MCA Wanted George Strait to Lose The Hat, Go By 'Cain Cooper'
George Strait.jpg

Photo: David McClister

George Strait doesn't leave home often these days since he announced his retirement from the street in 2014. There's an occasional Las Vegas stopover or a one-time stadium show or two with tickets that typically cost over $ 200 per person. He has earned the right to be very selective about his public appearances. But he went out of his way to find a clean shirt and traveled to Oklahoma City to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum on Saturday, September 18.

In a rather underrated engagement, Strait received the award along with Robert Duvall, who received his own Lifetime Achievement Award as a holdover from the 2020 event postponed due to the pandemic. The two men were given three-piece Western buckles to commemorate the ceremony, which honors those who have made significant contributions to Western heritage through their lives and careers.

Upon receiving the award, George Strait took the podium to deliver a four-minute speech. In the address he talked about growing up on a ranch in a small town in southern Texas and coming out of cowboy culture like his father. After serving in the military and attending college in San Marcos, TX, Strait continued to run the family's cattle ranch while he began his country music career.

After all, Strait made it so big in the country that he had to hand over his cowboy affairs to others. But of course George Strait has continued to contribute to cowboy and western culture throughout his career, including songs like "Amarillo By Morning" and "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" and many others.

During his speech to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage black-tie audience, George Strait shared a story about how he first signed a major label deal and ended up in Nashville, and what MCA Records tried to get George Strait to do to make it more marketable.

“I want to tell you a funny story. When I first signed with MCA Records in 1981, everyone was like, 'Take off your hat!' Now you can imagine if I would have! ”Said George Strait, laughing. "I'm serious."

"And then I had a producer early on who was trying to get me to change my name … to Cain Cooper," Strait continued, laughing with the crowd. “I would have been one of the Coopers! My father was so glad I didn't do that. "

Strait dedicated its Lifetime Achievement Award to his father, to whom he taught his Western heritage. "I've tried to carry this western legacy through my life and career and pass it on to my family."

Can you imagine a parallel universe where George Strait did not wear a cowboy hat and was named Cain Cooper? Fortunately, George Strait could only be himself, and that has been the steady hand and rock of country music for four decades now. So, when he showed up in Nashville in 1981, he became one of the men who helped reverse the course of country music in a more neo-traditional direction.

Cain Cooper. Is there something Music Row can't figure out how to try and screw up?

See the full acceptance speech from George Strait below.


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