I’ve traveled the globe and had countless amazing experiences along the way, but there has always been a little something missing. A little gap, a tiny hole that I have longed to fill. March 17, that little empty place was finally made whole when I got to see the King of Country Music, George Strait, perform live.
I am almost ashamed to tell you how much I love George, almost. I love him; he will always be a “fire I can’t put out.” As King George strode out onto the stage in front of the record-breaking Houston Rodeo crowd on that balmy St. Patrick’s Day, I could feel my knees begin to ever-so-slightly buckle. At 66 years old, he is still more handsome than any Hollywood heartthrob and twice as talented. Dressed in a light blue button- down and sharp brown cowboy hat, he kicked off the show with “Write this Down.”
As I sang and swayed along with the other 80,107 fans in attendance, I was transported back in time to the origins of my love for George. Back to my junior high school days, riding to the third row seat of my parents’ blue Oldsmobile station wagon listening to “Ocean Front Property” on my Walkman cassette player. Back to those first awkward school dances, nervously two-stepping to “Baby Blue,” while the sisters kept a close eye on us, making sure they could see light between the bodies of hormone- addled dancers.
From those days to these, George has always been able to melt my heart with his tender lyrics, easy smile and sincere eyes. One of the good guys, George is also one of the most successful entertainers of all time. With more than 60 No. 1 hits across all music charts, he is the greatest singer of No. 1 songs ever. In addition to performing to more than 1 million fans in his 30-career Houston Rodeo appearances, this year he shattered the all-time attendance record, packing 80,108 people in the stands, and it is worth noting that the record he broke was his own.
And that’s not all; the final stop on his 2014 Cowboy Rides Away tour in Arlington is still the largest indoor concert in North American history with 104,793 fans in attendance. I guess it is safe to say I am not the only one with more than a passing crush on King George. I have friends from Rockport to Refugio with George stories, some who saw him singing at Sun Valley Ranch and Silver Wings Ballroom back in his early days as an entertainer; others who sat by him in the stands at local ropings not very many years ago, and still others who in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Rockport were comforted by him.
The locations and circumstances are all different, but the stories are all the same: George is a kind, gracious, humble and talented man who seems unaffected by his stardom. Once quoted as saying, “You’ve got to keep the stage world and your real world separated or you’re headed for trouble.”
It is clear that George, who brought his 6-year-old grandson, Harvey, out on the HLSR stage to make his singing debut and gave a house away to a military veteran, has done just that. George, who put on an unbelievable two-hour show and then wowed us with an additional 20-minute encore, definitely came on strong and left me with a smile.
Hungry for an extra helping of that handsome cowboy, I whipped up his recipe for carne guisada; it is almost as good as he is.