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Strait, George

George Strait

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

A vocalist blessed with good looks and a vibrant personality, George Strait has dominated the country music scene since the early 1980s. Strait was on the verge of quitting the entertainment business in favor of a job in agriculture when he Manáged to wrangle a contract with MCA Records. Since then he has arguably been MCAs biggest pure country performer with more than 57 million albums sold.

Straits work is classic country and honky tonkthe kind of fiddle and pedal steel guitar-laced music that has been called country since the days of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. To quote Montgomery Brower in People magazine, Straits throwback blend of lilting guitar licks, keening fiddles, plaintive pedaled steel and taut, lonesome cowboy vocals has put him in the vanguard of country musics counterrevolutionaries, those performers who have refused to abandon old-time simplicity for Nashville slick. Strait has neverand probably will neverset his sights on a crossover hit. According to Andrew Vaughan in Whos Who in New Country Music, the clean-cut Strait has proved that country roots [are] still preferable, even in the age of compact disc.

Strait was born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet, Texas, but grew up in Pearsall. He was the second of three children of a high school math teacher. His childhood on a small Texas ranch was rather conventional, and like most teenagers in the 1960s, he gravitated to rock music and thought little of country. After high school Strait tried college, but he dropped out, married his high school sweetheart, and joined the U.S. Army. Only then did he begin to respond to the music of the artists who have become his idolsGeorge Jones, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams.

Strait was stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii in 1973 as part of his military service. While there he auditioned for an Army-sponsored country-and-western band and was made lead singer. The band entertained at Army functions, presenting hours of Jones and Haggard songs, and gradually Straits style began to echo that of his favorite country stars. When he was discharged from the Army, Strait formed his own band in Texas and continued to perform. The singer told Vaughan that he never really tried to be original when he did club work. When youre a local act, and youre doing Merle Haggard and George Jones songs, people want you to sound like the records. So thats what you do; you sing like Merle or George and pretty soon thats just the way you sing.

The prospects did not seem brilliant for Strait and his band, despite their popularity in Texas. Several trips to Nashville in pursuit of a recording contract came to nothing, so Strait returned to college and earned a degree in agriculture. He was just on the verge of accepting a job with a firm that manufactured ranch equipment when his wife persuaded him to give

For the Record

Born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet, TX; son of a high school math teacher; married Norma Voss; children: Jennifer (deceased), George, Jr. Education: Bachelors degree in agriculture, Southwest Texas State University, 1978.

Country singer, 1973-; joined the U.S. Army, 1971; began singing with an Army band during military service in Hawaii; formed Ace in the Hole Band after discharge, 1975; signed with MCA Records, 1981; had first top-ten country hit, Unwound, 1981; began George Strait Country Music Festival, late 1990s.

Awards: Academy of Country Music, Male Vocalist of the Year, 1984-85, 1988, 1997, Album of the Year for Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?, 1985, and for Carrying Your Love with Me, 1997, Entertainer of the Year, 1989, Top Male Country Vocalist of the Year, 1991, Tex Ritter Award for Single of the Year for Pure Country, 1993, Single of the Year for Check Yes or No, 1996, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for Blue Clear Sky, 1997; American Music Awards, Top Male Country Vocalist, 1991, Favorite Country Album for Blue Clear Sky, 1996; ASCAP Voice of Music Award, 1995; Billboard magazine, Male Album Artist of the Year, 1981, Male Single Artist of the Year, 1983, Male Vocalist of the Year, 1984, Top Male Artist and Overall Top Artist, 1986, Number One Top Country Artist of the Year, 1987, Hot Country Singles and Tracks Artist, 1995-96, and Top Male Country Artist and Overall Top Artist, 1996; Country Music Association, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?, 1985; Male Vocalist of the Year, 1986, Entertainer of the Year, 1989-90, Album of the Year for Blue Clear S/cy, Single of the Year for Check Yes or No, Male Vocalist of the Year, all 1996, Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, 1997, Vocal Event of the Year (with Alan Jackson), 2000.

Addresses: Record company MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. Fan club P.O. Box 2119, Hendersonville, TN 37077, (615) 824-7176. Website George Strait Official Website: http://www.georgestrait.com.

Nashville one more try. With the help of a former MCA promotions man, Erv Woolsey, Strait Manáged to arrange a recording session with the MCA label. One of the songs from that first session, Unwound, went to number four on the country charts. MCA was quick to sign Strait after that, and Woolsey became his Manáger.

Hardly a month has passed since 1981 in which a George Strait song has not appeared somewhere on the country top 100. Indeed, Brower suggested that Strait has ridden the country singles chart like a broncobuster with Krazy Glue on his jeans. Straits albums are almost always guaranteed to be a hit. Though he generally does not write his own material, he is a whiz at choosing which songs to perform off of demo tapes. In April of 1998, One Step at a Time debuted at number one on the country album charts, and in May, Strait got his fifty-fifth top ten single when I Just Want to Dance With You moved to number seven. Strait does not describe himself as a talented songwriter, although he has written a few original compositions. Instead he is able to find songs that are right for him and a core of backup musicians who play with him exclusively. In People, Brower described Straits sound as hot as a fresh-baked cathead biscuit. His 1995 release Strait Out of the Box is among countrys best-selling boxed sets.

In the days when crossover hit was on everyones lips in Nashville, Strait had the courage to resist the glitz. He stuck to his strengthshonky tonk and heartacheand won fans with his impeccable appearance and pine-fresh voice. Some critics scoffed, calling him a yuppie-billy, but Strait made no apologies for his style. If you start messing around with changing yourself, he told People, youll end up screwing up. By the mid-1980s Strait was playing more than 250 live appearances per year. He told Newsweek. Everywhere I go, people tell me, Keep it countrydont change it. An article by Ryan Craig on the University Wire claimed that even into 1998, Strait did not stray from the formula, explaining that his album One Step at a Time contained the usual kind of country song that reaches in and rips out your heart, kicking it around on the ground. You know, the good stuff. Craig added, Its like that old joke: what would you get if you play a country song backwards? Youd get your trailer, truck, and wife back and your mamma wouldnt be in prison. Strait is not, however, a scruffy rough-rider: David Gates in Newsweek called the singer clean-cut, almost preppy and compared the atmosphere at his concertswith their legions of swooning women waving undergarmentsto those of the late crooner Frank Sinatra.

Strait has also not succumbed to the Nashville tendency to make a stars life an open book. Offstage he is intensely private, living on a secluded ranch in San Marcos, Texas, with his wife, Norma, and son, George, Jr, who is nicknamed Bubba. (Their daughter, Jennifer, died in a car crash in 1986.) A dedicated husband and father, Strait has been known to fly his family from their home to meet his tour bus at various locations around the country. And in April of 1998, he announced that he would introduce a new approach to touring in order to be able to spend more time at home. Though his 1996 concert attendance broke records set by Hank Williams, Sr., Elvis Presley, and himself, he began a national tour in 1998 that saw him only performing on weekends. He also planned to be done by summer so that he could get back to the ranch full-time. The arrangement increased touring costs and cut down on ticket receipts, but Strait was willing to make the sacrifice. He continued to do well regardless: the first four spring dates sold out, drawing between 44,000 and 63,000 fans. Other dates were near sell-outs, even in cities like Detroit, where promoters were not aware that country was so popular. Though his large stadium shows boasted five video screens, Strait remained true to his style. Youre not going to see George spit fire or blood; youre not going to see him on strings flying across the stage, commented tour promoter Louis Messina in the Los Angeles Times. Its all about the music and what he represents. If youre a George Strait fan, its pure country.

In addition to releasing One Step at a Time during the 1990s, Strait also released Lead On, Blue Clear Sky, Carrying Your Love with Me, and Always Never the Same. The early 2000s saw the release of George Strait and The Road Less Traveled. During the late 1990s, Strait founded the George Strait Music Festival, which features a collection of artists on a Lollapalooza-like tour. Strait made his silver screen debut with a starring role in a film called Pure Country in 1992. The singers album of the same name had become one of Straits most successful studio records as of the summer of 2002.

Straits greatest ambition is to see himself enshrined one day in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The interest in country traditionalism has given him a good chance of achieving that goal. Vaughan wrote that when the history of country music is written, Straits albums will rank alongside Haggard, Patsy Cline and George Jones. His voice is pure old-time country, the band, rough and rural but as good as any hand-picked Nashville session band, and Strait himself may just be the finest country music performer since Hank Williams.

Selected discography

Strait Country, MCA, 1981.

Strait From the Heart, MCA, 1982.

Right or Wrong, MCA, 1983.

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?, MCA, 1984.

George Straits Greatest Hits, MCA, 1985.

Something Special, MCA, 1986.

Number 7, MCA, 1986.

Merry Christmas Strait to You, MCA, 1986.

Ocean Front Property, MCA, 1987.

George Straits Greatest Hits, Volume 2, MCA, 1987.

If You Aint Lovin, You Aint Livin, MCA, 1988.

Beyond the Blue Neon, MCA, 1989.

Livin lt Up, MCA, 1990.

Chill of an Early Fall, MCA, 1991.

Pure Country, MCA, 1992.

Holding My Own, MCA, 1992.

Easy Come Easy Go, MCA, 1993.

Strait Out of the Box (compilation), MCA, 1995.

Lead On, MCA, 1994.

Blue Clear Sky, MCA, 1996.

Carrying Your Love with Me, MCA, 1997.

One Step at a Time, MCA, 1998.

Always Never the Same, MCA, 1999.

Merry Christmas Wherever You Are, MCA, 1999.

George Strait, MCA, 2000.

The Road Less Traveled, MCA, 2001.

Sources

Books

Newsmakers 1998, Issue 3, Gale Group, 1998.

St.James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press, 2000.

Vaughan, Andrew, Whos Who in New Country Music, St.Martins, 1989.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, April 19, 2002, p. 36.

Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1998, p. F2.

Newsweek, January 9, 1984.

People, June 3, 1985.

University Wire, May 6, 1998.

Online

George Strait: Biography, Country.com, http://artist.cmt.com/cmt/art/search/art.bios.jhtml?ai_id=150201 (June 11, 2002).

George Strait Official Website, http://www.georgestrait.com (July 27, 2002).

Anne Janette Johnson

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Strait, George

GEORGE STRAIT

Born: Poteet, Texas, 18 May 1952

Genre: Country

Best-selling album since 1990: Carrying Your Love with Me (1997)

Hit songs since 1990: "Easy Come, Easy Go," "Blue Clear Sky," "Round About Way"


An enduring presence in country music since the early 1980s, George Strait is a prolific, consistent performer whose work rarely strays from a "neo-traditional" country formula, using drums, fiddles, and steel guitar for instrumentation. Unlike contemporary performers such as Faith Hill and Garth Brooks, Strait has mostly avoided hard rock and pop elements in his music. Instead, he favors a more restrained sound that recalls the western swing and honky-tonk music of the mid-twentieth century. While Strait excels at up-tempo dance songs, he is also a convincing balladeer in the alternately smooth and gritty style of country legend Merle Haggard. Strait's personal image reflects his back-to-basics musical approach. With his sharply creased jeans, oversized belt buckle, broad cowboy hat, and toothy grin, Strait comes off as a model of all-American masculinity, a hardy, durable figure whose sex appeal is based on romantic constancy and solidity.

Born into a Texas family that had raised cattle for nearly a century, Strait grew up on an expansive ranch where he learned the mechanics of farming at an early age. As a youth he also developed an interest in country music, inspired by the soulful, stripped-down barroom style of his idol Haggard. In 1971, having eloped with his high school sweetheart Norma, he dropped out of college and enlisted in the army, where he began performing in a country band while stationed in Hawaii. After returning to Texas in 1975 with Norma and his young daughter Jenifer, Strait studied agriculture at Southwest State University and formed his own country band, Ace in the Hole.

After several lean years of financial struggle, Strait decided to leave performing and accept a job at a ranch equipment company in Uvalde, Texas. Fortunately Norma, always confident in her husband's abilities, urged him to make one more try as a performer. The gambit paid off when Strait's recurring gig at the small Prairie Rose nightclub in San Marcos, Texas, led to a contract with MCA Records, one of the biggest labels in country music. Like many of his later recordings, Strait's first hit, "Unwound (1981)," honored the "western swing" style of country music popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Rooted in West Texas and Oklahoma, western swing was known for its lively, up-tempo jazz rhythm supported by instrumentation of steel guitar, piano, and twin harmonizing fiddles.


1980s: Stardom and Tragedy

In the early 1980s country music was reeling from two decades of the dominant "countrypolitan" style, which enveloped vocalists in beds of swirling strings and cooing background choruses. Strait was at the vanguard of a group of young performers seeking a return to a more basic instrumental approach, one in keeping with western swing and the rough-and-tumble honky-tonk sound of the 1950s. Of these 1980s "neo-traditionalists," whose ranks included Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis, Strait emerged as the most consistently successful from a commercial perspective, scoring more than twenty-five country hits during the decade. Recording an album a year, Strait packed his releases with top-quality songs, well served by strong but subtle production values. Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984) is a classic of his early period, a stirring collection of swing tunes and sensitive ballads. The album gathers the various strands of Strait's influencesswing, tough country, pop balladryinto a warm and cohesive effort. Sadly, Strait's success was tempered by personal loss: His thirteen-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident while riding with friends in 1986. Already known for avoiding interviews, a devastated Strait didn't speak to the press for an entire year. Soon after the tragedy, he and Norma established the Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation, which donates money to various children's charities each year.

Crossover Success in the 1990s

During the early 1990s Strait enjoyed crossover pop success, a result of his starring role in the film Pure Country (1992) and albums such as Easy Come, Easy Go (1993), which, due to its breezy, tuneful title track, scored on both the country and pop charts. Easy Come, Easy Go continues the winning format of Strait's 1980s releases, with spirited performances and restrained production. Critics remarked that the swinging first track, "Stay Out of My Arms," showcases Strait at his best, his expressive, slightly pinched voice conveying a down-home swagger and twang. Writers have noted that country balladry is characterized by emotional generosity, an emphasis on feeling over technique. In this respect, Strait's heart-tugging performance on the lovelorn "Just Look at Me" links him with legendary balladeers of previous generations, particularly his main influence, Merle Haggard. If Strait's pitch wavers slightly near the end of phrases, it's an inconsistency that brings out the emotional fragility of the song. Critics noted that his vocal quality is less ideally suited to the album's closing number, "We Must Be Loving Right," a sophisticated ballad reflecting Strait's admiration for Frank Sinatra. Unlike Sinatra, a singer who harnessed emotion within the larger framework of technique, Strait does not possess the vocal nuance or subtle control of dynamics for this type of laid-back material. As a result, reviewers observed that Strait sounds constrained by the sedateness of the arrangement. His ambitious but flawed performance illuminates a key difference between country and pop: A pop stylist rarely abandons technical control in the pursuit of emotion, but for a country singer this sacrifice is a fundamental key to communication, a way of digging into the soul of the material.

Such missteps notwithstanding, Strait's musical consistency in the 1990s prevented him from releasing a bad album, the quality of his work ranging from listenable to excellent. Nonetheless, Blue Clear Sky (1996) deserves special attention as one of his most heartfelt works, achieving a quiet power that recalls his best 1980s albums. While all tracks are strong, the highlight is "Rockin' in the Arms of Your Memory," a ballad that finds its special power through haunting imagery: "Been twenty years and counting, I'm drowning in your love a little more each day." Here Strait reveals himself as a first-rate storyteller, pulling listeners into his tale of loss while retaining a sense of ambiguity. It is unclear whether his sadness comes from a romantic break-up or death; the complexity of his interpretation allows for both possibilities. In contrast to the meat-and-potatoes realism of many country songs, "Rockin' in the Arms" leaves behind a lingering air of mystery. Entertainment Weekly, in its review of Blue Clear Sky, praised Strait's new maturity, asserting that the singer "finally sounds like he's living his lyrics."

Strait's later releases, including George Strait (2000), show signs of artistic decline while remaining solid albums. Songs like the mild-mannered "Go On" (2000), while catchy enough to hit the charts, suffer from blandness, crossing the line between consistency and predictability, critics noted. Still, Strait remained a formidable presence in post-2000 country music, preserving his rugged cowboy image and individualistic spirit. Honoring his personal history as a rancher and rodeo man, Strait sponsors a yearly competition in team roping, a variation on calf roping in which two cowboys converge on a steer simultaneously. He is one of the few successful country performers to live outside of Nashville, shunning city glamour for the tranquility of his Texas ranch, where he resides with Norma and son George Jr., nicknamed "Bubba." Comparing Strait's habits with those of the famously reclusive billionaire, the Ottawa Sun in 1998 called him "as mysterious as Howard Hughes." "I haven't done a lot of interviews in the past," Strait told a writer for the country.com website in 2000. "I don't mind [interviews] that much sometimes, but I do like my privacy also."

During the early 1980s Strait spurred popular interest in traditional country music, paving the way for later neo-traditionalists such as Alan Jackson and the Judds. As he matured, Strait grew into an expressive performer who captures the dramatic essence of his material. Most importantly, he has maintained a high level of popular success without losing his swinging, individualistic sound.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Strait Country (MCA, 1981); Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (MCA, 1984); Beyond the Blue Neon (MCA, 1989); Pure Country (MCA, 1992); Easy Come, Easy Go (MCA, 1993); Blue Clear Sky (MCA, 1996); George Strait (MCA, 2000); The Road Less Traveled (MCA, 2001).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

Pure Country (1992).

WEBSITE:

www.georgestrait.com.

david freeland

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Strait, George

George Strait

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Avocalist blessed with good looks and a vibrant personality, George Strait has dominated the country music scene since the early 1980s. Strait was on the verge of quitting the entertainment business in favor of a job in agriculture when he managed to wrangle a contract with MCA Records. Since then he has arguably been MCAs biggest pure country performer, with almost a dozen gold albums to his credit.

Straits work is classic country and honky tonkthe kind of fiddle and pedal steel guitar-laced music that has been called country since the days of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. To quote Montgomery Brower in People magazine, Straits throwback blend of lilting guitar licks, keening fiddles, plaintive pedaled steel and taut, lonesome cowboy vocals has put him in the vanguard of country musics counterrevolutionaries, those performers who have refused to abandon old-time simplicity for Nashville slick. Strait has neverand probably will neverset his sights on a crossover hit. According to Andrew Vaughan in Whos Who in New Country Music, the clean-cut Strait has proved that country roots [are] still preferable, even in the age of compact disc.

George Strait was born and raised in Pearsall, Texas, the second of three children of a high school math teacher. His childhood on a small Texas ranch was rather conventional, and like most teenagers in the 1960s he gravitated to rock music and thought little of country. After high school Strait tried college, but he dropped out, married his high school sweetheart, and joined the Army. Only then did he begin to respond to the music of the artists who have become his idolsGeorge Jones, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams.

Strait was stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii in 1973 as part of his military service. While there he auditioned for an Army-sponsored country and western band, and was made lead singer. The band entertained at Army functions, presenting hours of Jones and Haggard songs, and gradually Straits style began to echo his favorite country stars. When he was discharged from the Army, Strait formed his own band in Texas and continued to perform. The singer told Vaughan that he never really tried to be original when he did club work. When youre a local act, and youre doing Merle Haggard and George Jones songs, people want you to sound like the records. So thats what you do; you sing like Merle or George and pretty soon thats just the way you sing.

The prospects did not seem brilliant for Strait and his band, despite their popularity in Texas. Several trips to Nashville in pursuit of a recording contract came to nothing, so Strait returned to college and earned a degree in agriculture. He was just on the verge of

For the Record

Born in 1952 in Pearsall, Tex.; son of a high school math teacher; married, wifes name, Norma; children: Jennifer, George, Jr. Education: B.S. in agriculture, Southwest Texas State University, 1978.

Country singer, 1973; began singing with a U.S. Army band during military service in Hawaii, continued fronting a band after discharge in 1975. Signed with MCA Records, 1981; had first top-ten country hit, Unwound, 1981.

Awards: Recipient of numerous awards and honors from the country music industry, including male vocalist of the year and album of the year, both 1985, and male vocalist of the year, 1989, from Country Music Association. Has recorded more than ten gold albums.

Addresses: Record company MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

accepting a job with a firm that manufactured ranch equipment when his wife persuaded him to give Nashville one more try. With the help of a former MCA promotions man, Erv Woolsey, Strait managed to arrange a recording session with the MCA label. One of the songs from that first session, Unwound, went to Number 4 on the country charts. MCA was quick to sign Strait after that, and Woolsey became his manager.

Hardly a month has passed since 1981 in which a George Strait song has not appeared somewhere on the country Top 100. Indeed, Brower suggested that Strait has ridden the country singles chart like a broncobuster with Krazy Glue on his jeans. Typically his albums have shipped gold and have hit Number 1 in the first week of release. His best-known work to date is probably Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?, the album which won him 1985 entertainer of the year honors from the Country Music Association.

In the days when crossover hit was on everyones lips in Nashville, Strait had the courage to resist the glitz. He stuck to his strengthshonky tonk and heartacheand won fans with his impeccable appearance and pine-fresh voice. Some critics scoffed, calling him a yuppie-billy, but Strait made no apologies for his style. If you start messing around with changing yourself, he told People, youll end up screwing up. By the mid-1980s Strait was playing more than 250 live appearances per year. He told Newsweek: Everywhere I go, people tell me, Keep it countrydont change it.

Strait has also not succumbed to the Nashville tendency to make a stars life an open book. Offstage he is intensely private, living on a secluded ranch with his wife and two children. Strait does not describe himself as a talented songwriter, although he has written a few original compositions. Instead he is able to find songs that are right for him and a core of backup musicians who play with him exclusively. In People, Brower described Straits sound as hot as a fresh-baked cathead biscuit.

Straits greatest ambition is to see himself enshrined one day in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The new interest in country traditionalism has given him a good chance of achieving that goal. Vaughan wrote that when the history of country music is written, Straits albums will rank alongside Haggard, Patsy Cline and George Jones. His voice is pure old-time country, the band, rough and rural but as good as any hand-picked Nashville session band, and Strait himself may just be the finest country music performer since Hank Williams.

Selected discography

Strait Country, MCA.

Strait From the Heart, MCA.

Right or Wrong, MCA.

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?, MCA, 1984.

George Straits Greatest Hits, MCA, 1985.

Something Special, MCA, 1986.

Number 7, MCA, 1986.

Merry Christmas Strait to You, MCA, 1986.

Ocean Front Property, MCA, 1986.

George Straits Greatest Hits, Volume 2, MCA, 1987.

If You Aint Lovin, You Aint Livin, MCA, 1988.

Beyond the Blue Neon, MCA, 1989.

Livinlt Up, MCA, 1990.

Sources

Books

Vaughan, Andrew, Whos Who in New Country Music, St. Martins, 1989.

Periodicals

Newsweek, January 9, 1984.

People, June 3, 1985.

Anne Janette Johnson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
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"Strait, George." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Strait, George." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/strait-george

"Strait, George." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/strait-george