George Strait Stopped Doing Interviews After His 13-Year Old Daughter Was Killed In A Car Accident: “I Just Kind Of Shut Down”

George Strait
George Strait

The King of Country Music.

It’s a title that George Strait has earned over his four decade career thanks to a record-breaking 60 number one hits. But off the stage and out of the studio, Strait has largely stayed out of the spotlight when it comes to his personal life. And it all started back in 1986 because of a personal tragedy.

George and his wife Norma had their first child, a daughter named Jenifer, less than a year after the couple eloped to Mexico to get married. And they would later have their second child, a son named George “Bubba” Strait Jr.

But tragedy would strike the family in 1986, while Strait was topping the charts with songs like “The Chair” and “Nobody In His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her,” when Jenifer was tragically killed in a car accident at only 13 years old.

According to police, on June 25, 1986 in San Marcos, Texas, Jenifer was riding in the passenger seat with 18-year old Gregory Wilson Allen and two other friends when the car, driven by Allen, turned suddenly onto a side road and flipped, eventually landing on its top in a ditch.

Jenifer was partially ejected from the vehicle and passed away at the scene. Allen would be charged with class A vehicular homicide after it was determined that excessive speed was the cause of the accident. (Alcohol was determined not to be a factor).

George Strait
Courtesy of the Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation – Jenifer (far left) with her father George Strait

And George Strait, who was already a private man, stopped doing interviews.

While he continued to record and release new music, so he just stopped doing them.

Speaking with The New Yorker in 2017, Strait explained his decision in the aftermath of the tragedy:

“I just didn’t feel like talking about it, 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.”

And the questions about how his decision would affect his career were realistic for the time: Radio appearances, magazine interviews, and newspapers were the biggest opportunity for artists to promote themselves. So to stop doing those was a risk that Strait was willing to take for his own well-being.

Obviously any concern that his career would be over were soon put to rest. Strait would have 11 straight (no pun intended) #1 hits between 1986 and 1989, firmly cementing his position as the King of Country Music while establishing his reputation as a standard-bearer for traditional country music.

Strait would later establish the Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation, which helps to provide for various causes supporting children in the San Antonio, Texas area.

And his desire for privacy may have actually worked in his favor: The mystique around a legend whose image is so carefully curated seems to have helped Strait become an almost mythical figure in country music, an untouchable presence who only shows us what we want to see.

But behind the scenes, it was an image born not out of some well-thought out intentions, but out of an unthinkable personal tragedy.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock