Story Behind the Ace in the Hole Band, Legendary Backing Band Behind George Strait

by Joe Rutland
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Country music legends like Bob Wills and Buck Owens had backing bands (The Texas Playboys and the Buckaroos). George Strait has his Ace in the Hole Band.

The band has been with Strait since their early days at Southwest Texas State University, now known as Texas State University, in San Marcos, Texas. Its origins lie in the band that was known as Stoney Ridge.

Coincidentally, Strait became the band’s lead singer after members of Stoney Ridge were looking for one.

How George Strait Became The Lead Singer

The story goes that the band put out fliers seeking a lead singer. Strait, who was an agriculture science major at Southwest Texas State, saw a flier and made a phone call.

Band members listened to Strait, liked what they heard, and added him to the roster in the mid-1970s.

Strait eventually went on to have his solo career in the 1980s. The band, though, continued to play behind Strait and does so to this day.

Here’s a photo from the 1980s featuring Strait in front of the band.

Members Of the Ace in the Hole Band

Members of the band include Mike Daily on steel guitar, Terry Hale on bass, Ron Huckaby on keyboards, Rick McRae on lead guitar, Benny McArthur on guitar and fiddle, Gene Elders on fiddle, Wes Hightower and Marty Slayton on backing vocals, Joe Manuel on acoustic guitar, John Michael Whitby on keyboards, and Lonnie Wilson on drums.

A fan of the band gathered them together for a photo in 2015.

Wilson took over on drums for Mike Kennedy, who joined the band in 1987 and played drums for 30 years before dying in a car crash in 2018.

In addition, the band has continued to record singles with Strait in the studio. The band even recorded some songs without Strait doing the vocals. One worth remembering was the 1994 record which featured guest vocals from the legendary Mel Tillis and Darrell McCall.

In January, Strait himself tweeted out a throwback photo of him and the band.

This year, McRae put his time in quarantine due to the coronavirus to good use. He sat down and wrote a song called “Isolation Blues.”

“I guess I am a total guitar nut,” McRae says on his website. “I love all the different aspects and sounds that they make. Guess that is why I have so many guitars.

“I like to play my electric classical guitar a lot too. I have recently started to learn more bluegrass flat-picking too. That will keep a man busy.”

Also, in 2019, KCEN-TV sports director Kurtis Quillin sat down and interviewed Daily, McArthur, and Huckaby. Here’s a photo from his interview.

George Strait Sings ‘All My Ex’s Live in Texas’

Obviously, Strait has been producing hit after hit since the 1980s, but none may be bigger than “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”

The King of Country is known for his unique sound. So as soon as you hear a Strait song on the airwaves, you immediately know it’s him.

Also, some have said that country music isn’t what it used to be. Well, when you’re comparing it to George Strait’s 1987 classic “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” there’s definitely a different sound.

We dive into the history of the song. “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” was written by Sanger D. Schafer and his wife at the time, Lyndia Shafer. This song was Strait’s 19th single and is on the “Ocean Front Property” album.

Here’s Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band doing this classic country song on an “Austin City Limits” appearance.

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