I grew up with old country music… Sons of the Pioneers, Hank Williams, Slim Whitman and the like. Later on, The Texas Playboys, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens and others started to dominate the country music scene. In crept Hank Williams, Jr., Willie Nelson, and a host of others, each one bringing a different type of sound. Some of them found their way onto my list of favorites, others not so much, but they all contributed something worthwhile.
Living where I did, between Austin and San Antonio, I got to see a lot of the big names play, as well as a few new names, that would later become famous. With my fingers still in the rodeo pie, a lot of them played at our shows, and I got to meet some of them.
Like any other sort of celebrity, some are real down-to-earth folk, and some are puffed-up, full-of-themselves jerks. Seems like the music industry rips a lot of the human values out of those that allow it, and like a lot of Hollywood, Nashville has its share of booze & drug problems. So of the handful that I ever got a chance to meet and chat with, the few that came across as the sort of person you’d like to get to know better, really made an impression. One of those was George Strait.
I never even knew he lived nearby, in San Marcos, until I found out that a young friend of my daughter’s had recently died. The girl had attended my daughter’s birthday party the previous year, and their friendship had grown since then. She had already received her invitation to the upcoming birthday celebration, when she was tragically killed in a car accident. My daughter wanted to go to the funeral, but it was to be a very small family affair, so I suggested we send flowers. That’s when I found out her friend’s full name was Jenny Strait.
The idea of a parent outliving a child is a chilling one, that I hope never to experience. My heart went out to the Straits, as a parent, as a fellow Texan and as a fan. I knew they had a younger son, and had a ranch down around Cotulla, but that was about it, as they’d always been a very private family. I thought of sending a letter of our condolences, but figured the last thing they would need or want was to have to sort through mail from sympathetic strangers. I explained this to my daughter, and she agreed, even though she knew Jenny’s mom, and had met her dad before.
A couple of years later, I got to meet George Strait at a show in Houston, and chatted for just a few minutes. He was as real as they come – warm, friendly and unassuming – and so polite, it was obvious he was Texas-born.
That’s a guy I’d love to share a bottle of Jack with some time! But since that’s not likely to happen, I’ll have to make do with some of his music. This one is all about me!