All good things come to an end, and such is the case of the legendary touring career of country singer George Strait. On Saturday night, he will take the stage at the Tacoma Dome as part of his Cowboy Rides Away tour.
Since his debut on the country music scene in 1981, Strait has remained one of the genre’s consistent hit makers and seminal figures. With more than 68 million albums sold, and more gold and platinum records than anyone besides Elvis Presley and the Beatles, it’s fair to say that there isn’t a whole lot left that Strait can hope to achieve at this point in his career.
While he is one of country music’s most beloved artists, he’s also one of its most mysterious figures. Notoriously tight-lipped and press-shy, he has spent the vast part of his career letting his music do the talking for him.
In advance of his final bow, here is a list of 10 things you might not know about The King of Country.
1. He got his first taste of performing country music in the Aloha State.
Growing up in the San Antonio area with a father who ran a 2,000-acre cattle ranch, you might think Strait would have been exposed to country music from an early age. This was not so. As he recalled to Billboard Magazine in 2013, in the Strait household, if the radio was on, more often than not it was tuned to the news or the local ranch report. It wasn’t until he left home after high school that he first took notice of country music. And it wasn’t until enlisting in the Army took him to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii that he joined up with an all-service-member band called Rambling Country.
2. He is a huge supporter of military veterans.
In the same interview with Billboard, Strait looked back on his time in the Army as one of the most formative periods of his life. Not one to forget his roots, the singer has spent many years supporting veterans and veterans’ groups across the country. What’s more, at each stop along the way of his Cowboy Rides Away tour, Strait, in conjunction with the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Homes 4 Wounded Heroes, has presented keys to a new home to a chosen veteran and their family.
3. He doesn’t fear commitment.
Strait first met his wife, Norma, while they were attending Pearsall High School in Texas. The two dated for a number of years before eloping to Mexico in December 1971 and have been together since. This loyalty streak also has been extended to those within his professional circle. He’s played in front of the same backing group, the Ace in the Hole Band, since the mid-1970s and has had the same manager, Erv Woolsey, since 1981.
4. He got his starring role in the film “Pure Country” partially because of Elvis’ manager “Colonel” Tom Parker.
Strait is among the country music stars who have taken their turn on the silver screen. In 1992, Strait signed on to play the lead in the film “Pure Country” as a successful but disillusioned musician looking for love. While the film itself was considered a bomb, the soundtrack proved to be the most successful of the singer’s career, selling more than 6 million copies. None of it might have happened, however, if not for the intervention of Elvis Presley’s notorious manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker. According to “George Strait: The Story of Country’s Living Legend,” Parker went to see one of Strait’s concerts in Las Vegas, and was struck by the performance. As one of the pioneers of cross-media promotion, Parker approached film producer Jerry Weintraub about putting Strait in a movie. Weintraub eventually made a call to screenwriter Rex McGee, and the rest, as they say, is history.
5. Strait has seen 60 of his songs reach number one on the country charts, not one of which was actually written by Strait.
They don’t call him The King of Country for nothing. Strait’s dominance of the country music charts is absolutely unparalleled, with 60 of his songs claiming the number one spot. He didn’t do it by himself, however. While no one is saying that Strait can’t write a song, not a single one of his chart-toppers was actually penned by the country music star himself. Of the dozens of songwriters Strait has employed over the years, none has had a greater impact on his career than Dean Dillon, who is directly responsible for 10 of the singer’s number ones. For his work with Strait as well as with other stars such as George Jones, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith, Dillon was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
6. He is a card-carrying member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
After country music, perhaps Strait’s biggest passion is for the rodeo. With his son George “Bubba” Strait Jr., he has competed in numerous team-roping events over the years. He even hosts his own annual team-roping classic, which draws some of the best competitors from across the world. The event has become a south Texas tradition and this year is poised to celebrate its 32nd running.
7. May 18 has been officially declared George Strait Day in the state of Texas.
At the final show of the first leg of his Cowboy Rides Away tour in his hometown, My San Antonio reported that Strait was met back stage at the Alamodome by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who officially proclaimed that the singer’s May 18 birthday would be recognized as George Strait Day in the Lone Star State.
8. It took him 28 years to win his first Grammy.
George Strait’s award room must surely be a sight to behold. He holds the record for most Country Music Association Awards with 22, including three for Entertainer of the Year. He holds the same record with the Academy of Country Music, was named by Billboard Magazine as the top country music artist of the past 25 years in 2010, and in 2006 was inducted as only the second active recording artist in the Country Music Hall of Fame. But for all the accolades, one prize eluded him for a long time — a Grammy. His drought finally came to an end in 2009 with the release of “Troubadour,” though he elected not to be present to receive the award. Three albums later he’s still looking for his second golden gramophone.
9. He has his own signature line of cowboy hats.
You’d be hard pressed to find a picture of Strait without his trademark Resistol cowboy hat. What you might not know is that if you really want to get that King of Country look, Resistol offers their very own George Strait collection. With 24 different models of hats, you couldn’t possibly go wrong.
10. Strait recorded a little-known duet with his hero — Frank Sinatra.
Strait has been vocal about his many country music influences and heroes throughout the years. Among them are George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell and Bob Wills. One of his more surprising idols, however, is “Ol Blue Eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra. Strait’s fondness for Sinatra is so fervent that he even recorded a duet with the iconic crooner: the latter’s 1964 hit “Fly Me To The Moon,” which was earmarked for Sinatra’s early ’90s “Duets” album. Though left out of the final project, the song ultimately saw release two years later on the compilation set “Strait Out of the Box.”
What: Cowboy Rides Away tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tacoma Dome
Tickets: Only individual tickets still were available earlier this week on Ticketmaster for about $113. Resale tickets were going for $145 and more.