The Cowboy Rides Away

King of Country George Strait bids farewell

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, April 11, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: With guitar in hand, legendary country music singer George Strait takes center stage and performs to cheering fans Friday night during the "George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away" Tour at the University of New Mexico's Pit in Albuquerque.

SECOND FROM TOP: Fans of country music artist George Strait line the barrier and cheer him on Friday night during his last Albuquerque performance.

THIRD FROM TOP: Country superstar George Strait performs Friday night at the University of New Mexico's Pit.

F ans of George Strait left the Pit with heavy hearts as the King of Country, who captured the hearts of many Navajos, bid farewell on April 5 in Albuquerque.

This was the fifth to the last show of the "George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away" tour.

"It felt like a memorial," said Mary Cheresposy, a long-time fan. "It's sad because it feels like he's going away forever."

It did seem like such as giant screens on stage showed highlights of Strait's career since 1981, with some of the big names in country music providing commentary.

"I'm so sad I want to cry," Cheresposy said adding that she's been to seven of his shows. When asked what she would miss the most about him she smiled before saying, "his face and voice."

As the King of Country stepped onto the stage in a pair of cowboy boots, Cowboy Cut Wranglers, a black cowboy hat and plaid shirt, fans rose to their feet as their cheers roared throughout the University of New Mexico arena.

A total of 13,630 tickets were sold for Strait's final stop in Albuquerque, according to Associate Athletic Director for UNM Scott Dotson, for an arena that seats 17,100 people.

Strait greeted fans with a smile and opened his show with, "Here for a Good Time," also the title of his 2011 album.

Fans rose to their feet as he sang and strummed through his first song. They let out loud screams that echoed throughout the arena, which prompted Strait to respond: "Now I remember why I like Albuquerque."

"They don't call him King George for nothing," said Crownpoint, N.M. native Andrea Jo Martin. "He played a lot of his old songs, that was just George right there."

In Strait's music career, which spans across three decades, he has racked up the most No. 1 singles of any artist in history. He has 57 No. 1 hits to date inclusive of all charts.

Strait sold nearly 69 million records in his career, earned 33 different platinum or multi-platinum albums, and ranks third in all genres behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Strait took his fans back to his early days by singing songs such as "Blame it on Mexico," "Her Goodbye hit me in the Heart," "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper," "Honky Tonk Crazy," "Amarillo by Morning" and "Ocean Front Property."

"I told you guys we were going to do some old songs for you, I just didn't tell you how old," he told the crowd.

"Thank you so much. That, I'm really going to miss," he said of the screaming fans after singing "The Chair" from his 1985 album "Something Special."

As a surprise for the fans, Strait sang two duets with his special guest Martina McBride, and later presented Army veteran Spc. Michael Brewer, of White Sands Missile Range, N.M., with the keys to a brand new home.

Brewer accepted the keys on stage with his son Alexander Brewer, 3, in his arms.

Strait partnered with the Military Warriors Support Foundation's Homes4WoundedHeroes program, in which mortgage-free homes are donated to combat-wounded heroes, unmarried Gold Star spouses, and their families.

Strait said that he and Foundation officials have been handing out keys to veterans at every show and will continue to do so throughout his tour.

He told his fans that in the spirit of giving away, he wanted to sing, "Give it Away" from his 2006 album, "It Just Comes Natural."

A song he dedicated to his fans and tour life was, "I'll Always Remember You," off his, "Here for a good time" album.

While on stage, as if speaking to the crowd, Strait spoke lyrics from his, "I'll Always Remember You" song:

"When I first set out on the road, I figured I had maybe 5 good years to sing my songs for you folks. Well, it's goin' on 30 now. And I still love it just as much as I ever did.

"When I do walk off this stage for the last time, and I'm all settled in, away from all this, you won't be far away. I'll still hear your screams and cheers in my mind. And I'll always remember you."

Strait sang two more songs before he walked off stage.

"The crowd was great. It's like he belongs in New Mexico," said Sandra Sands of Jemez Pueblo, N.M. "So many faithful fans, and it was amazing all ages were here."

Their cries for more worked as Strait stepped back on stage for a four-song encore, which ended with, "The Cowboy Rides Away."