George Strait (right) and ASCAP's Marc Driskill at the Ryman. Photo by Peyton Hoge.
George Strait has set more records than I even care to research. He’s had 58 #1 singles. He’s sold millions and millions of records. He’s sold out stadiums and arenas all over the country for over 20 years. He’s inspired legions of current country superstars (e.g. Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw) to pursue their dreams of becoming country recording artists. His songs are timeless, and act as the soundtrack to the lives of many country music fans. Ask 10 people what their favorite George Strait song is and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. He’s simply a musical icon. There’s no disputing the fact that he is clearly “The King of Country Music.”
After so many successful years and records, it’s hard to believe that there are any "firsts" left for King George. But on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, there was a new first to celebrate. After performing two acoustic songs to the Country Radio Seminar crowd at the historic Ryman Auditorium, ASCAP's Marc Driskill presented King George with an ASCAP guitar to commemorate his very first #1 song as a songwriter. I was completely humbled when Marc asked me to join him on stage to help present the guitar to George. I typically try to "play things cool" in situations like this and act like "it's not a big deal." Not this time. This was George Strait, on the Ryman Auditorium stage, accepting an ASCAP guitar from…ME?! This could be the highlight of my career. It’s not every day you present an award to the King Of Country Music, so I made sure to enjoy every last second of it. It was definitely one of those "pinch me" moments where I felt like I was going to wake up and realize it was only a dream. Thankfully, I have this picture to remind myself of this special moment for a long time to come:
Pictured (l-r) are Ryan Beuschel, Marc Driskill and George Strait
Here are just a few of Strait’s songs that take me back to a place and time. Thank you for letting me revisit for a second…
“Ocean Front Property”
It was my junior year in high school and I was driving to the field house to get suited up for my football game against the Belding Redskins. I remember the game like it was yesterday because it was homecoming. Anyone that grows up in a small town can attest to the magic of a homecoming varsity football game. There are so many fans, family, friends and familiar faces that it’s an exciting night. You would think I’d be listening to Metallica before a football game, but for some reason this song (co-written by ASCAP member Royce Porter) came on the radio and I remember being completely fired up. Not exactly the “ra ra” song to listen to before a football game, but the lyric writing offers such a clever take on being in denial! “Ocean front property in Arizona / And if you’ll buy that I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free”…velvet. (Side note: for those who are not geographically versed…Arizona is completely surrounded by land)
“Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her”
It was 2004 and I had just purchased a George Strait “Best of the Early Hits” CD while I was studying abroad in Australia. I was on a northbound train from Wollongong to Sydney. This was one of the first tracks on the CD. To this day, I can’t help but smile when it gets to the hook. It’s a textbook country hook/idea. The guy takes the girl for granted and can’t get over the pain of losing her. Add to that the twist of "right mind" and "left her" and you have country gold!!
“I Cross My Heart”
Pure Country. And by that, I mean the movie. Strait starred as Dusty in this film about a country music star that goes back to his roots to find himself. It’s always been one of my favorite films. I still own the DVD. Growing up in Michigan, I wasn’t surrounded by really country sayings. There is one line in the movie where the drummer says to Dusty: “You’re a flat lying cur dog.” I have no idea what that means to this day. I may need to ask one of my Texas friends. Or maybe I like not knowing the specific definition. Keeps the nostalgia of the film alive. Dusty plays this song, co-written by ASCAP member Eric Kaz, in the movie's feel-good finale, which you can see above.
“I Can Still Make Cheyenne”
I have always had an affinity for movies that take place out west. Not necessarily Westerns, but films that appear to be filmed in that region. Films like A River Runs Through It, Tombstone and Legends of the Fall are great examples. There is something iconic about the American cowboy. I was 10 when I first watched 8 Seconds, about bull rider Lane Frost, who was tragically killed at the Cheyenne Frontier Days. My childhood friend/neighbor and I tried to teach his dog how to be a bull. It didn't work. He wouldn't buck. We never got a chance to make the “short-go” or be young bull riders. I still think about those days when I hear this song. I went on to work in the country music industry. My friend, ironically enough, went on to be a bull rider, and now works on the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) circuit. And by the way…this is my all time favorite George Strait song.