George Strait, in full George Harvey Strait Sr., is an American country music singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor and music producer. He is also known as “King George”, for he holds the worldwide title “King of Country Music”, and is considered one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time.
He is a “neotraditionalist,” known for revitalizing interest in the western swing and honky-tonk music through his straightforward musical style, cowboy look, and being one of the first and main country artists that broke the trend of pop-influenced era prevalent in the 1980s.
George Strait’s Early Life
George Harvey Strait Sr. was born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet, Texas. His father was a junior high school mathematics teacher who also owned and operated a ranch that had been in their family for almost a century. When he was in fourth grade, his parents divorced. His mother took his sister to live with her, while George and his brother stayed with his father. During his youth, he would spend his weekdays in town and his weekends on the ranch.
Strait began playing music as a teenager, joining with his high-school rock & roll garage band. He attended Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) but soon dropped out and eloped with his high-school sweetheart, Norma, in Mexico. In 1971, Strait enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman; two years later, he was stationed in Hawaii. While there, he refined his guitar and vocal technique and began playing country music with an Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country.
After his honorable discharged from the Army in 1975, he resumed his studies at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and graduated with a degree in agriculture in 1979. While at the university, he joined the country band, Stoney Ridge, answering a flyer the band posted around campus looking for a new vocalist. Soon, he quickly became the lead and renamed the band, The Ace in the Hole Band.
He also met and became friends with Erv Woolsey, who had once worked for MCA Records. Woolsey used his Music Row connections to invite some executives to Texas to hear the band play.
In February 1981, MCA Records signed Strait to a one-song contract; if the song proved a success, the company would offer a longer-term agreement. Strait’s first single, “Unwound” (1981), reached number six on Billboard Magazine’s Hot Country Songs chart, landed him an extended contract with MCA, and ultimately launched his career as a professional musician. The Ace in the Hole band continued to play with Strait as his backup band.
A Country Purist Turned King of Country Music
During the next decade, Strait released more than a dozen albums, each of which sold more than a million copies. In 1992, Strait played the role of a country music superstar in the film Pure Country, which further fueled his popularity.
His first No. 1 song was “Fool Hearted Memory,” and through the 1990s, he had a total of 31 No. 1 hits. By the mid-1980s, Strait was winning awards, such as the CMA Album of the Year, in 1985, for “Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” to his win for CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1989 and again in 1990.
In 2003, George’s Album, Honkytonkville, featured such hits as “Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa” and “Cowboys Like Us.” That same year, Strait received the National Medal of the Arts from President George W. Bush.
Throughout his music career which spans for more than 30 years, Strait holds 60 No. 1 singles, more than any other artist in any genre. He amassed 33 platinum, 13 multi-platinum and 38 gold albums, more than any country artist and third across all genres behind only The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
He is the only act in history to have a Top 10 hit every year for over three decades and has sold more than 70 million albums and earned more than 60 major entertainment industry awards, including induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist.
His 2008 release, Troubadour, won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album. By 2009, he broke Conway Twitty’s previous record for the most number-one hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart when his 44 number one singles surpassed Twitty’s 40.
In late 2013, Strait earned the Country Music Association’s award for entertainer of the year for the third time in his career. Strait issued his 29th studio album, Cold Beer Conversation, in 2015, and he began a residency in Las Vegas the following year.
In June 2014, Strait’s concert at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas drew 104,793 people, marking a new record for the largest indoor concert in North America.
Strait performed six sold-out shows at the T-Mobile Arena in 2016 as part of his “Strait to Vegas” exclusive concert series, which has been extended into 2017 due to overwhelming demand. George Strait is now set to expand his “Strait to Vegas” shows into 2020.
Also, on September 13, 2019, Strait celebrates the release of the official soundtrack for Country Music – A Film By Ken Burns, a documentary that presents a comprehensive history of country music in America and its evolution throughout the 20th century. Strait joined artists such as Randy Travis and The Judds on the soundtrack via his signature hit “Amarillo By Morning.”
The Country Music Hall of Fame member also released 2019’s best-selling Country album, Honky Tonk Time Machine, in MCA Nashville March 29. It was recorded in Jimmy Buffett’s studio in Key West back in July 2018. The album quickly became Strait’s record-extending 27th No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and number four on their Top 200. Honky Tonk Time Machine marks an incredible 30th career studio album for Strait.
King George’s Personal Life
“I want to reach the point where people hear my name and immediately think of real country music.”
Other than his music career, Strait has several interests, including steer-roping, golf, fishing, and skiing. He and his wife Norma have one son named George Jr., known as “Bubba”, who is pursuing a career as a professional rodeo competitor and who is also a songwriter like his father.
In February 2012, Strait became a grandfather when George Strait Jr. and his wife Tamara had their first child, a son. According to reports, he was named George H. Strait III.
Strait and his family were struck with tragedy when his 13-year-old daughter, Jenifer, was killed in a one-car, alcohol-unrelated accident in 1986. The incident caused him to greatly limit his contact with the media. He stopped doing interviews for many years after the accident, as his family and he did not wish to discuss Jenifer’s death. In honor of her life, the family set up the Jenifer Lynn Strait Foundation, which donates money to children’s charities mostly in the San Antonio area.
The first single, – “You’ll Be There”- from George’s album “Somewhere Down In Texas” (released in 2005) had special meaning for George. He stated that he had faith and believed he would meet Jenifer again someday.
Since 2010, he also has served as spokesman for the Wrangler National Patriot program, a campaign designed to raise awareness and funds for America’s wounded and fallen military veterans and their families. He also supports the “100 Clubs of San Antonio”, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of families of Law Enforcement, Firefighters and EMT in San Antonio and Bexar County who have fallen in the line of duty.
And, by the way, George Strait is a cousin of Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of amazon.com, the world’s largest online shopping retailer.
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