On This Date: George Strait Releases His First Major Hit “Unwound” In 1981

George Strait country music
George Strait

The King.

On this date in 1981, George Strait released his major label debut single “Unwound,” which ended up becoming his first major hit, too, when it peaked at #6 on U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart (also marking his very first top-10 hit).

Written by Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus, it was the lead single from George’s debut album Strait Country, and was originally written for Johnny Paycheck. He was in jail at the time, though, so it ended up falling in The King’s lap and ultimately launched his legendary career.

In a 2013 interview with Songwriter Universe, Dillon (longtime hit-writer for Strait) says he pitched a then-unknown George Strait some of his best stuff, which was the opposite of how it worked in Nashville back then (and still today to a certain extent too).

He says taking that chance landed him six cuts on George’s debut, including “Unwound,” and the rest, as they say, is glorious country music history:

“Back in those days you didn’t give your top drawer stuff to an unknown artist. You just didn’t do that. You pitched them to Jones or Haggard or Cash, Dolly or Loretta. I pitched him everything I had but the kitchen sink.

I was always of a mind to not necessarily go with the normal way of thinking and for somebody to tell me not to do something, well, hell, I’d be damned. I’d do just the opposite. So, I pitched him everything I had and ended up with six songs on his first album.

I think a lot of that had to do with nobody else would give him anything. He never forgot that.”

And of course, I have to leave you with this incredible vintage video of a baby-faced George singing “Unwound” on a boat.

This specific video is actually from a show called Nashville On The Road that ran from 1975 to 1983, where they would film country artists performing at amusement and theme parks throughout North America. This footage of George was filmed in Florida.

You really have to be a hell of a performer to be floating on a boat, bobbing up and down in a cowboy hat, jeans and boots and still keep it all together with perfect vocals.

From floating on boats to selling out stadiums… here’s to the King. And it all started with this song:


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock