George Strait is preparing for his last rodeo, but not retirement. The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, his final full-scale outing, was announced today (9/26) during a special press event at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Strait, known for his limited promotional appearances, entered and exited the room to a standing ovation. “It’s been a hard decision for me to make, but I’ve decided I’m not going to tour anymore after these next two years,” he said. “Don’t think I’m retiring, because I’m not. I’m still going to make records as long as Mike [Dungan] will let me.”
The tour will run through 2014, with the first leg opening Jan. 18 in Lubbock, Texas. Martina McBride, who joined him at the press conference, will be his special guest. “I get to see 21 George Strait shows,” she enthused, “After my set, I’m going to be hanging out front-of-house and drinking wine with Norma.” Among the dates is a stand-alone concert timed to coincide with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which will also include the Randy Rogers Band, and the tour-closing June 1 show in his hometown, San Antonio. Otherwise, Strait chuckled, “There’s no telling who might show up.”
Strait celebrated his 60th birthday on May 18, and said he had long planned to evaluate his touring situation at that age. He wants to spend more time with his new grandson, play golf and fish. “This is going to be a very special, emotional tour for me,” he admitted. “Everywhere we’re going holds fond memories and I’m looking forward to paying my respects.” For years he’s closed his shows with the song “The Cowboy Rides Away,” his 1985 hit penned by Sonny Throckmorton and Casey Kelly. Strait recalled singing it to former President George Bush on the President’s final weekend at Camp David before leaving office.
UMG Nashville’s Dungan assured, “This is not a retirement party.” In fact, Strait is heading into the studio next month.
A celeb-stacked video opened the event in the Ford Theatre, with each star recalling how Strait impacted their lives. For Taylor Swift, it was an early-career opening spot on his tour, and him surprising her at her first rodeo show. For Jamey Johnson, it was a pre-record-deal episode of drinking too much and trying to join Strait onstage, until Birmingham police let him know that wasn’t a good idea. Ronnie Dunn stated, “I wanted to be George Strait.” Kenny Chesney said Strait heavily impacted his touring career, and Reba recalled end-of-tour parties with King George donning silly wigs along with the rest of the crew.
Longtime promoter Louis Messina called him “King Dude,” and said, “If it wasn’t for George Strait I wouldn’t be here today. He taught me how to treat and respect an artist.”
When asked about career longevity, the Hall of Famer summed it up, “The most important thing is the song. That’s what this business is all about.”
The event also streamed live on GeorgeStrait.com and Strait’s Facebook page.
Strait has had 59 No. 1 songs, earned more than 60 major industry awards, and sold over 65 million albums. He is the only artist in music history to achieve at least one Top Ten hit each year during his 30-year career and was only the second artist at the time (after Eddy Arnold in 1966) to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2006) while still actively releasing hits.
George Strait fan club members will have an opportunity to purchase tickets beginning at 10 a.m. in each venue’s respective time zone on Oct. 9, 2012, and tickets will go on sale to the general public beginning Oct. 12 (same time zone restraints apply). Ticket prices start at $69.50 and may be purchased at www.georgestrait.com.
The Cowboy Rides Away 2013 Tour Dates
Jan 18 Lubbock, Texas, United Spirit Arena
Jan 19 Oklahoma City, Okla., Chesapeake Energy Arena
Jan 25 Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Solutions Arena
Jan 26 Nampa, Idaho, Idaho Center
Jan 31 Sacramento, Calif., Power Balance Pavilion
Feb 1 Fresno, Calif., Save Mart Center
Feb 2 Las Vegas, Nev., MGM Grand Garden Arena
Feb 15 St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy Center
Feb 16 Grand Forks, N.D., The Alerus Center
Feb 22 Buffalo, N.Y., First Niagara Center
Feb 23 Hartford, Conn., Xl Center
Mar 1 Knoxville, Tenn., Thompson-Boling Arena
Mar 2 Lexington, Ky., Rupp Arena
Mar 17 Houston, Texas, Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo
Mar 22 Greenville, S.C., Bi-Lo Center
Mar 23 Greensboro, N.C., Greensboro Coliseum Complex
Apr 5 Albuquerque, N.M., The Pit
Apr 6 Las Cruces, N.M., Pan American Center
Apr 12 N. Little Rock, Ark., Verizon Arena
Apr 13 New Orleans, La., New Orleans Arena
Jun 1 San Antonio, Texas, Alamodome