George Harvey Strait (born May 18, 1952), is an American country music singer, actor, and music producer known as the "King of Country" and called a living legend by some critics. He is known for his neotraditionalist country style.
Strait's success began when his first single "Unwound" was a hit in 1981. During the 1980s, seven of his albums reached number one on the country charts. In the 2000s, Strait was named Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music, was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and won his first Grammy award for the album Troubadour. Strait was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1989 and 1990, and ACM Entertainer of the Year in 1990. He has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist. In 2009, he broke Conway Twitty's previous record for the most number-one hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart when his 44 number one singles surpassed Twitty's 40. Counting all music charts, Strait has amassed a total of 60 number-one hits, breaking a record also previously set by Twitty.
Strait has sold more than 70 million albums in the United States and his certifications from the RIAA include 13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum, and 38 gold albums. His best-selling album is Pure Country (1992), which sold 6 million (6× platinum). His highest certified album is Strait Out of the Box (1995), which sold 2 million copies (8× Platinum due to being a box set with four CDs). According to the RIAA, Strait is the 12th best-selling album recording artist in the United States overall. Strait's singing and acting career has earned him a net worth of $300
million so far.
George Harvey Strait was born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet in Atascosa County south of San Antonio, Texas, to John Byron Strait, Sr. (born c. 1921 - died June 4, 2013), and the former Doris Couser. He grew up in Pearsall in Frio County, where his father was a junior high school mathematics teacher and the owner of a 2,000-acre (8 km²) cattle ranch outside of Big Wells, Texas. The family worked at the ranch on the weekends and in the summers. When George was in the fourth grade, his father and mother were divorced, and his mother moved away with his sister, Pency. George and his brother John, Jr. or "Buddy" (1950-2009), were reared by their father.
Strait began his musical interest while attending Pearsall High School, where he played in a rock and roll garage band. His musical preference soon turned to country with singers Hank Thompson, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bob Wills, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra influencing his style. Strait did not tune to the country music radio often as a youth, usually listening to the news and the farmer's report. His introduction to country music came mostly by way of live performances, which, according to Strait, could be heard in every town in Texas. He eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma. The couple initially married in Mexico on December 4, 1971. That same year, he enlisted in the United States Army. While stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii as a part of the 25th Infantry division (light), Strait began performing with an Army-sponsored band, "Rambling Country", which played off-base under the name "Santee". On October 6, 1972, while still in Hawaii, George and Norma had their first child, Jenifer.
After Strait was honorably discharged from the Army in 1975, he enrolled at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and received a degree in Agriculture. During his college years, he joined the country band Stoney Ridge, answering a flyer the band posted around campus looking for a new vocalist. Strait renamed the group the Ace in the Hole Band and quickly became the lead, they began to perform at different honky tonks and bars around south and central Texas, traveling as far east as Huntsville and Houston. They gained a regional following and opened for national acts such as The Texas Playboys. Soon, his band was given the opportunity to record several Strait-penned singles including "That Don't Change The Way I Feel About You", for the Houston-based D label. However, the songs never achieved wide recognition, and Strait continued to manage his family cattle ranch during the day in order to make some extra cash.
While he continued to play with his band without any real connections to the music industry, Strait became friends with Erv Woolsey, who operated one of the bars in which the Ace in the Hole band played, and who had previously worked for the major label MCA Records. Woolsey convinced some of his Music Row connections to come to Texas and to listen to Strait and his band play. Impressed with the performance, MCA quickly signed Strait to a recording contract in February 1981. The Ace in the Hole remained with Strait, performing as the backup and touring band for the now solo act.
In the spring of 1981, Strait released his first single for MCA Records, entitled "Unwound", which climbed into the top ten of the Hot Country Songs chart that year, and was included on his debut album Strait Country. The record featured two more singles including "Down and Out", a No. 16 hit for Strait, and "If You're Thinking You Want a Stranger (There's One Coming Home)", which reached number three early in 1982, sparking a string of Top Ten hits that ran well into the 1990s.Strait Country was hailed by critics as a traditionalist breakthrough that broke the trend of pop-influenced country prevalent at the time. The year 1982 also saw the release of Strait's second album, the critically acclaimed Strait from the Heart, which featured the first number one single of his career, "Fool Hearted Memory", and the top five "Amarillo by Morning", regarded by many as one of the greatest country songs of all-time. In 1983, Strait made his first appearance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo when the headlining star, Eddie Rabbitt, came down sick with the flu. Strait has since become a mainstay throughout his career, making more than twenty appearances at the Rodeo, and playing to a total of more than one million fans. Strait recorded 17 subsequent No. 1's in the decade, including a string of five that lasted from 1983–84 from his next two albums Right or Wrong, his first number one album and the CMA award-winning Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. The next year, he won the CMA award for top male vocalist, and released his first Greatest hits compilation, which featured songs from his first three albums. Also in 1985, Strait released Something Special, the third straight number-one album of his career, featuring the number-one single "The Chair". In 1986, Strait repeated as the CMA vocalist of the year and released his fourth No. 1 album #7. Strait and his family were struck with tragedy when his 13-year-old daughter, Jenifer, was killed in a one-car non-alcohol-related accident. She was riding in a Ford Mustang driven by Gregory Wilson Allen, 18, of Staples, Texas. He was subsequently charged with a Class A misdemeanor for vehicular homicide. Mike Cox, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, said "The responding trooper determined the cause of accident to be excessive speed and that the car did not negotiate the turn properly. Jenifer was riding in the front passengers seat and none of the four occupants were wearing seat belts at the time. When the vehicle flipped over onto its passenger's side, Jenifer was partially ejected, causing her to be dead upon impact. The incident did not hinder Strait's performance, as he went on to release 11 straight No. 1 hits, starting with "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her" in 1986 and ending with "Ace in the Hole" in 1989. The singles spanned four albums, including #7, Ocean Front Property in 1987, If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin' in 1988 and 1989's Beyond the Blue Neon, all of which reached the number one spot on country album charts. Ocean Front Property was the first country album to ever debut at No. 1 on the charts by any artist. The streak included such songs as "Ocean Front Property", "All My Ex's Live in Texas", "Famous Last Words of a Fool" and "Baby Blue", which is rumored to have been dedicated to his daughter. Strait finished the decade by winning the CMA Entertainer of the Year award in 1989. A year later, he won the award again.
Strait began the decade with the release of his tenth studio album, Livin' It Up, which featured two No. 1 hits including "Love Without End, Amen", his first multi-week hit, and "I've Come to Expect It From You". Both songs remained No. 1 for five weeks in 1990. Chill of an Early Fall shortly followed in 1991, and received positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly noted that the album marked a shift for Strait from "repeating himself" in his previous works to producing different material. It produced the No. 1's "If I Know Me" and "You Know Me Better Than That", but ended his streak of 31 straight top ten hits with the cover of "Lovesick Blues", which peaked at No. 24. The record blocked his run of eight top charting albums with its peak of No. 4. In the spring of 1992, Holding My Own was released. It did not produce any No. 1s but did include two top five songs including "So Much Like My Dad". Later in 1992, Strait played the main character in the movie Pure Country, and released the film's soundtrack. It was his most successful studio album, producing such hits as "Heartland," "I Cross My Heart" and "When Did You Stop Loving Me", and peaked at No. 1 and No. 6 respectively on the country and Billboard 200 album charts. The success continued with his next album, Easy Come, Easy Go in 1993, which reached the top five on the Billboard 200 and featured the hits "I'd Like to Have That One Back", "The Man in Love with You", and the No. 1 title track. His next four albums—including Lead On in 1994, Blue Clear Sky in 1996, Carrying Your Love with Me in 1997 and 1998's One Step at a Time—all charted at No. 1, with Blue Clear Sky claiming the spot on its debut week, and Carrying Your Love with Me peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for the first time in Strait's career. This series of albums produced eight number one singles for Strait, including "You Can't Make a Heart Love Somebody" "Carried Away", "One Night at a Time", and "I Just Want to Dance with You". During this period, Strait also released a four-disc box set career retrospective, Strait Out of the Box in 1995, which became the second best selling box set ever with shipments of 8 million in the United States. He also was named as the CMA's Top Male Vocalist in 1997 and 1998. Starting in '97, and continuing until the first year of the 21st century, Strait headlined the George Strait Country Music Festival, which included artists such has Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson and others. In an effort to introduce these acts to as many fans as possible, the festival promised not to visit any market more than twice. It played only a small number of dates, usually no more than twenty a year, but still managed to be the ninth biggest-grossing tour of 1998. In 2009 the George Strait Country Music Festival was voted the most important tour in the history of country music and the best selling country music tour in the 90s .
Strait completed the decade with the album Always Never the Same in 1999, which peaked at No. 2 on country charts and matched the cross-over success of Pure Country by reaching No. 6 on the Billboard 200. The record produced the hits "What Do You Say to That", "Meanwhile" and the No. 1 "Write This Down". Reviews of the album's material were generally moderate, but Entertainment Weekly observed that at this point in his career, Strait could record the "most lightweight" material and "make it soar" on the radio with his "grace". All in all, Strait scored 17 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country airplay charts in the decade, and carried his successes into the next century.
Strait released a self-named album in 2000, which despite a No. 1 and No. 7 showing on the country and Billboard 200 album charts, produced no No. 1 singles, and was the first studio album of his career to not be certified as platinum. The singles "Go On" and "If You Can Do Anything Else" were released from the record, with both peaking in the top five. In May 2001, The Road Less Traveled was released. Reviews for the album were mostly positive, Rolling Stone described it as sticking to the formula "but adds a few twists that make it superior to his last few releases."It featured "vocal processing," and was considered by some critics as an experimental album.Three singles were released from it, two of which reached No. 1, including "She'll Leave You with a Smile", his 50th on combined charts and "Living and Living Well", both of which reached the top 30 of Billboard Hot 100, with the former peaking at No. 23, Strait's highest rank on the chart. The single "Run" peaked at No. 2 and reached No. 34 on the Billboard 100. Strait released two records in 2003. For the Last Time: Live from the Astrodome was a recording of the last Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to take place in the Astrodome. The performance itself, set the record for paid attendance at the venue, with 68,266 people, breaking Latin superstar Selena's previous record of approximately 67,000 in 1995. His next album, Honkytonkville was described as "a fiery set of hard country", and was praised "for its mixture of the old Strait with his modern, superstar self." It didn't produce any No. 1's for Strait but included the hits "Cowboys Like Us" and a cover of Bruce Robison's "Desperately". His 2004 performance at Reliant Stadium set a new Rodeo attendance record, with 68,679 spectators. That year he issued a Greatest Hits package billed as 50 Number Ones, chronicalling the No. 1 hits of his career from all charts, starting with "Fool Hearted Memory" and ending with "She'll Leave You With a Smile." The next year, Somewhere Down in Texas arrived, which produced the hit "You'll Be There," marking Strait's first appearance on the Adult Contemporary chart. The next year, he embarked on a tour that included only 18 performances but grossed over $15 million. He attributed this success to the fact that he and his band are "musically very tight," have a large pool of songs to draw from, and perform those songs very similarly to how they sound on their albums.
George Strait on The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut, February 23, 2013
On October 3, 2006, Strait marked his 30th year in the music industry with the release of a new album titled It Just Comes Natural. It featured fifteen new songs. Strait's long-time friend and songwriter, Dean Dillon co-wrote two of the songs on the album. It received generally positive reviews from critics. People, in their four-star review, remarked that "If ever there was a natural in country music, it's Strait," while USA Today raved that "he continues to make such consistent quality look easy." The first single from the album, "Give It Away" reached No. 1 and the title track, "It Just Comes Natural" became his 42nd Billboard No. 1. In 2007, "Wrapped" reached No. 1 on the Mediabase 24/7 country music charts, giving Strait his 55th overall number-one single. From January through April of that year, Strait headlined a 23-date arena tour with country music legend Ronnie Milsap and newcomer Taylor Swift. He released a new album titled Troubadour on April 1, 2008. The CD contained 12 tracks, including a duet with Patty Loveless and another with long-time songwriter Dean Dillon. The lead single from the album, "I Saw God Today", debuted at No. 19 on the Radio and Records and Billboard charts. It is the highest debut ever for a single from Strait and the fourth highest debut for a song in country music history. Troubadour debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts, selling over 160,000 copies in its first week of release. "River of Love" the 3rd single from the album became his 57th number-one song in 2009.
George Strait on The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut, February 23, 2013
In April 2009, George Strait was honored by the Academy of Country Music with the Artist of the Decade Award. The artist of the decade award was presented to George Strait by the previous ACM Artist of the Decade Garth Brooks. In June of that year he headlined the first event at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Strait's single, "Living for the Night" was released on May 28, 2009, and was written by Strait, his son Bubba, and Dean Dillon. The song was the lead single from his album Twang, released on August 11, 2009. Twang has been certified gold status, for selling over 500,000 copies. In 2010, Billboard ranked Strait No. 1 in the top 25 country artists of the past 25 years. Never one to rest, Strait's newest album, Here for a Good Time, was released on September 6, 2011. It has yielded two No. 1 singles (the title track and "Love's Gonna Make It Alright") bringing Strait's No. 1 singles total to 59. Its third single, "Drinkin' Man" was far less successful, however, as it only reached No. 37, making it Strait's lowest-charting single at the time.
On September 26, 2012, Strait announced that he is retiring from touring, and that The Cowboy Rides Away Tour will be his last. The tour consists of two legs: the first leg will include 21 concerts in 2013 with Martina McBride as the opening performer; the second leg will include 20 concerts in 2014. Strait will perform with his long-time touring band, the Ace in the Hole Band.
Strait released a new single in October 2012 titled "Give It All We Got Tonight". Included on his album Love Is Everything, the song initiated a "60 for 60" movement by Strait's label, to make the song his sixtieth number-one single on all country charts while he was still 60 years old. The song reached the top of the Mediabase charts in May 2013. In 2014 he will undertaken a twenty-five show The Cowboy Rides Away Tour of North America.