By Gayle Thompson September 4, 2016 9:00 AM
Thirty-five years ago today, on Sept. 4, 1981, George Strait released his debut album, Strait Country, on MCA Records.
Three singles from Strait Country were released: “Unwound,” “Down and Out” and “If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger (There’s One Coming Home).” Both “Unwound” and “If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger” landed in the Top 10, with the latter peaking at No. 3. When Strait recorded “Unwound,” MCA Records, still unsure of his star potential, agreed to only release that one song before investing in a full album. The tune quickly shot up the charts and became a fixture on radio, and MCA Records offered Strait a recording contract, launching a relationship that would span the lifetime of his career.
In his biography, George Strait: The Story of Country’s Living Legend, Strait recalls the moment that he heard the single on the radio for the first time.
“I was shocked,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it. I mean, hearing your first record on the radio, when it was something that you had been trying to get to for so long, and then finally having it happen, it was wild. Here I was driving around the ranch there, and I’d hear it go up the chart, and I’m saying to myself, ‘What’s wrong with this picture? I’ve got a hit record. I need to go out on the road and go play some concerts.'”
Strait Country was followed by Strait From the Heart one year later, and Right or Wrong in 1983, which became Strait’s first No. 1 album. Strait’s debut single from Strait From the Heart, “Fool Hearted Memory,” became his first No. 1 hit.