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A Songwriters Tribute To George Strait - Volume I
Interview With The Songwriters
By Doak Turner
(more articles from this author)
2005-02-20
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Artist: Multiple
Title: A Songwriters Tribute to George Strait Vol. 1
Genre: Country/Singer-Songwriter
Label: Compadre Records
Download: "Fool Hearted Memory"

The CD, A Songwriters Tribute to George Strait Vol. 1, has recently been released on Compadre Records. A key group of award-winning songwriters who have penned some of George Strait’s biggest hits come together to offer a rare opportunity to hear these famous songs in their original forms – the way George Strait heard them for the first time. We spoke to the producer, Pat Alger, and a couple of the songwriters who are featured on this “Must Have” CD.

[Doak Turner] Pat Alger, why did you select George Strait songs to do this tribute, as there are a lot of great artists in country music?

Pat Alger There are a lot of great artist, but there are only a few artists that have had long careers that were driven by songwriters. There are a lot of great artists that have written their own songs –Waylon & Willie and others in that category. George Strait has relied on a lot of the professional songwriters his entire career. He has had this incredible career and has gone back to the well to the songwriters that have written songs for him.

[Doak Turner]How did you select the songs for the project and there a reason for calling it the first tribute?

Pat Alger We are going to do another volume in the future. George just released his 50 Number Ones and there are some songs on our CD that were not #1, but they are great songs. Every songwriter is not a singer and interpreter of their songs. I was looking for soulful versions and we had some budget constraints. We tried to get a couple of his songwriters to do the project that were not interested in what we could offer to be part of the project. My main goal was to offer a beginning, middle and end; we had Byron Hill with George’s first #1 and ended with Tony Lane with a recent #1 with “ Run”. Mack Vickory’s song. “The Fireman” was not a #1 and Sonny Throckmorton’ song “The Cowboy Rides Away” – both of those songs went to #3 on the charts. It was a matter of getting songwriters that I knew that were going to give me expressive treatments of their songs. I didn’t want it to sound like a George Strait record, but the songwriter’s own interpretation of their song.

[Doak Turner]What about the marketing of the CD?

Pat Alger The market is for the real George Strait fans. The fans will get to hear their favorite songs the way George heard it the first time. George heard these songs in very simple arrangements most of the time and he has uncanny ear for hits and knows his audience. These songs are a varied lyrically and musically as I can imagine twelve songs being on a record. People that have never heard songwriters singing their hits will really love these songs!

Bryon Hill, was co-writer of George Strait’s first number one song, “Fool Hearted Memory,” ]. Byron was an aspiring 26–year-old songwriter when he got the chance to write a song specifically for George Strait’s performance in the 1982 movie “The Soldier.”

[Doak Turner]Byron, what was it like hearing George Strait sing your song for the first time?

Byron Hill It was a time when not everybody was familiar with George Strait. When they invited me to the studio to hear the cut, I loved it not because it was George Strait, but because it was good.

[Doak Turner]What did having George cut “Fool Hearted Memory” do for your career?

Byron Hill It changed my life, really. It put me on the map as a songwriter.

[Doak Turner]Did you think that George would go on after taking your song to #1 and have such a tremendous career?

Byron Hill Country artists just didn’t sell huge numbers of albums back when George broke into the scene, so, no, my expectations for a solid country artist like George were far less that what happened. George kind of caught everyone off guard, at a time when only Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers were selling huge, and the were basically AC/Pop artists who crossed over to county.

[Doak Turner]What did George Strait do for songwriters?

Byron Hill George raised the bar for country songwriters. He made us all start competing in a good way to write the best songs. The great respect that he gets from songwriters is totally warranted, Most of us have a good part of our professional lives always dedicated to getting that first or next George Strait cut!

Mack Vickery isn’t precisely sure about the inspiration for “The Fireman,” a George Strait standard which appeared on 1984’s Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, although he thinks it may have something to do with his father’s service as a firefighter on an Alabama Air Force base during World War Two.

[Doak Turner]What was it like the first time you heard George Strait sing your song?

Mack Vickery The first time I heard him sing “The Fireman” I was at the publishing company, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing. George was a fairly new artist at the time. I have had a lot of records cut prior to George, and I wasn’t really happy with all of them. But when George Strait cut “The Fireman” I said, “I like that guy.” Later on after “The Fireman” was cut, and it had taken six years to get it cut, George made it a smash! After watching his career, George is one of the greatest people and artists. He is always the same. Sometimes the bigger they get, the bigger their head gets, but not George.

[Doak Turner]What did “The Fireman” do for your career?

Mack Vickery It was the first of six or seven of my songs that he cut, and really made for a great life for me. “George – God bless ya and thank you!”

Steve Bogard penned “Carried Away” and “Carrying Your Love With Me.” “Carried Away” was the first of five Steve Bogard and Jeff Stevens collaborations with George Strait.

[Doak Turner]Steve, what was it like hearing George Strait sing your song “Carried Away”?

Steve Bogard Jeff Stevens and I first heard it in Tony Brown’s office and later on the radio. “I was thrilled. It’s a magical deal – you just can’t believe that George Strait has heard one of your songs and wants to cut it. The most exciting time of hearing George sing my song was at a stadium in Louisville, KY, when he first started doing his big stadium tours. Hearing George and the crowd singing “Carried Away” and “Carrying You Love With Me” was a thrill I’ll never forget. There are times when the writer is not excited about how an artist sings a song as you wrote it. You are always excited to get a song cut by an artist. George was so true to the demo and how we wrote the songs and took them to the next level – especially with the honesty and heart of the song in his delivery. George is the man, as far as I am concerned! Try to write for George Strait, and even if he does not cut it you will still have a great song.

[Doak Turner]Were you trying to write your songs for George to cut them specifically?

Steve Bogard No, not necessarily for the first songs that he cut of ours. We were just trying to write a great country song.

[Doak Turner]What did having George Strait cut your songs do for your career?

Steve Bogard It was awesome – we had about four songs in a row on George’s CDs,and now two of Jeff Stevens and my songs are on the number one CD in the country, George Strait – 50 Number Ones. It has done awesome things for my career.

Songs on A Songwriters Tribute to George Strait Vol. 1 include, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind,” “Carrying Your Love With Me,” “Carried Away,” “Fool Hearted Memory,” “Chill of An Early Fall,” “Blame It On Mexico,” “The Fireman,” “Run,” “I Cross My Heart,” “Check Yes Or No,” “The Cowboy Rides Away,” and “All My Ex’s Live In Texas.”

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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