Ranching is the first love for the Texan who toiled as a kid on his dad’s 2,000-acre cattle spread and eloped with his high school sweetheart.
“He has an active ranch and a golf course in San Antonio,” said veteran Twin Cities country radio executive Mick Anselmo, who oversees BUZ’N Country (102.9 FM) and knows Strait personally. “His son is in rodeo.”
Plus, Strait’s first grandchild was born in 2012.
“He works his ranch,” McCall said. “It’s a big part of his life — in some ways more than country music.”
When it comes to music, the country king does it the Strait way. He doesn’t make videos anymore, doesn’t do the talk shows, and doesn’t schmooze with radio programmers or grant many interviews to print journalists. And he’s never been a king of the road, preferring to do a limited number of concerts outside of Texas.
Strait’s farewell trek comes at a time when he’s still one of the biggest attractions in country music.
If Minnesota concert promoter Randy Levy had his druthers, “I’d love to have Strait at We Fest,” the country festival in Detroit Lakes, Minn., which Strait last played in 2004. He figures the country king could return to the Twin Cities next year and fill an arena again.
Strait explained himself in September in a rare press conference to announce his Cowboy Rides Away Tour, which includes only 20 shows this year.
“I have a new grandson and so we’ll certainly be spending a lot of time with him. I’ll help try and steal him away from his parents for a while, maybe take him fishing,” he joked.
McCall was at the press conference.
“He doesn’t like talking about himself,” said the journalist, who has interviewed Strait a few times. “He’d rather talk about songwriters or his band. He’s very articulate and listens and answers your questions. He’s very humble.”
He’s had the same manager, record label and sidemen, the Ace in the Hole Band, since the 1980s. He relies on the same circle of songwriters (Dean Dillon, Gary Nicholson, Jim Lauderdale) and producer (Tony Brown).
Brown produced Strait’s current single, “Give It All We Got Tonight,” which will be included on his yet-untitled album due this year.
This retirement from the road is real. Though he may do the occasional one-off performance, no one expects Strait to pull a Garth Brooks, who took a music-biz hiatus to raise his daughters, then took up a residency in Las Vegas on weekends — or an Alabama, who are still playing a decade after their farewell tour.
Why won’t Strait change his mind?
Because, McCall says, “he has always been the least-working star in country music.”