By Marty Racine
Well, you know, you'd see some fights. we saw a few fights, but we
didn't play in places that were too dangerous (laughing). I think most
of those places are gone now. But there were occasions were people would
fall on the stage and knock mike stands over and stuff like that. Now,
most of those places have enough bouncers to where a fight doesn't last
very long if it starts in a bar. They got em broke up and outside.
George still found time to attend class at Southwest Texas State and supplement his honky tonk earnings by working on the family cattle ranch. Still, in the 70's the Ace in the Hole gang was building a solid regional reputation, roping in opportunities to open local concerts for such national acts as the Texas Playboys (perhaps Strait's main idols). Moe Bandy, Johnny Rodriguez and John Anderson. After six years the boys were getting pretty tight.
"You do get tight playing for that many years," Strait agrees matter-of-factly. "And whenever you play with a big act or somebody you know is going to draw a big crowd, it's always good because it get you a new audience."
Enter Erv Woolsey, currently an MCA Record executive, who had been operating a club in San Marcos. Woolsey booked Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band in his club before assuming a larger booking role. When Woolsey returned to the music business in Nashville, he and Strait remained in touch.
In 1981 Woolsey brought Strait to Music City, where he teamed him with MCA and producer Blake Mevis. Their first studio session yielded Unwound, Strait's first national hit, and Strait Country, his debut album.
How did the Texan and Nashville take to one another?
Well, I like Nashville a whole lot, "Strait says, smart enough not to kick the establishment where it hurts. "It's a great place, everything is right there, all the country music is in a little concentrated area. I have a good time every time I go there. I wouldn't want to live there because I've got too many roots in San Marcos. I doubt if I'll ever move from here.
"But I love to work there, in the studios. People are real friendly.
It wasn't Straits first Nashville effort. Years earlier he had cut some sides with Darryl Sadler (who wrote Straits single, A fire I can't put out)." The sides did not set the country world aflame, but one, ironically, was recently recut and will appear on Strait's forthcoming album (tentatively titled Right or Wrong, due this fall.
Producer Mevis also worked on Straits second album, but the man from Texas, the one whose brand of country is closer to old fashioned swing than to crossover "contemporary", said Nashville did not try to cramp his style.
"Really it's up to you and your producer", Strait says. "The record company didn't really come in there and get involved. Normally they don't. The producer is the boss when your in the studio, and Blake and I were working pretty good together We chose the songs together and made the album together."
But it's not the usual Nashville country, is it George?
"Yeah, I would say so. But I think there may be a trend in country music right now in going back to more traditional type songs.
Well, that's about all he's got to say on the subject. If George isn't unassuming, then Texas isn't big. It's a matter of fact with one of country's bright young hopes. Heck it's just Ol country and western anyway. Nothing to take too seriously, not the fame , not the fortune, not even the realization of a dream.
Or was it a dream? Naw, it was just in the cards. An Ace in the hole, and comes a time to play your hand.
Just That Simple.
Chronicle August 7th 1983
Ol' George plays it
straight, that good, hard, swingin country and western that was country
before country was cool, before it lost its grit and twang and spilled
its banks into the pop mainstream.
How about those honky-tonks? Did Strait and Ace platy some pretty rough joints?