Open Mic with Mike Thomas: There Will Never Be Another George Strait

Written by SLN Staff Writer
Open Mic with Mike Thomas: There Will Never Be Another George Strait

On September 6th, George Strait will hit another milestone in his iconic career when his 39th studio album, Here For A Good Time, hits stores. Strait will join the elite ranks of performers who have released over thirty albums as an active recording artist. For this quiet, simple Texan who has become an icon in country music, this feat will certainly mean more to his fans than it will to the man.

George Strait’s story is one movie makers dream of: the son of a Texas school teacher who grows up to become “King” one day. After losing his mother at a young age, George was raised by his father in rural Poteet, Texas. He joined the army, married his high school sweetheart, and taught himself to play guitar with the help of some sheet music. His first audience was his faithful wife Norma, who encouraged him to take his skills to the stage. George entertained fellow troops singing Merle Haggard songs while stationed in Hawaii.

When Uncle Sam brought him home in 1975, George continued his hobby playing Bob Wills inspired “Texas Swing” in honky-tonks and bars around Southern Texas. It’s hard to believe that the man who would go on to celebrate 57 No.1 hits on Country Radio would only write and record a handful of his own songs – much less be rejected by Nashville on his initial visit to Music Row. “Take off your hat” label execs would tell George. Luckily for us, he never did.

Instead, he returned home. George Strait would rather be true to his Texas roots than “sell out” to Music City. I often think about the moment he decided to pack it up and head back home. Every day there are countless dreamers in Nashville who run out of hope when chasing their dreams. How many of those “artists” would have taken a deal while compromising what they stood for? How many have?

With all of his accomplishments, George Strait still hasn’t done it all. Alan Jackson’s done it. Toby Keith too. Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, even Taylor Swift have done what George Strait never has: written a Song of the Year. And George Strait never will. You’d think that would be a sensitive issue with a mega-star but when asked why he’s never written a song since signing his deal with MCA in February of 1981, Strait has this to say: “I’ve never had too.” Sure, back back when he was picking songs for his debut album, Strait Country, Nashville’s elite songwriters weren’t lining up to pitch him their songs – but that’s really where it started for George. He grew his fan base and became more than a “Texas” artist.

It’s a safe bet to say that no other artist has the relationship that George Strait has with country radio. You can set a watch to when his single is released. It hits the charts, gets airplay almost immediately, and within a few months, it’s the No. 1 song on country radio. And it’s been this way for over thirty years. I can’t think of one artist in any genre who has that pull. If there’s one constant in the ever changing world of country radio, it’s that George Strait’s singles are instant chart-toppers. His concerts continue to sellout in record time and numbers. Yet, he’s not on the front page of People magazine or the list of all time record sellers. What is this quiet man’s secret to success? He knows what his fans want and he exceeds that expectation with every album release.

For those of us who have seen George Strait in concert or have bought every CD since they stopped making cassettes, we know there will never be another like him. And come Tuesday, we’ll be ready to add album number thirty-six to our collection not thinking about the history that surrounds it. No, we’ll just be looking forward to twelve new songs to sing out loud and thank George for another year of good music.

I’d bet that smile he flashes on every album cover is way of thanking us back.

Mike Thomas is a country radio personality and has been entertaining listeners since his sophomore year of high school when his Mom had to drop him off at the radio station. Now he’s a successful morning show host and has met many of country’s biggest stars during his almost twenty years of broadcasting. He lives in upstate New York, enjoys football more than you can possibly imagine, and is currently rolling a 5-for-5 record against his wife for picking great movies to watch on the weekend.

Be sure to check back to CountryMusicIsLove each week for a new “Open Mic with Mike Thomas” column!

The opinions expressed are those of the author only. They do not necessarily represent the views of CountryMusicIsLove.