George Strait, or the “King Of Country Music,” is, hands down, one of the most successful artists in the history of country music. With more than 60 No. 1 hits, history-making concerts and music that has been engraved into the lives of multiple generations of people, no artist really compares to the one and only Strait. Although he’s an incomparable country legend, he’s also an artist who tends to stay away from interviews and keeps his personal life private. Due to this, there may be some things even the biggest country fans don’t know about George Strait. Here are 10 things you may not know about the country legend.
1. He didn’t get into country music until later in life.
George Strait grew up in Pearsall, Texas and spent most of his childhood working on his family’s 2,000-acre cattle ranch. As a Texan growing up on a ranch, one would think Strait would be a country music fan since birth, but that wasn’t the case. Strait once shared that he didn’t listen to the radio much growing up, and if he did, he was listening to the news or farmer’s reports. He first found an interest in music in high school when he joined a garage band, but even then, it wasn’t country music he was interested in, but rather rock. He shared he was a big fan of the Beatles, who were popular when he was in school. Strait couldn’t avoid country music for long, though, and was soon influenced by the live country music shows that toured around Texas.
2. He was raised mostly by his father.
When Strait was in fourth grade, his father and mother got a divorce. His mother, Doris, then moved away with his sister, Pency, leaving his father, John, to raise him and his brother John Jr. Strait once shared in the book, George Strait: The Story of Country’s Living Legend, that his father made sure to raise them in the Baptist faith.
“My dad, of course, raised my brother and me on his own, and he raised us in a real religious atmosphere,” he said. “We’re all Baptists, and he always told me that the Lord would tell me what He wanted me to do with my life; and I kind of believe that’s really true. So I didn’t worry about it much, didn’t think about it that much.”
3. He eloped with his high school love, Norma.
Throughout his storied career, Strait had the love of his life, Norma, beside him for the entire ride. The couple has had a lifelong love story, as they will celebrate their 50th Anniversary in December 2021. However, some may not know that this love story started with an elopement. Prior to getting married, the two had dated and known one another in high school. They got married in Mexico on December 4, 1971 when they were just 19 years old. They did have another wedding ceremony a few weeks later in their hometown of Pearsall, Texas.
4. He was in the Army.
Soon after he married Norma, Strait enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman. His time in the Army was another moment that pointed him towards a career in music. While he was stationed at Shoefield Barracks in Hawaii, Strait joined an Army band called “Rambling Country.” The group performed on base, but would also play shows off base under the name, “Santee.” Strait and Norma also had their first child, Jennifer, when they were living in Hawaii.
5. He didn’t find immediate success in music and almost gave up.
After his time in the Army, Strait went to college at Southwest Texas State University and graduated with a degree in Agriculture. While in college, he joined his famous Ace In The Hole Band, and they gained a local following. Strait soon became friends with a bar owner who previously worked at MCA Records in Nashville, and he convinced some record executives to come hear Strait play. However, they did not offer him a deal over concern about marketing Western-leaning country in a genre that was, at the time, leaning pop. Strait started making various trips from Texas to Nashville looking for a record deal, but he was turned down every time. He then took a new job designing cattle pens, seemingly giving up on music, but his wife encouraged him to give music one more try. Then, in 1981, he finally received a deal from MCA Nashville.
6. He has experienced great loss.
While Strait has seen unmatched success in his career, he has also seen great tragedy in his life. In 1986, Strait’s daughter, Jennifer, was killed in a car accident in San Marcos, TX. She was only 13 years old. Strait is not an artist who gives many interviews to the press, and in a rare talk with the New Yorker, he said his daughter’s death is the reason he has stayed away from the media.
“I just didn’t feel like talking about it, so I quit… I did want to keep singing, absolutely. But I was at the point where I’m, ‘Alright, if this is going to cost me my career, then so be it, but it’s the only way I’m going to be able to cope with it,’” he shared. “It just kind of turned out the way it did. It wasn’t an intentional thing.”
7. He has helped with Hurricane efforts.
Strait still lives in his home state of Texas and he has taken multiple opportunities to give back to the place he loves. After Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast in 2017, Strait joined Governor Greg Abbott in visiting the coastal town of Rockport, Texas to greet members of the local community who were affected by the deadly storm. He also participated in an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging tourism in the area.
8. Has supported our troops in multiple ways.
As a veteran himself, Strait has never been shy about his support for the U.S. military, and he has shown his support in various ways over the years. He launched a golf tournament, called the Vaqueros Del Mar Invitational Golf Tournament and Concert, which is held annually at Tapatio Springs Resort. The event raises funds for the Troops First Foundation, which helps wounded veterans and their families. He has also been a spokesperson for Wrangler’s National Patriot Program, which also supports wounded service members and their families.
9. He’s friends with former President George W. Bush.
Strait is one of the most famous “Georges” in Texas, overshadowed only by former President and Texas resident George W. Bush, and it turns out the two men are friends! Strait performed at George and Laura Bush’s intimate 70th birthday party in October 2016. Photos shared with People show Strait and Bush laughing at the party, hosted at the couple’s Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas. Strait also led the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for the couple and played more of his hits, dedicating the set “from one George to another.”
10. He’s not a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Some country fans may be surprised to learn that Strait, the man dubbed the “King of Country Music,” is actually not a member of the ultimate country music institution, the Grand Ole Opry. It is unclear why Strait was never invited or never accepted an invitation, but some have speculated it is because he has kept his residence in Texas, while the Opry is located in Nashville, TN. While members of the Opry now aren’t required to perform very often, at the beginning of Strait’s career, artists were expected to make regular appearances on the program, which could have resulted in a logistical issue for someone living out of state.