Happy Birthday George Strait

CMT.com says “Happy Birthday” to George Strait on the occasion of his 50th, Saturday, May 18. Strait, born in Poteet, Texas, started his run on the country charts in 1981 with “Unwound” and in the ensuing 21 years has outdistanced all of his country music peers.

His current single, “Living and Living Well,” appears to be making its way to the top of the country charts, the latest in a long list of achievements that includes 25 platinum albums and somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 No. 1 country singles.

Famously averse to interaction with the press, Strait has built his fame by delivering high-quality, hit-laced country albums and by touring with a show that puts his music front and center. His starched-cowboy image –- creased jeans, crisp western shirt and Resistol hat — has remained constant over the course of his musical career.

Whether in the road-warrior days of playing 200 dates a year in honky-tonks and dancehalls or in more recent years, when his country music festivals boosted the fortunes of support acts like Faith Hill , Tim McGraw or the Dixie Chicks , Strait has stood for quality and tradition. Which is not to say he has been one-dimensional. His smooth approach to country encompasses pop ballads, western swing tunes, Cajun-flavored music and honky-tonk.

So here’s to King George. A press representative tells us he’ll observe his big day in an understated way. “Nothing’s planned, to our knowledge,” she says. “It’s just quietly going by.”

CMT tips its hat to the cowboy on Saturday (May 18) with an airing at 3 p.m. ET of an installment of Best of Austin City Limits featuring Strait, followed at 4 p.m. ET by Big Ticket featuring Strait and George Jones.

And look for Strait Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET/PT) on the 37th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. He’ll perform on the show. He doesn’t have a nomination, but he influenced virtually every artist who does.