In 1981, George Strait made a major label debut with his song “Unwound.” Released as the lead single from his debut album Strait Country, the song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart – it was Strait’s first top-ten hit.
Strait regularly included “Unwound” in his set on his Cowboy Rides Away Tour. The song’s influence has also been acknowledged through the years by different artists. Did you know this is the song that inspired a young Garth Brooks to pursue his own dream of country stardom? Other than Brooks, Toby Keith also performed it during the 2010 ACM tribute to Strait and his fellow country traditionalists.
It Was Pure Luck That Landed Strait To What Would Be His Breakout Song
Written by Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus, “Unwound” tells the tale of a man having issues with his woman. He went out drinking one night because:
“That woman that I had wrapped around my finger just come unwound. She kicked me out of the house, and tonight I’m whisky bound. I’m gonna be the drunkest fool in town. ‘Cause that woman that I had wrapped around my finger just come unwound,” Strait sings.
Dillon recalled to Texas Monthly that after he moved to Nashville in 1973, Dycus was the first songwriter he met. While mulling over the song idea at Nashville’s Third Coast bar, Dycus walked through the door, and the two made such a history.
“We wrote this song. I can’t even remember it. It was so bad,” Dillon recalled. “I’m really depressed because the song’s horrible” until Dycus came.
“I said, ‘Man, I’ve got a great song idea. Let’s write it,'” he continued. “He said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘She’s got me wrapped around her finger, but tonight I’m gonna unwind.’ And he looked at me and thought for a minute, and he said, ‘What about this: ‘That woman that I had wrapped around my finger just came unwound?”
“And I said, ‘Well, hell, I like that better,'” Dillon added. “So we sat down at a table on that patio and wrote a song called “Unwound.” In about forty-five minutes. And got good and drunk doing it.”
Dillon and Dycus originally wrote the song for country singer Johnny Paycheck. However, Paycheck was in jail at the time.
Strait’s record producer, Blake Mevis, had to drive over to Dillon’s house in 1980, where he found Dillon and Dycus writing songs on the front porch. He asked them if they had any new songs for a ‘new kid from Texas.’ Since Paycheck could no longer use “Unwound,” they gave it to Mevis for Strait to sing.
Pitching a song to an unknown artist – which Strait was at the time – was not something writers usually did back then. “Nobody that was a songwriter in their right mind would give some twenty-something-year-old kid from Texas, completely unknown, their top-drawer stuff,” Dillon explained. But he liked Strait’s voice, so he continued to pitch the future country legend some of his other songs.
“So, I pitched him everything I had and ended up with six songs on his first album. I think a lot of that had to do with nobody else would give him anything. He never forgot that,” Dillon said. Since then, Strait has cut over fifty of Dillon’s songs, and the two frequently co-write together.
You can listen to George Strait’s “Unwound” in the video below.