by Garrett Coble
Unlike other types of music, there is little debate over the canonical figures of country music. Whether pondering the nature of the genre’s contemporary hits or the place of the outlaws in country history, one name remains constant. Known as the King of Country, that man is George Strait.
The San Antonio native earned his title of King by producing a seemingly endless supply of No. 1 hits, over 60 total. Strait first tested the waters of his music career by taking part in an Army country band during his service. After parting ways with the Army, George joined a band during his college days, answering the band’s call for a new singer. Eventually, this band would take on the now-famous name of “Ace In The Hole,” and provide the background to Strait’s honky-tonk vocals.
Recording songs such as “Unwound” and “Fool Hearted Memory,” Strait provided a traditional sound contrary to the pop-oriented country music dominating the radio and differentiated himself from the “hat acts” such as Clint Black and Garth Brooks that took the genre by storm in the ‘90s. Much of this success came from his ability to pick and choose other’s songs and shape them to fit his artistic tastes. In fact, you must travel back to 1982 to find a song (“I Can’t See Texas From Here”) on a Strait album that he composed himself.
Just as Strait provided a contrast to his pop-focused contemporaries in his early days, he remained critical of country music’s direction throughout his career. “Murder on Music Row,” a collaboration with Alan Jackson, describes the metastasizing of popular music into the country ranks. In 1992, Strait’s film debut, “Pure Country,” provided one of the artist’s best selling albums and also highlighted his distaste for the rock’n’roll, over-the-top touring style employed by his fellow artists. It thus came as little surprise when George Strait announced in late 2012 that he would retire following the “Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” despite his massive success in touring.
Earlier this year, Strait announced the final tour dates of his “Cowboy Rides Away” tour. The tour is set to include such famous voices as Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Merle Haggard and Martina McBride as supporting acts on Strait’s final roadtrip. The bus will make stops at cities around the nation including Baton Rouge, Dallas, Austin and Tulsa. The demand for tickets has overwhelmed most venues; the Staples Center in Los Angles sold out in little over nine minutes.