“Oh the last goodbye's the hardest one to say. This is where the cowboy rides away.” — George Strait, “The Cowboy Rides Away.”
When Easton Corbin released his self-titled debut album back in 2010, People magazine declared he “sounds like the second coming of George Strait.”
“George Strait's one of a kind. He's a legend,” Corbin told me in a 2011 interview. “You know, it's an honor to be compared to that, but there'll definitely never be another George Strait, that's for sure.”
For sure: Since his 1981 debut single “Unwound” became a top 10 hit, Strait, now 60, has notched 59 No. 1 songs, sold in excess of 65 million albums and set more than 20 attendance records at U.S. venues from coast to coast.
Now, the Texas troubadour is bidding farewell to the road.
The Country Music Hall of Famer is opening his aptly named “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” which he has said will be his last, Friday night in Lubbock, Texas. He will play the second show on his 2013-14 farewell trek Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The last time he played Oklahoma City two years ago, Mayor Mick Cornett proclaimed it “George Strait Day,” recognizing the singer as the top-grossing concert act in the venue's history. Singer-songwriter Lee Ann Womack, who opened that January 2011 show, called Strait “one of the greatest voices we have in country music today.”
“I look back at all the shows I've been to and there are a few that really stand out in my mind: Those that were true musical experiences. George has an unbelievably vast catalog of hits, he has a band full of great musicians, and his voice is truly an amazing instrument that he knows how to use. He's a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and yet still at the top of his game,” she said.
“I was a young troubadour when I rode in on a song. And I'll be an old troubadour when I'm gone.” — George Strait, “Troubadour.”
Martina McBride, the opening act on Strait's 2013 dates, said all singers have to decide when it's time to leave the road behind. She knows that for the fans, saying goodbye to King George will be heartbreaking.
“There are a bunch of sold-out shows on this tour,” she said. “I know the fans would still come to see him for many, many, many years.”
When he announced the farewell tour in September, Strait told The Associated Press the plan to park his tour bus was a hard choice but he was sure it was the right one.