Ten George Strait songs that define his 30-year career

George Strait in St. Paul, 2006
George Strait in St. Paul, 2006

In a press conference streamed live last week from his website, country legend George Strait announced his farewell tour, aptly coined "The Cowboy Rides Away Tour." Is he sick? Don't think so. Gettin' too old? Nah, some of the old fellers still touring have got at least two decades on him. Wants to spend more time fishing with his new grandson? Yup, pretty much.

Don't cry - Strait's farewell tour is going to last two long years, starting off in Lubbock, Texas on January 18, and includes a February 15 stop at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. Furthermore, he plans to keep recording and performing in special appearances after that. In anticipation of the Xcel stop's October 12 onsale date, here's ten things you absolutely need to know about George Strait and the songs that go along with them.

And just for fun, pretend I'm reading these to you in my best Casey Kasem voice. Or in the voice of Casey's inbred cousin, whatever.

10. He has had nearly as many Number One country singles as he's had years walking this earth -- 59 Number Ones to his 60 years of age. Plus, he holds the world record for more Number Ones than any other artist on any chart and in any genre. Of ninety-two singles released since 1981, all but eight have reached Top Ten status on the Billboard charts. Here's #59, off his 2011 album Here for a Good Time, which peaked at Number Three on the Billboard chart but went to Number One on the Mediabase chart.

9. If Billboard is the only chart that matters to you, his record there is nothin' to sneeze at, neither. His 44 Country Number Ones are still a record, ever since he broke Conway Twitty's record of 40. And you and me both know that Conway only got to 40 thanks to his duets with Loretta. Strait is also the first artist in the history of Billboard to have at least one single enter the Top Ten of any given chart for thirty consecutive years, starting with his '81 debut. Here's his first Number One on that chart.

8. Strait is as real country as country gets. Growing up in Pearsall, Texas, south of San Antonio, he worked the family's two-thousand acre cattle ranch on weekends and in the summers with his father, and his manner of dress and the style and nature of his songs, voice and music all scream pure country. His parents divorced when he was young, and his sister left with his mom, leaving George's dad to raise him and his brother. Now, George has been married over 40 years to his high school sweetheart, but it's likely this 1987 song hits home nonetheless.


Strait's first single "Unwound," off his 1981 debut album

Strait Country

, was originally written by Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus for country legend Johnny Paycheck. But Paycheck was in jail at the time, and couldn't record it, so they gave the song to the newcomer Strait. Dillon has gone on to write or co-write over 40 songs for George Strait since poor ol' Paycheck blew it.

6. This Terry Stafford tune has been covered by everyone from Chris LeDoux to Asleep at the Wheel, but George Strait had the biggest hit with it... and it's one of my favorites.

5. In the moment between when Nashville transitioned from slick countrypolitan to pop-sensible crossovers, only George Strait could pull off turning this Tommy Collins-penned, Faron Young-popularized song into a big hit.

4. Have you seen George Strait's 1992 film Pure Country? It is awful. Awful, awful, just perfectly awful. Did I say awful? Perfectly awful. As in, you gotta see it, because it's pretty perfectly, wonderfully, brain-numbingly awesomely awful and great and totally worth a rental. Preferably on VHS. Drink while you're watching it, then follow up with that bad Toby Keith movie, and then that Samantha Mathis/River Phoenix gem, The Thing Called Love for a totally awesome Friday night date night -- or something resembling awesome, anyway. Just go with it. If you're with the right person, it just might get you laid.


After over two decades in the business, Strait didn't fade into the background of country music like many of his early-80s compadres. In 2006, he was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, in 2009, the Academy of Country Music named him Artist of the Decade, and in that same year, he won his first Grammy for the album


. Here's his big Number One from that record.

2. Strait was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1989 and 1990, ACM Entertainer of the Year in 1990, and to date has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins than any other artist. In 1985, he received his third award, and first CMA Album of the Year award for Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.

1. And so's ya know where he got the name for his farewall tour, here ya go.

George Strait. $71.50-$91.50, with opener Martina McBride at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.

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