May 18: "King of Country," George Strait is 59 years-old today.

Strait is known for his unique style of western swing music, bar-room ballads, honky-tonk style, and fresh yet traditional Country music. George Strait holds the world record for more #1 hit singles than any other artist in the history of music on any chart or in any genre, having recorded 57 #1 hit singles as of 2010. He is also an actor and music producer.

George Strait was born in Poteet, Texas, just south of San Antonio, and grew up in the nearby town of Pearsall. Strait began his musical interest while attending Pearsall High School, playing in a rock and roll garage band. Strait didn't listen to country music on the radio often as a youth, usually listening to the news and the farmer's report.

His introduction to country music came mostly by way of live performances. While stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii as a part of the 25th Infantry, he began performing with an Army-sponsored band, "Rambling Country,” which played off-base under the name "Santee.”

After his honorable discharge, in 1975, he enrolled at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and received a degree in Agriculture.

During his college years, he joined the country band Stoney Ridge, answering a flyer the band posted around campus looking for a new vocalist. Strait renamed the group the Ace in the Hole and quickly became the lead, they began to perform at different honky-tonks and bars around south and central Texas, traveling as far east as Huntsville and Houston.

His band was given the opportunity to record several Strait-penned singles including "That Don't Change The Way I Feel About You,” for the Houston-based D label. However, the songs never achieved wide recognition, and Strait continued to manage his family cattle ranch during the day.

Strait became friends with Erv Woolsey, who operated one of the bars in which the Ace in the Hole band played, and who had previously worked for the major label MCA Records. Woolsey convinced some of his Music Row connections to come to Texas and to listen to Strait and his band play. Impressed with the performance, MCA quickly signed Strait to a recording contract in February 1981. The Ace in the Hole remained with Strait, performing as the backup and touring band for the now solo act.

Strait’s first major success came in 1981 after his first single "Unwound" was a big hit. He had seven number one albums in the decade with his most popular hits including "Fool Hearted Memory" and "Ocean Front Property.”

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By the 1990s, Strait had influenced a new wave of performers while continuing his own successes, having charted upwards of 20 number one hits including "Heartland" and "Blue Clear Sky.” The next decade for which he was named Artist Of The Decade by the ACM, he was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame and won his first Grammy award for his hit album Troubadour.

Strait continued his previous successes during this time, producing a more contemporary sound with moderate cross-over hits including "She'll Leave You with a Smile" and "You'll Be There.”

Strait won CMA Entertainer of the year in 1989 and 1990 and ACM Entertainer of the year in 1990. He has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist.

As of 2009, he holds the record for the most Number One hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts with 44 number one singles on that chart. Counting all other music charts, Strait has amassed a total of 57 number one hits overall, breaking a record previously set by Conway Twitty.

Strait has sold more than 68.5 million albums in the United States and his certifications from the RIAA include 13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum and 38 gold albums. His best-selling 1992 album is Pure Country, which sold 6 million copies. 

His other best selling album is Strait Out of the Box released in 1995, which sold 2 million copies - which is a box set with four CDs. According to the RIAA, Strait is the 12th best-selling recording artist with the albums in the United States overall.



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