George Harvey Strait (born May 18, 1952) is a Grammy Award-winning American country music singer. Strait is referred to as the "King of Country," and critics call Strait a living legend. He is known for his unique style of western swing music, bar-room ballads, honky-tonk style, and fresh yet traditional country western music.
Strait rocketed to success after his debut single "Unwound" in 1981. While contributing to the neo-traditional movement of the 1980s, he amassed 18 number one singles and seven number one albums in the decade with hits such as "Fool Hearted Memory" and "Ocean Front Property." By the 1990s, Strait had influenced a new breed of performers while continuing his own successes with 17 number one hits including "Heartland" and "Blue Clear Sky." The next decade for which he was named Artist Of The Decade by the ACM, he was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame and won his first Grammy award for his hit album Troubadour. Strait continued his previous successes during this time, producing a more contemporary sound with moderate cross-over hits including "She'll Leave You with a Smile" and "You'll Be There."
Strait won 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. As of 2009, he holds the record for the most Number One hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts with 44 number one singles on that chart. Counting all other music charts, Strait has amassed a total of 57 number one hits overall, breaking a record previously set by Conway Twitty.
Strait's 38 hit albums Strait has sold more than 73 million recordings and his certifications from the RIAA include 13 multi-platinum, 34 platinum and 38 gold albums. His overall certification numbers are third of all musicians, behind Elvis Presley and The Beatles.. The RIAA has certified his albums at 73? platinum, denoting shipments of 73.5 million in the United States. His best-selling album is Pure Country (1992), which sold 6 million (6? Multi-platinum). His highest certified album is Strait Out of the Box (1995), which sold 2 million copies (8? Multi-Platinum due to being a box set with four CDs). According to the RIAA, Strait is the 8th best-selling recording artist in the United States overall.
Strait was born in Poteet, Texas, just south of San Antonio, and grew up in the nearby town of Pearsall. His father, John Byron Strait, was a junior high school mathematics teacher, who owned a 2,000 acre (8 km?) cattle ranch outside of Big Wells, Texas. The family would work at the farm on the weekends and in the summers. Strait's mother left with his sister while he was in third grade, leaving him and his brother to be raised by their father.
Strait began his musical interest while attending Pearsall High School, playing in a rock and roll garage band. His musical preference soon turned to country with singers Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bob Wills, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra influencing his style. Strait didn't 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. After graduating from high school, Strait enrolled at Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University) in San Marcos, Texas, but dropped out and moved in with his high school sweetheart, Norma. The couple initially married in Mexico but repeated their vows in a church in Texas a few weeks later. In 1971, Strait enlisted in the US Army. While stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii as a part of the 25th Infantry division (light), he 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 welcomed their first child, Jenifer.
An early single with The Ace in the Hole Band
After Strait was honorably discharged from the army in 1975, he returned to college in San Marcos, where he graduated in 1979 with 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" 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 1980. The "Ace in the Hole" remained with Strait, but performed 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 #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 '90s. Strait Country was hailed by critics as a traditionalist breakthrough that broke the trend of pop-influenced country prevalent at the time. 1982 also saw the release of Strait's second album, the critically acclaimed Strait from the Heart, which featured the first number one 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, which became 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 seventeen subsequent #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 #1 album #7. Strait and his family were struck with tragedy when his 13-year-old daughter, Jenifer, was killed in an automobile accident by a drunken driver. The incident did not hinder Strait's performance, as he went on to release 11 straight #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 #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.
Throughout the '90s, just as in the '80s, Strait dominated the country singles charts, and his albums consistently went platinum or gold. He rarely strayed from hardcore honky tonk and Western swing but toward the beginning of the '90s, his sound became a little slicker. Strait was one of the few '80s superstars to survive the generational shift of the early '90s, which began with the phenomenal success of Garth Brooks. He was also one of the top touring country acts of the 1990s. His concerts set attendance records at more than twenty venues around the United States.
Strait began the decade with the release of his tenth studio album, Livin' It Up, which featured two #1 hits including "Love Without End, Amen", his first multi-week hit, and "I've Come to Expect It From You". Both songs remained #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 #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 #24. The record blocked his run of eight top charting albums with its peak of #4. In the spring of 1992, Holding My Own was released. It did not produce any #1s but did include two top five songs including "So Much Like My Dad".
Strait in Pure Country
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 #1 and #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 #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 #1, with Blue Clear Sky claiming the spot on its debut week, and Carry Your Love with Me peaking at #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 90's .
Strait completed the decade with the album Always Never the Same in 1999, which peaked at #2 on country charts and matched the cross-over success of Pure Country by reaching #6 on the Billboard 200. The record produced the hits "What Do You Say to That", "Meanwhile" and the #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.
2000 ? present: Career today
Strait released a self-named album in 2000, which despite a #1 and #7 showing on the country and Billboard 200 album charts, produced 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 albums. Three singles were released from it, two of which reached #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 #23, Strait's highest rank on the chart. The single "Run" peaked at #2 and reached #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.
George Strait performing at the MCI Center in 2003
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 #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 #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.
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 off the album, "Give It Away" reached #1 and the title track, "It Just Comes Natural" became his 42nd Billboard #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 twenty-three 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 off the album, "I Saw God Today", debuted at #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 #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.
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 latest single, "Living for the Night" was released on May 28, 2009, and was written by Strait, his son Bubba, and Dean Dillon. The song is the lead single off of his album entitled Twang, released on August 11, 2009. "Twang" has been certified gold status, for selling over 500,000 copies.
Strait at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in 2005
In 1981, Strait and Norma welcomed son George Strait, Jr., known as "Bubba." Their daughter Jenifer was killed in an automobile accident in San Marcos, Texas, in 1986, at the age of 13. The family set up a foundation, The Jenifer Lynn Strait Foundation, which donates money to children's charities in the San Antonio, Texas area. Bubba, who is a graduate of Texas A&M University, is pursuing a career as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) team roping competitor. Strait was able to watch his son compete at the Houston Rodeo in 2006 shortly before taking the stage for his own performance.
As pastimes, Strait enjoys hunting, fishing, skiing, playing golf, and riding motorcycles. Along with his son Bubba, he is a member of the PRCA and partners in team roping competitions. George and his elder brother Buddy, who died in April 2009, host the annual George Strait Team Roping Classic, in which they compete against some of the best team ropers in the world. Strait has also said that he very seldom picks up a guitar when not in the studio or touring. He and his wife live in far north-west San Antonio in the wealthy gated community The Dominion as well as on a ranch near Cotulla, Texas some 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio. He is also a big fan of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and can be seen court-side at many of the Spurs' home basketball games.
Strait also is known for driving Chevrolets, as he is the spokesman for a local Texas Chevrolet dealership, and often refers to Chevy's in his songs.