“Amarillo By Morning” has become one of country music’s most recognizable anthems, and it has helped propel George Strait to stardom. The song appeared on the King of Country’s 1982 album Strait from the Heart.
However, despite holding the record for the most No. 1 hits – with sixty under his belt, marking stands in all fields of music – “Amarillo By Morning” was one of Strait’s best-known works that didn’t make it to the top of Billboard’s country singles chart. The song only peaked at No. 4.
But the song’s backstory is rather an interesting one.
The Team Up That Brought The Most Classic Song in History
Written by Terry Stafford and Paul Fraser, “Amarillo By Morning” tells the tale of a rodeo cowboy and his life on the road.
“They took my saddle in Houston, broke my leg in Santa Fe. Lost my wife and a girlfriend somewhere along the way. Well, I’ll be looking for eight when they pull that gate. And I hope that judge ain’t blind. Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s on my mind,” the song goes on.
Although Stafford was born in Hollis, Oklahoma, he grew up in Amarillo, Texas. In 1964, Stafford made his first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart with the classic rock ‘n’ roll hit “Suspicion.” When listeners initially heard his version of the song, many thought it was Elvis Presley’s latest release.
It became an instant hit for Stafford. However, he eventually couldn’t find a follow-up to his big record and soon faded from the rock music scene. Still, Stafford did not get out of the business. Basing his operations out of California, the former singer wrote for other acts and worked in films and television as an actor.
Finally, in 1969, singer Buck Owens took Stafford’s “Big In Vegas” up the charts, and the songwriter started thinking about coming back to his roots. By 1973, Stafford had signed a country record deal with the Atlantic label and tried making his mark in Nashville.
At about the same time, another old rocker, Paul Fraser, was offered a chance to earn a songwriting draw. Needing the steady money and tired of long road tours, Fraser took the job and teamed up with Stafford to write songs.
The Song’s Interesting Backstory
Paul Fraser had been enlisted to write a musical score for a movie, so he and Stafford started working on that each morning. One night, Stafford was watching television, and a commercial for a delivery service came on. The commercial’s tagline of a delivery service got his attention! It guaranteed that it could “get your package to places like Amarillo by the next morning.” Stafford was caught up in the phrase – perhaps because Amarillo was his hometown – and he decided to write a song around that concept.
Stafford called Fraser and told him about his new idea. The two decided to meet the next morning and devoted some time to it. But Fraser couldn’t wait that long, and the lyrics were starting to come to him immediately. Sitting down at his kitchen table, he wrote the whole thing in about an hour. The next morning, Fraser presented Stafford with the finished number. Stafford liked it, and within weeks, Stafford’s recording of “Amarillo By Morning” was on the market – released on his album Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose in 1973.
Several cover versions have since been made. In addition to George Strait, rodeo champion Chris LeDoux also recorded the song in 1975 on his album Life as a Rodeo Man, Asleep at the Wheel, and John Arthur Martinez on his album Lone Starry Night in 2004.
Today, “Amarillo by Morning” is one of the most frequently covered songs. Tune in below for George Strait’s rendition of “Amarillo by Morning,” and get ready to be blown away.