George Strait was born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet, Texas, the son of a junior high school teacher who also owned and operated a ranch that had been in the Strait family for nearly 100 years. When Strait was a child, his mother left the family, taking her daughter but leaving behind her sons with the father. During his childhood, he would spend his weekdays in town and his weekends on the ranch. Strait began playing music as a teenager, joining a rock 'n' roll garage band.
After his graduation from high school in the late '60s, Strait enrolled in college but soon dropped out and eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma. In 1971, he enlisted in the Army. Two years later, he was stationed in Hawaii where he played country music with the Army-sponsored band, Rambling Country. They played several dates off the base under the name Santee. Strait left the Army in 1975, returning to Texas with the intent of completing his education. He enrolled in Southwest Texas State University at San Marcos to study agriculture and formed his own country band,
Ace in the Hole made a few records for D, an independent Dallas-based record label, in the late '70s, but they never went anywhere. Toward the end of the decade, Strait attempted to carve out a niche in Nashville but failed because he lacked any strong business connections. In 1979, he became friends with Erv Woolsey, a Texas club owner who once worked for MCA Records. Woolsey invited several MCA executives to Texas to hear Strait. His performance convinced the company to sign him in 1980.
"Unwound," Strait's first single, was released in the spring of 1981 and climbed into the Top 10. The follow-up, "Down and Out," stalled at No. 16, but "If You're Thinking You Want a Stranger (There's One Coming Home)" reached No. 3 in early 1982. The song sparked a remarkable string of Top 10 hits that ran well into the 2000s. His astonishing stretch of No. 1 hits began with 1982's "Fool Hearted Memory." In the 1980s alone, he reached the top of the chart 18 times with songs such as
Strait was also one of the few '80s superstars to survive the generational shift of the early '90s that began with the phenomenal success of
Blue Clear Sky, his 1996 album, debuted on the country charts at No. 1 and won a CMA award. Strait also won male vocalist in 1996, the same year
In 2000, he scored another No. 1 hit, "The Best Day," and won a CMA award for vocal event for "Murder on Music Row," his duet with