George Straitis one of the greatest country artists of all time, has the most hit singles with 60 #1’s over his decades-long career, and is largely recognized for pioneering the neotraditional country style in the 1980’s.
But in a 2013 interview with Billboard, he revealed that he was actually fired from his first band for… not being “country enough”? It’s hard for me to even type that without laughing, but it’s true.
He says that when he was in the Army in the early 70’s, he auditioned to be in a band called the Country Kings, and I find the name in and of itself kind of ironic now…
Anywho, Strait says he got through one gig and they let him go, saying he that he wasn’t “country enough.” He says it didn’t get him down too bad, though, and he got another opportunity not long after:
“In Hawaii, when I was in the Army. I had auditioned with a group of guys and a girl. They called themselves the Country Kings.
I played one gig with them, and I don’t even remember how much they paid me. They thought I wasn’t country enough, and let me go. That’s really funny now, but it wasn’t at the time.
I didn’t let it faze me much, though. I got another opportunity not long after that, which became my Army gig until I got out.”
That new opportunity was a spot in a band called Rambling Country, which he performed in alongside other Army soldiers.
He left the service in 1975, and resumed his studies at Southwest Texas State University, where he graduated with a degree in agriculture in 1979.
A couple years later, in 1981, Strait released “Unwound” as his major label debut single, which was written by Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus. It peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, becoming his first Top 10 hit and the start of an incredibly legendary career.
And honestly, I think there could’ve been a little truth to the fact that he wasn’t as much of a country fan as he would ultimately become, because in high school, Strait actually listened mostly to rock and roll.
He grew up the son of a teacher and was raised by his father, who also operated a 2,000 acre farm, so in that aspect, he was as country as they come. But in fact, the garage band he was part of in high school played a lot of rock and roll, which I’m sure was still an influence in his early career:
“That story has kind of taken on a life of its own. I had a couple of friends, and we knew a couple of songs, ‘Gloria’ and ‘Louie Louie.’ Calling us a band is really a stretch.
I hadn’t really gotten into country music back then. It was all rock’n’roll.”
I’d love to hear from that band that fired him now, though I’m sure they’ve realized the error of their ways many decades ago and probably find it a little funny now too.