After more than 30 years of a lifestyle that often required lots of time on the road, country legend George Strait has saddled up for what he says will be his final tour, a two-year outing dubbed The Cowboy Rides Away Tour.
More than 20 farewell concerts take place between January and May of 2014, and the shows -- many of which will feature a big-name special guest such as Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Martina McBride, or Sheryl Crow -- are proving to be hot tickets as fans celebrate the storied career of the country mainstay. He announced his retirement from the road during a September 2012 press conference in Nashville, and played more than 20 farewell shows during early 2013.
Strait doesn't plan to ride into the sunset -- he's just done with long tours. He recently renewed his deal with MCA Records, so he'll keep releasing new music and plans to also play select concert dates in the future. But grueling trips aboard the tour bus are in his rearview mirror. After the Urban Cowboy ethos dominated country music in the late '70s, Strait emerged in the early '80s with his take on classic country stylings, and is often credited with paving the way for other neo-traditionalist superstars like Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, and Randy Travis. Strait's catalog includes timeless hits like "Amarillo by Morning," "All My Ex's Live in Texas," "Love Without End, Amen," and "I've Come to Expect it From You."
A 2006 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Strait's remarkable career has included a record 60 No. 1 songs on the country chart. He holds many other country sales records, including most No. 1 albums and most gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums. Only Elvis Presley and The Beatles have more combined gold and platinum albums in their catalogs.
A native of Poteet, Texas, south of San Antonio, Strait grew up in neighboring Frio County. He first took up music in high school as a member of a rock garage band. After a stint in the Army, he earned an Agriculture degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos while playing in a bar band that performed around central and south Texas.
Strait signed with MCA Records in 1981, after Erv Woolsey, who ran one of the bars Strait's band played, urged Nashville talent scouts to check him out. Woolsey went on to become Strait's manager.