I saw him morph from the nation’s preeminent motivational speaker into a book salesman and publisher and something even more, something new, a book statesman.

His mantra…. “You will be tomorrow what you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read,” will be declared on stages for generations to come.  And every time it is said he will be remembered.

 Today, I am told that Charlie is in hospice care.  In fact you can write him yourself at tremendous@executivebooks.com .   He has been dying for more than a decade now but like Generalissimo Franco, he just keeps going.

It is hard to imagine the world without Charlie.  I suspect it will be something like the world without Frank Sinatra.  Every time I walk into an Italian restaurant these days they are playing Sinatra.  His voice is everywhere, far more prolific than it ever was when he was living.  I suspect that it will be the same with Charlie.  His lists of favorite books will sell more than ever and we will all wonder at the things that provoked and amused and inspired him, as if he were reading over our shoulder.

I think back now on my first Charlie Jones experience, sitting in the audience at that Holiday Inn in Springfield, Missouri.   And I remember that the first row was as dangerous as the first row at a later Gallagher performance.  And not just with flying spit.  Charlie knocked people around.  No one before or since could simultaneously wear a bow tie and scare grown men. 

At six feet four or taller, outrageous and verbose, bristling with bravado and brilliant sarcasm, he could intimidate any audience he faced.  And when I saw him that first time I left thinking to myself that this man, wherever he got his name, self anointed or not, is truly “tremendous.”

I still have his book.  “Life is Tremendous,” It declares.  And so it will always be for Charlie Jones and all of us who have been lucky enough to know him. 

Go to the angels, Charlie.  You are loved and will never be forgotten.  And make life in heaven just as tremendous as you have made it here.

Postscript: 10-16-08.  This note to me from the family. “At 4 pm, October 16, 2008, Charles Edward ‘Tremendous’ Jones triumphantly entered the gates of Heaven. With family at his side, we could only imagine the joy that he experienced and who he greeted first!”

5 Responses to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

  1. donnaloo says:

    Hi Doug
    What a really great testimonial to Charlie….after I got to know Charlie I loved the front row. He has probably done more for literacy in this country than any other individual . He did a seminar in Orange County at MIH International for kids …all ages . My son was struggling in school due to poor reading skills not caught in first & second grades . He was a fourth grader . He went kicking & objecting ….and ended up in the front row . He hung on every “Charlie ” story . It was a taping and 2 hours I believe . Those kids sat the whole time …with one break .

    And I remember the “round 2it” ….I left Charlies seminar determined to get Rob excited about reading . The opportunity came shortly after .

    I was “fundraising VP” for PTA …instead of selling candy we had a “reading contest” to raise funds for Easter Seals and Rob won first place not only in his class but the school . He also had the highest number of sponsors . unknown to me he got my roladex and called everyone we knew . Charlie inspired creativity . Rob was chosen( by Easter Seals ) to present the check on the telethon on a local LA station . …with actor Richard Thomas , and the current Decathalon Olympic Medal winner . Rich De Vos was waiting in the wings to give his ” corporate check ” and took time to first congratulate Rob and encourage him to always value reading .

    As a meeting planner I have been privaleged to be at many “Charlie” seminars ….and I too remember the famous Charlie close ” your are today …and you will be tomorrow the same person except for the people you meet and the books you read . So true !!!

    Charlie changed my reading habits too .

    May God Bless Charlie “Tremendous” Jones .
    for he has Blessed thousands ….

    D
    Manhattan Beach , Ca

  2. raleyb says:

    Thanks Doug for the pick me up. This piece hit me at a perfect time.

    We are in Louisville, KY during Ryder Cup week. We live 5 minutes from Valhalla where all the action is taking place. You would think things couldn’t be better. Well the storms from Hurricane Ike brought 75 mph winds through Kentucky and over 200,000 of us are without power. I’ve been on missions trips to 3rd world countries and lived without power. It’s tough to do though when you have small children and during what would normally be the biggest week for Louisville since the PGA championship visited in 2000. There are gas stations out of gas. Groceries are still without power. Stores are only accepting cash and many banks are closed- so no cash. It’s costing those with generators $75 a day to run them. Most major roads have traffic lights out and there are over 400 electric poles and lines down. The amount of trees down is astounding. I can only imagine what those in Texas experienced, as our storm didn’t have water in the mix.

    My point is that I didn’t feel like reading anything political and when I saw Charlie’s name in your title I assumed it might be news of his passing. I also knew you’d share Charlie with those who had never heard him or read his books. It was just what the doctor ordered- a nice diversion from politics and a nice diversion from our troubles here in Louisville- for that matter are troubles around the world. Our troubles are simply inconveniences in the big picture, but when you’re in the middle of them you don’t see it clearly. Wow Charlie sure embodied a positive attitude and a sense of destiny.

    My favorite two lines from Charlie are his line about bible studies and a quote he had when speaking at our church.

    Charlie says that when you get a small group of guys sitting around talking about the bible, you get pooled ignorance. I like to share that quote along with Proverbs 27:17 as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. I believe there is truth in both.

    Also, I remember Charlie speaking at our church about 6 years ago. He told our men’s minister- “Don’t you pray for my health.” He said he was going home to his father in heaven and he was ready.

    Thanks, Doug

  3. theredleader says:

    Doug,

    I first was introduced to Charlie many years ago and often educate others with his line about you will be the sum of the people you meet and the books you read.

    He really is / was “tremendous” and I appreciate you bringing him back to mind, and hopefully introducing many more people to his unique message.

    Thanks,
    Marc
    Oregon

  4. Dear Doug Weed, Blessings to you and all those who are Blessing the people, who want to be a Blessing !
    Doug I have listened to your encouraging words for years,
    and have been quite encouraged by you. When I lived in Florida I attended the large Carpenters Home Chuch in Lakeland ,FL. This is where we met and shook hands at a back room Amway group meeting. I Thank you, and Charlie E. Jones, for being, 2 of the people in my life that have helped me to begin to WAKE up, from the mind control that most people are under, of which I suppose I am still (unawaringly) ,partially, still under !
    You and Charlie Jones are 2 of the( mostly free thinkers) I have known in 53 years being on this Earth.
    I thank GOD ALMIGHTY for you Doug Weed !
    I also Thank thank GOD ALMIGHTY for Charlie E. Jones.
    Blessings of Joy,Peace,Love, Life, Health, Wealth and Wisdom
    be unto your and your loved ones, and to Charlie E.Jones and his loved ones.
    Sincerely,Your friend Robert Childs
    Y

    G

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