George Strait Classic Turns 40 Years Old: ‘My Most Favorite Song That I’ve Ever Recorded’

by Jim Casey

George Strait’s catalog is vast, to say the least. With more than 100 singles on the country charts—not to mention the hundreds of deep cuts that were never released as singles—King George ruled over country music for the better part of three decades. His 44 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart are still tops—all time.

He can’t play a show without fan favorites like “The Chair,” “Give It Away,” and “Troubadour” on the set list. But if you want to know George’s “favorite” song, look no further than his 2016 show at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas. George performed the concert in November 2016 to celebrate the recent release of his album, Strait Out of the Box: Part II. The box set featured 46 songs from George’s sonic repertoire that were recorded between 1996 and 2016. But one song that wasn’t on the album? George’s favorite: “Amarillo by Morning,” which turned 40 years old in 2022. Actually, it’s closer to 50 years old, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

“My most favorite song that I’ve ever recorded, and it was big in the dance halls,” said George Strait, while on the Gruene Hall stage in 2016. “People always requested this. It’s called ‘Amarillo by Morning.’ And I love singing it.”

‘Amarillo by Morning’

Written by Paul Fraser and Terry Stafford, “Amarillo by Morning” was originally recorded by Stafford in 1973 on his album, Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose. Stafford’s version had moderate success on the country chart, ascending to No. 31, which was his biggest country hit. Of course, Stafford scored a Top 5 hit on the pop charts in 1964 with “Suspicion.”

Almost a decade after Stafford’s release of “Amarillo by Morning,” George Strait recorded the tune in April 1982. It was featured on his sophomore album, Strait From the Heart, which he released in June 1982. The album’s lead single, “Fool Hearted Memory,” became George’s first chart-topping hit.

He followed up with “Marina del Rey” (No. 6), before releasing “Amarillo by Morning.”

And while the tune is one of George’s best-selling songs of all time, it wasn’t one of his 44 singles to top the chart. “Amarillo by Morning” peaked at No. 4. But it’s still George’s “favorite.”

Finally, George scored three Multi-Platinum singles over his royal career. The RIAA certified “Amarillo by Morning,” 1992’s “I Cross My Heart,” and 1995’s “Check Yes or No” as 2X Platinum for sales of 2 million units.