18 May 1952, Poteet, Texas, USA. Country superstar George Strait is a throwback to the 50s honky-tonk sound of country music. He uses twin fiddles and steel guitar and his strong, warm delivery is similar to that of his idols Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell. He has made no secret of his influences, recording a fine tribute to Frizzell, Leftys Gone.
Strait, the second son of a schoolteacher, was raised in Pearsall, Texas. When his father took over the family ranch, he developed an interest in farming. Strait heard country music throughout his youth but the record that cemented his love was Merle Haggards A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World (Or, My Salute To Bob Wills). Strait dropped out of college to elope with his girlfriend, Norma, and then enlisted in the US Army. While there, he began playing country music. While at university studying agriculture, he founded the Ace In The Hole band (his 1989 US country number 1, Ace In The Hole, was not about his band, nor did it feature them).
In 1976, Strait briefly recorded for Pappy Dailys D Records in Houston, one title being That Dont Change The Way I Feel About You. Starting in 1977, Strait made trips to Nashville, but he was too shy to do himself justice. Disillusioned, he considered a return to Texas but his wife urged him to persevere. A club owner he had worked for, Erv Woolsey, was working for MCA Records; he signed him to the label and then became his manager. In 1981, Straits first single, Unwound, made number 6 in the US country charts. After two further hits, Fool Hearted Memory, from The Soldier, a movie in which he had a cameo role, went to number 1. Strait was unsure about the recitation on You Look So Good In Love, but it was another chart-topper and led to him calling a racehorse Looks Good In Love. Straits run of US country number 1 hits during this period included A Fire I Cant Put Out, Right Or Wrong, Lets Fall Pieces Together, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, The Chair, Nobody In His Right Mind Wouldve Left Her, and It Aint Cool To Be Crazy About You.
Strait suffered a personal tragedy when his daughter, Jennifer, died in a car accident in 1986. Managing to compose himself, Ocean Front Property became the first album to enter Billboards country music chart at number 1, and it included three more classic chart-toppers in the shape of the title track, All My Exs Live In Texas (which demonstrated his love of western swing), and Am I Blue. The white-Stetsoned Strait, who also manages to run a large farm, became one of the USAs top concert attractions, winning many awards from the Country Music Association, but it was only in 1989 that he became their Entertainer Of The Year. Further country chart-toppers during this period included Famous Last Words Of A Fool, Baby Blue and If You Aint Lovin (You Aint Livin) (from If You Aint Lovin (You Aint Livin)); Babys Gotten Good At Goodbye, Whats Going On In Your World and Ace In The Hole (from Beyond The Blue Neon); Love Without End, Amen and Ive Come To Expect It From You (from Livin It Up). The latter two topped the Billboard singles chart for an impressive five weeks apiece.
After releasing 1991s excellent Chill Of An Early Fall (which included the number 1 singles If I Know Me and You Know Me Better Than That), Strait enjoyed a major commercial success with a starring role in the movie Pure Country. The soundtrack included two more chart-toppers for the artist in the shape of I Cross My Heart and Heartland. The magnificent box set Strait Out Of The Box, released in 1995, demonstrated how consistent the artist had been over the years. Among the previously unissued tracks was a bizarre duet of Fly Me To The Moon, featuring that well-known honky-tonk singer Frank Sinatra. Meanwhile, new albums Lead On (1994) and Clear Blue Sky (1996) were as good as anything Strait had recorded previously, the latter making its debut at number 1 on the Billboard country chart. Carrying Your Love With Me, another excellent collection that provided him with his first mainstream chart-topper, put Strait up there with the leading male country artists of the 90s even though the creases on his jeans remained dangerously straight. His status was confirmed when he picked up awards for Best Male Artist and Best Album at the 1997 CMA Awards. One Step At A Time (1998) and Always Never The Same continued the fine run of albums and were major country and mainstream hits
Strait entered the new millennium with his popularity as great as ever, and even permitted himself a rare foray into uncharted territory on 2001s The Road Less Traveled with its use of a vocal processor. Straits two releases in 2003, a live set from the Houston Astrodome and the hard country collection Honkeytonkville, played it straight down the middle. The following years compilation set 50 Number Ones celebrated the remarkable commercial success of one of the living giants of country music - he has enjoyed more number one hits than any other country artist apart from Conway Twitty, although the total includes chart-toppers from the R&R and Gavin charts in addition to the more commonly cited Billboard data. The album also topped the mainstream charts. Strait, meanwhile, put any thoughts of slowing down behind him with a string of platinum selling releases, with Somewhere Down In Texas (2005) and Troubadour (2008) both reaching the top of the mainstream album chart.
Strait is probably the most consistently successful country artist ever, in that he never puts a foot wrong, either in his recordings, stage performances or his personal life. He was elected into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2006.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.