George Strait’s farewell The Cowboy Rides Away Tour played in Nashville on  March 21, and the singer invited several of his famous friends to join him for the goodbye show. Sheryl Crow, who served as Strait’s opening act,  joined Strait for a duet of ‘Here for a Good Time’ and ‘When Did You Stop Loving Me.’  Later, Kenny Chesney joined Strait on ‘Amarillo by Morning,’ while Eric Church sang with the King of Country on ‘Cowboys Like Us.’   The sold area was a much different than the reception George got when he arrived in Nashville.   Below is an excerpt of Peter Cooper’s story in The Tennessean

“The truth of the matter is that every major label passed on George Strait,” says Kent Finlay, who rode with Strait to Nashville in 1977 in a Dodge cargo van, traversing from San Marcos, Texas, through Waco; Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; and Memphis on the way to rejections and disappointments, and an uneventful gig at the Hall of Fame Lounge on Division Street.

“It was me and George and (songwriter) Darryl Staedtler,” Finlay says. “That van had two seats and an Army cot in the back. We took turns driving and riding and sleeping in the cot.”

Strait started playing Finlay’s Cheatham Street Warehouse club in San Marcos in 1975, fresh out of the Army and fresh into his studies at Southwest Texas State University. He and his Ace in the Hole Band played Cheatham each week for nearly seven years, beginning in 1975. Finlay believed Strait could be a star, and time has proved him correct.

Strait’s grandfather put up the money for him to make some demo recordings in Nashville. Fiddle great Buddy Spicher played on those demos and told Finlay, “This guy’s not gonna have any trouble getting a deal.”

But he did have trouble: It was four years before Strait’s voice would be heard on the radio, five years before his first No. 1 hit, 29 years before Strait entered the Country Music Hall of Fame and 36 years before he became the only artist in any genre to notch 60 chart-topping hits.

As it stands, Strait’s career in country music is unprecedented and unlikely to be equaled. Strait’s marathon run as a sales and airplay force is to music what Cal Ripken Jr.’s record-holding 2,632 consecutive games played streak is to Major League Baseball: No one but Strait has ever topped contemporary radio singles charts over a span of 31 years.   read more