The Untold Truth Of George Strait

George Strait is known as the "King of Country," and for good reason. As noted on his website, the Texas-born singer boasts more than 60 singles that have topped the charts — an accomplishment that surpasses every artist in any other genre. Moreover, throughout his more than three decades in the music industry, Strait has managed to amass 33 platinum or multi-platinum albums, making him the most successful country artist ever and the third most successful musical artist of all time, only behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley. 

But though George's name is ubiquitous in the country music world, the background and details of his life and career are less known. For example, one little-known fact is that Strait never actually had a No. 1 Billboard hit, despite dominating the country charts. Another fact is that Strait doesn't just sing about cowboys. According to The Denver Post, he's a real member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, along with his son, Bubba. 

Here are some other less-known truths about the man who became a music legend.

Strait's early life was pretty unusual

Country music is filled with lyrics about love and loss, so it's not surprising that George Strait's early life featured both. When strait was in the fourth grade, his parents got divorced. However, instead of figuring out some sort of co-parenting situation, Strait's mother left with his sister, leaving George and his brother to be raised by their father alone — something that was incredibly unusual in a traditional, "Norman Rockwell" influenced time period.

As noted in the book "George Strait: The Story of Country's Living Legend," his mother's departure clearly left a stinging emotional impact on George.

"In all of his press biographies, mention of his mother is conspicuously missing. All that George will mention to this day is that she left the family ... and she was no longer actively in their lives," the biography states.

Fortunately, Strait's father was able to navigate the world of single fatherhood in stride, and he gratefully acknowledged that his father "dedicated his whole life to raising my brother and me."

When Strait was in high school, he met his now-wife of 40-plus years, Norma. At the time, he knew it was love right away, but he was unsure about pursuing a relationship. It was when Strait realized that he might "[miss] the boat" with his crush that he decided to actively pursue Norma, and the two teenagers ended up eloping just before Christmas in 1971, per Wide Open Country.

The army started his music career

According to Wide Open Country, Strait had not really considered a career in music until he had found himself in an entirely different one — the army. In 1972, Strait enlisted in the United States Army, 25th Infantry Division. The group, known as "Tropic Lightning," was stationed in Hawaii, and perhaps it was the long distance from his native Texas that made Strait homesick for the country tunes of his youth.

Though the Vietnam War was in full swing at the time, the 25th Infantry Division remained in Hawaii to recuperate from numerous skirmishes that occurred before Strait's arrival, including the Battle of Saigon. Since the 20-year-old had some extra time on his hands, he learned to play the guitar.

"Well I was in the service and for some reason, I got it in me that I could sing," Strait once explained in a 1982 video (via Wide Open Country). "I thought that I could possibly make a career out of singing, so I went, and I bought a guitar. ... I started learning songs, and learned enough where I could get a band together and did that, and the last year I was in the service that's what I did for the army was sing country music."

George Strait even ended up forming a band, called Rambling Country, with his fellow soldiers. It was his first official foray into the music world.

He keeps certain rituals and commitments

After dipping his toes in the band life with Rambling Country, George Strait returned to Texas and joined another group, Stoney Ridge (later renamed to Ace in the Hole Band). Strait's star continued to rise, and he eventually released his own album, "Strait Country," in 1981 to immediate success.

Despite all this, Strait never let the fame get to his head and maintained certain rituals to ensure that every fan had as personal experience as possible at his concerts. As detailed in The New Yorker, one such example is that Strait plays in the center of the area floor, with four microphones "arranged like compass points" around the circumference of the stage, during each performance. "Every two songs, he moves, counterclockwise, to the next microphone, so that people in each quadrant of the crowd can feel as if he were singing just to them," the article detailed.

In addition, Strait wanted to "evoke a familiar, unchanging present" during his career and does so by wearing essentially the same outfit every single performance: a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, and a stiffly ironed button-down shirt.

Though not a ritual, another steadfast aspect of a Strait concert is his commitment to playing almost any requested song so that no fan is left disappointed.

A family tragedy

Though George Strait is known for his long career, he did take a step back from the industry following the death of his daughter, Jennifer Strait. In 1986, his daughter was riding in a car with friends when the driver lost control of the vehicle while going around a curve. According to Texas Hill Country, Jennifer was ejected from the car and did not survive. She was just 13 years old at the time.

To cope with his loss, Strait declined interviews for a period of time — a move which he knew could negatively impact his career. "I just didn't feel like talking about [Jennifer], so I quit ... I did want to keep singing, absolutely. But I was at the point where I'm [like], '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.' It just kind of turned out the way it did. It wasn't an intentional thing," he said, per Country Music Nation.

But even though Strait didn't want to talk about his daughter, he did publicly grieve her through music. Arguably his most famous tribute is the song "Baby Blue," in which he laments "she came and left, and I still don't know why, so here's to you and whoever holds my baby blue tonight."

Strait's surprising best-selling album

Though George Strait is known for his number of hit songs, his best-selling album was not really an album in the traditional sense. Rather, it was the soundtrack for the 1992 movie "Pure Country."

In "Pure Country," Strait played a country music star dealing with burnout. While the movie itself had mediocre success, the soundtrack was an entirely different story. Making the album was a haphazard task, as it had to be pulled together quickly before Strait could shoot any film scenes. But the pressure seemed to help Strait and his collaborator, Tony Brown.

"The way it came together, it's been pretty amazing. I've done a lot of albums and this one has come together easier than any album I've ever done — and turned out the best," he said of the experience, per Rolling Stone. Fans agreed, and the song "Heartland" rocketed its way up the charts to become a No. 1 hit, with "I Cross My Heart" not too far behind. The album sold 6 million copies overall.

Despite his decades-long success, Strait is far from hanging up his cowboy hat. In fact, a young Taylor Swift was his opening act in 2007, and his most recent 2017 tour was with Kacey Musgraves. Moreover, despite a break due to COVID-19, the King of Country started resuming his performances in August 2021 and has recently added dates to his "Strait to Vegas" tour, per his website.