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Before George Strait, Meet the Man Behind “Amarillo By Morning”


Who would have thought that the song the King of Country George Strait made a hit was not originally his? “Amarillo By Morning” is one of the greatest hits of Strait and considered to be one of his signature songs.

Interestingly, over his 33-year record career, George Strait holds the record for having 60 number-one hits more than any other performer in history. This is adding the number of songs that have topped the Billboard charts (44) with the songs that went no. 1 on the Mediabase charts (16). With all these, “Amarillo By Morning”, however, peaked only at no. 4 on the Billboard chart. Furthermore, it is not Strait who wrote nor recorded it first. In fact, he recorded his own version of the song in 1983, about ten years after the original was released.

About the Song

Released in 1973 as a country song, “Amarillo By Morning” was originally recorded by American singer-songwriter Terry Stafford. In addition, he co-penned the song with a friend and fellow songwriter Paul Fraser. On the other hand, American record producer Blake Melvis produced it for Atlantic Records.

Furthermore, “Amarillo By Morning” became a big hit attracting several artists to record their own versions. As a matter of fact, before George Strait recorded his own version in 1983, there were a number of notable versions.

In 1975, American country music singer-songwriter and rodeo champion Chris LeDoux recorded the song and included it on his album Life As a Rodeo Man. South Texas recording artist Clifton Jansky who hails from San Antonio, Texas, recorded his own version in 1979. This then led to Strait recording his own and the most popular version of the song. Since then, the signature song became one of the best George Strait songs.

Stafford’s original version was just cut at two minutes and 28 seconds long while Strait’s was at two minutes and 52 seconds.

Moreover, “Amarillo By Morning” was chosen by the members of the Western Writers of America as one of the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time.

Terry Stafford: The Man Behind “Amarillo By Morning”

A prolific singer-songwriter of his time, Terry LaVerne Stafford, or simply Terry Stafford, was best known for his hits: “Suspicion” (1964), and “Amarillo By Morning” (1973). He was actually famous for his Elvis Presley sound-alike vocal ability.

Born on November 22, 1941, Terry Stafford was the son of a U.S. Navy veteran and a farmer. He grew up in a rural area in Hollis in Oklahoma. His family then moved to the city of Amarillo in Texas where he graduated high school in 1960. wanting to pursue a musical career, he eventually moved to Los Angeles, California.

In 1964, he recorded and released “Suspicion,” one of his best-known hits. It sold over one million copies and was certified Gold by RIAA. Stafford then continued to record more songs, however, they did not chart as great as that of “Suspicion.” Luckily, in 1973, he released “Amarillo By Morning” which significantly placed on the charts.

Notes say that Stafford created the song after playing with his band at a rodeo in San Antonio, Texas, and then driving back to his home in Amarillo, Texas.

Stafford met Paul Fraser with whom he co-wrote the song. That night, Stafford was busy watching television when a commercial for a delivery service came on. The tagline of the commercial caught his attention. The delivery service guaranteed that it could “get your package to places like Amarillo by the next morning.” Struck by the tagline and thinking that he’s from Amarillo, he decided to conceptualize the song and later presented it to Fraser.

Amarillo by mornin'
Up from San Antone
Everything that I got
Is just what I've got on

When that sun is high in that Texas sky
I'll be buckin' at the county fair
Amarillo by mornin'
Amarillo, I'll be there

Terry Stafford’s Death

After releasing his hits, Stafford continued with his musical career recording and releasing songs. However, after “Amarillo By Morning,” his hits were kept unfollowed. For most of his life, he lived between Los Angeles, California, and Amarillo, Texas. Terry Stafford passed away in Amarillo due to liver failure on March 17, 1996. He was 54 years old.

LISTEN: Terry Stafford sings the 1973 original version of “Amarillo By Morning.”

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