(originally posted 09-03-06)
The good, no, great news is, George Strait is being inducted into the CMA Hall Of Fame this year. I’m currently listening to George on my computer, and good grief - he is SO good!
Travelling back in time, to the 1980’s, when I’d had my fill of the country music that was being played on the radio (sound familiar????), I switched over to rock (thank goodness, or my kids would be outcasts, being exposed to only country music). And thank goodness, I have “Jump” by Van Halen seared into my brain.
It was around the late ’80’s when we started going out to a nice club called Dakota Lounge (ah, those were the days) to dance to the featured bands. I started hearing songs that were REALLY GOOD. And I thought, hmmmm, maybe I should check out the country radio dial to see what’s up. Naturally, I’d missed the revolution that had happened in country music. There was this guy called “George Strait”. Actually, I remember before that, going over to Mom & Dad’s, and they insisted on playing this VCR tape they had of a “George Strait” concert. I was like, who is this guy? He seems real popular.
But back to the radio dial. There were some really good songs by singers I’d never heard of. Some guy named “Clint Black” was doing “Better Man”. There was this guy in a white cowboy hat, who was “country with an edge”, doing songs like, “Guitars, Cadillacs”. There was a new guy, with a song called, “Here In The Real World”. I really liked him. Then there was a guy named Randy Travis, doing, “1982″. On the female side, there was a group called “Sweethearts Of The Rodeo”, and I really liked their songs. Theirs was actually the first cassette tape I bought, once I decided to take the plunge back into country music.
Anyway, I thought, “just my luck. I finally turned away from country music, and it got GOOD while I was away.”
So, I changed the dial in my car back to the country station, and I heard this guy, George Strait, more and more. And I REALLY liked him. I started anticipating when his next record would be released, because I knew that I would love the songs. I sat at the junior high school, waiting to pick up my kids, and I heard George’s songs on the radio, and all was sublime.
Then it became just obnoxious. I made mix tapes with all George songs on them. I played the tapes in the car. I found out that his birthday was May 18, one day before mine. Once CD’s took over, I would scour the liner notes to see which writers George had chosen to record songs by. I nodded my head in agreement that he had picked people like Jim Lauderdale and Wayne Kemp.
I admired the fact that he liked the old songs, too. “Love Bug”, an old song by George Jones (that all the reviewers mistakenly labeled as a Buck Owens song). “Drinkin’ Champagne”, a song written by one of my favorite overnight disc jockeys, Bill Mack, and recorded by one of my all-time favorite artists, Faron Young.
George could do no wrong.
Now, if this were a cautionary tale, it would end with George somehow betraying my trust and me becoming disillusioned. Naw, George is still NUMBER ONE in my book. I’ve followed him for many a long journey, and I will always buy George’s CD’s (and I don’t buy very many CD’s).
And to the business side of things, record executives in Nashville better THANK THEIR LUCKY STARS that George Strait appeared on the scene. How many millions has he made for these people? How consistent has he been? How many years, and still putting out NUMBER ONE records? Over twenty? Who can match that?
I finally (finally!) got to see George in concert. It was a torturous quest. We travelled to Billings, Montana to see him, only to find out that his tour bus had gotten caught in a snowstorm in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the concert was cancelled. So, we trudged back to Bismarck, playing my mix tape of George’s songs.
A year or so later, it was announced that George would be appearing at the Fargodome. Okay, on the phone to Ticketmaster, got the tix, got the hotel reservations, and off to Fargo. It was summertime, so no snowstorms!
The audience was crazy. Girls and “older women” standing up on chairs to get a better view. George finally appearing (after the so-so opening act), working the crowd like a politician, working his way to the stage, accompanied by the Ace In The Hole Band playing “Deep In The Heart Of Texas”.
And he was so nonchalant and cool, leaning on his guitar, rarely even strumming it. Knowing that “the voice” was what people had come to hear, and no doubt knowing that the man himself was no slouch to look at, either (!)
The coolest part was when he did an old Conway Twitty song, “Linda On My Mind”. George always threw a song into his concerts that he had never recorded , and this time it was the Conway song. Again, superb taste.
When I got back to work the following Monday, my folks gave me a lot of grief, knowing what a huge fan of George I was. One of them presented me with a picture of George that they had “personally autographed”, just for me. Another person had pictures blown up of George in concert, and gave them to me. I still have those.
I know, as a writer, I should probably be appalled that George doesn’t write his own songs. But, frankly, I don’t care. This man has more talent than all of Nashville and beyond put together. This man truly deserves to be inducted into the CMA Hall Of Fame, and I will record the program on my DVR and fast-forward to the “George” part of the show, and then I’ll pop “Amarillo By Morning” into my CD player and all will be right with the world.