George Strait has set many records in his illustrious career: the most No. 1 singles of any artist in any genre, the only artist to chart a Top 10 hit every year for 30 years, and the most No. 1 albums, gold albums, and platinum albums in the history of country music to name a few. Tonight, Strait notched another career accomplishment breaking an indoor concert attendance record for North America initially set by The Rolling Stones in 1981*.
With 104,793 in attendance and the top names in country music joining him for the final ride of Quicken Loans Presents: The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, the reigning ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year took fans on a three-hour journey of memories by way of 40 songs from throughout his storied career, including 20 of his massive 60 No. 1 hits.
Strait appeared on the stage after a warm welcoming introduction from good friend Ray Benson of opening performers Asleep at the Wheel. The King of Country appeared to be in awe of the sheer magnitude of the crowd, and after waiting for the applause to subside following his opening song “Check Yes Or No,” he addressed the crowd with his trademark grin and echoing his expression said, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here tonight, it’s been on my mind since we started this tour two years ago!”
Shortly after--a mere two songs in--he welcomed his first of eight special guests for the evening to the stage signifying the commencement of a historical musical journey showcasing over thirty years of Strait classics.
“In the 33 years since his auspicious 1981 debut album, Strait Country, the Frank Sinatra of country music has staunchly and elegantly reigned supreme over an ever-changing commercial landscape. While the country music industry struggled with its identity in an effort to increase its bottom line, Strait stayed the course. He made traditional country music without compromises and never fell out of favor with the fickle radio dial,” Dallas Morning News’ Mario Tarradell noted.
Strait told People Magazine, “I knew it would be kind of emotional but I was still a little surprised to feel it that strongly. The first three or four shows in 2013 were the toughest, but every night it was in the back of my mind to take it all in, because I probably wouldn’t ever come back there again. It made me want to put on the best show we’ve ever done there. I hope we did that. I feel like we did."
To add to the emotional charge filling the AT&T Stadium air was the retirement of Bruce Hardy who has also celebrated 30+ years in the industry as the general manager of Texas Stadium and the current home to the Dallas Cowboys and Strait’s tour farewell stage, AT&T Stadium. Hardy surely echoed Strait’s sentiment following the performance of “The Chair,” as the crowd roared and the superstar revealed, “That’s what I’m going to miss the most right there.”
Amidst the hits, Strait paused for a very special moment and continued his tour tradition of presenting a home as part of the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) “Homes 4 Wounded Heroes” (H4WH). Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry, a medal of honor recipient, and his wife Ashley were recognized as 51st recipients from the tour and received a million dollar home in the Dallas area.
The 2013-2014 H4WH home presentations were made possible through Strait’s longtime friend, Lieutenant General Leroy Sisco, U.S. Army (Retired). The homes made available for the program are donated to MWSF through partnerships and, as unveiled at Strait’s first 2013 show in Lubbock, Texas, were awarded to at least one service member at every tour stop on The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. In addition to the homes, all of the recipient families from the tour stops also received groceries for a year from Walmart, a flat screen television, and an entire George Strait CD collection.
In addition to the charitable contributions through H4WH, Strait also partnered with CID Entertainment to facilitate a charity auction at every 2013 and 2014 tour stop including front row Troubadour Package tickets, a meet-and-greet with Strait, and more. After the final 2014 tour stop in Dallas, the program has raised $1,325,619 for The Jenifer Strait Foundation ($239,302 in 2013 and $1,086,317 in 2014) with over 3,000 VIPs ticketholders hosted and 500 travel packages accommodated.