How George Strait Landed His First Houston Rodeo Gig

by Jacklyn Krol
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

George Strait has a longstanding history with the Houston Rodeo, but he always didn’t sell out the arena.

The King of Country‘s first time performing was in 1983, and it was not planned. Instead, he just had hours to somewhat prepare. That evening artist Eddie Rabbitt was scheduled to perform but he ended up getting the flu and had to bow out.

“Somebody mentioned this young, upcoming entertainer from south Texas, George Strait,” Jim Bloodworth, former chairman and president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo told ABC. “He had a record out, but he wasn’t on in this area.”

The issue was that the show was set to begin in just three hours and thousands of people were lining up to enter the venue prepared for a show.

“We didn’t have cell phones. Well, George wasn’t there, he was out looking for his dog. He lost his dog,” he explained. “About an hour later, he calls back and we said, ‘We’d like you to come to our show, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.’ He said, ‘What’s the date?’ We said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. We’re talking about tonight. We need you tonight.'”

He flew in and landed less than sixty minutes before the show would begin. He did not have a rehearsal or soundcheck.

“This good-looking, handsome cowboy comes out with starched jeans and starched shirt, cowboy hat, and starts singing to the crowd,” Bloodworth recalled. “He’d look right in the camera and smile, and the girls went crazy. He had them for the rest of the night.”

“Right there, it was like this guy is going to be something,” Bloodworth added. “He would have been big without the rodeo, but we did give him a kick start.”

George Strait and the Houston Rodeo’s Relationship

George Strait has performed at the Houston Rodeo 30 times, the most of any artist. He is gearing up for his 31st appearance this weekend. The “Check Yes or No” singer also holds the record for the highest number of fans in attendance. He broke the record first in 2013 with 80,020 fans. Ironically, he broke his own record again in 2019 with 81,108 fans in the crowd. Overall, he has played for 1.7 million fans at the 30 concerts.

Because of his contributions and admiration for the Houston Rodeo, he was honored in two ways. In 1996, he was inducted into the RODEOHOUSTON Star Trail of Fame. He is only one of nine artists to receive this honor. Seven years later, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo George Strait Scholarship was created and awarded.