Six Never-Before-Seen Photos of George Strait

During a 1984 tour through Texas.

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George Strait wasn’t the only unknown artist getting the Big Push from MCA-Nashville in the early eighties, or even the only one from Texas. James and Michael Williams, two sibling singer-songwriters from the Valley who played under the name the Younger Brothers, signed with the label in 1981, just about the same time Strait did. Promoted as an Everlys-esque duo with emphasis on their close vocal harmonies, the Youngers notched a Top 20 single with “Nothing But the Radio On” in 1982. When MCA sent Strait on his first label-supported tours of Texas, the brothers were booked to open.

Their bass player was a San Antonio boy named Tom Kotzur, who also happened to be a budding amateur photographer. Armed with a brand new Canon AE-1 and the strongest zoom lens he could afford on a sideman’s pay, Kotzur spent his post-performance time chronicling the headlining act, who was rapidly scaling heights the Youngers would not reach. Now 65 and working as a delivery driver in Nashville, Kotzur reached out to Texas Monthly after seeing Strait’s portrait on the cover of our June issue. He said he had old photos of the singer that had never been published, and he asked if we were interested in looking at them them. We bit. Below are some of those images, all taken as Strait was exploding in 1984, along with Kotzur’s memories of country music history in the making.

I can’t remember the first time we played with him. It may have been a showcase in Houston, a private show for people from the label. Before that, I hadn’t heard him yet and didn’t know much about him. I knew he was big in Texas, but I counted that as local, and we had a pretty good following in Texas, too. But you could see his potential to be a big star right away. He had a great voice, and his band had a great sound, mostly western swing. And he just had that look, that certain something.

In some of these old photos it looks like someone must have told the girls to look madly in love with him. Nobody needed to do that. Girls went crazy for him. They’d hold up his pictures. They’d scream and holler his name—but not while he was singing. They wanted to hear the songs. They wanted to hear his voice.

When “You Look So Good in Love” came out, girls started throwing boots on stage. It wasn’t keys. It wasn’t underwear. It was boots.

James Williams was on George’s bus after a show once and George told him, “When I was in high school I was really shy. Girls wouldn’t come after me, and I was too shy to chase after them. Now just look at them. It’s like I’m a big old piece of meat.” James just laughed and said, “We feel so bad for you.”

Like these girls. They were right there, on the front row—and one of them has binoculars. She’s right underneath him. What’s she looking at? His eyes? His lips? Those girls were so dreamy-eyed. They must be 60-something-years old now. I’d love to find them and hear what they were thinking.

George was more popular by the time I took this one. Once he started having No. 1’s he got a bus. But there he is, standing in the doorway signing autographs. There’s no security, but still he’s not getting swarmed. The fans were orderly, taking turns. Everybody wanted a piece of him, and he always let them have one.

It was weird that somebody who wasn’t really communicating with the crowd, who wasn’t talking between songs, could hold an audience the way he did. All he did was stand at the microphone, hold his guitar and sing. And the fans fell all over him. He’s pretty much now the way he was then. He sang those songs, and that was enough.

When we first went out with him, when we went to those first gigs, he was in a van pulling a trailer, just like us, and we played dance halls and small clubs. Then, to celebrate his first number-one, George got an RV, maybe a 30-footer. And as he had more number-ones, along came the bus and bigger venues. Suddenly it was wall-to-wall people. It was hard opening for someone getting that big. The fans were anxious to get to the headliner. But it was great, too. We’d play with a nice, big soundsystem, have guys doing lights. We’d been doing all that ourselves. But now, when you played with George, that was taken care of for you.

I didn’t expect him to become the biggest star ever. I didn’t think, “Maybe someday he’ll be as big as George Jones,” mainly because I wasn’t thinking about those kinds of things. But it was amazing to me, after we quit opening for him, to realize, “Wow, he just keeps on having hits and winning awards.” It felt good. I felt privileged to have been there at the very beginning.

(All photos copyright Tom Kotzur, 1984)

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  • Jean

    What memories these pictures bring back. I saw him in 1984 for a small benefit performance in Boerne, TX. It was a fund raiser for a fellow Texan who had some major medical issues and he gave his time. He shook everyone’s hand, gave autographs, etc. and was a real gentleman. What a nice person.

  • Deborah Lucia

    I saw him in 1984 at a local county fair and he looked exactly like the photos’ above. I still carry my photo of me kissing him on the cheek today. He was a perfect gentleman.

  • Wendy

    I was 14 years old when I got to meet King George. He played at the Fort Bend County Fair in 1984. I got to go on his tour bus and had my picture taken with him. I was part of his fan club and was (and still am) in love with him and his music! We owned a house in Rockport, Texas just around the bend from him, too! So cool!

  • DeeDee

    I saw him many times, including the first time he performed at the Houston rodeo and rumor has it Janie Fricke (who??) wouldn’t share the ride to stage with “that unknown”! He rode a horse instead and started a tradition! Another time I saw him I threw my boot onstage and I still have the autographed pair…snakeskin with butterflies!

  • Faye Martinez

    what a good looking man hes more handsome now I think whoa!!!!!!!

  • tom kotzur

    If anyone recognizes them self in any of these photos, jump in the conversation. Here is another photo of many more I have.

    • Rebecca E.

      What great pictures!!!! I’m pretty sure I’m the one in the front row with the girl and the Binoculars. I was so mesmerized with George, his voice and his songs. Wow is all I can say…….. He is one of a kind. There will never be another King George. WE LOVE YOU GEORGE……..

    • Wendall Maloy

      Great photos Tommy! I missed seeing you last week when we were in Hendersonville. Our best to you and Judy!

    • Lisa

      I was in the third picture – think it was in Odessa, Texas, early 1984

  • Rebecca E.

    What great memories come back seeing these pictures. I’m almost sure one of the pictures is me staring at King George. You have a picture of four ladies and one has Binoculars. I think I’m the short one in front of the three girls. I do know the girls behind me, but I don’t remember their names. I was just so mesmerized by his appearance, his voice and songs. We used to go and see him when he played in San Marcos, TX at the Crystal Chandelier and at the Double Eagle outside of Austin, TX. Would I be able to get a copy of this picture or article? George Strait: There will never be a person like him. He is one of a kind. We love you George!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kyleen

    It had to be 1985 or 1986 when he performed in Jackpot, NV. I was a blackjack dealer and had the pleasure of dealing to him. He was such a pleasant man but not much of a card player. LOL I got brief views of his performance when people would come and go out of the concert hall. His dressing room was just down the hall from our break room and I remember him sending some of the complimentary food (that the casino sent him) down to our break room for us to enjoy. ALWAYS the gentleman.

  • Whosyourdaddy

    Very nice! I saw him at an Austin honky tonk sometime in 1981-1983 right when the hits started. Great show and not a packed house. Been trying to think of the name of that club so if anyone remembers please let me know…on Burnet road perhaps a half mile north of the Silver Dollar/Lumberyard and across the street. I remember seeing Ray Wiley Hubbard and Jerry Jeff there as well.

    • Hello

      Dance across Texas?

  • C.S lover

    it was in 1984 i was separated from my wife and started going to a country bar and listen to country for the first time. They kept playing The Chair, Tears on the jukebox and a few other George Strait songs. that is when i fell in love with country music. He is the best ever. i don’t thank he ever did a bad song.

  • Brenda White

    OMG! I spotted myself and one of my best friends in the third picture on the first row! What fun memories! I lived in Lytle, Texas when he started out and played at CowTown dance Hall, owned by another one of my best friends parents! We followed George all over for about 3 years!
    Was so dissapointed when I went to his show in Austin and Didnt get in because our StubHub tickets were fake! What a sad night that was. I was hoping to see him one last time in concert,

    • Joyce Morris

      How could you be disappointed seeing George…..just wondering?

      • Brenda White

        Let me correct that, I didn’t get in because the tickets we bought from stubhub were fake, so I was disappointed because I DIDN’T get to see him! I don’t know what happened in the post above! I’ve never been disappointed seeing George!

        • Joyce Morris

          What a bummer to get fake tickets! I was just curious. I share your feeling about seeing George. I know you treasure your memories of him.

  • Dawn Berry Dossey

    I saw him in 1984 at the Frank Mayborn center in Temple. I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter. I was so excited to see him, but then I got light headed and as I was walking out to get some air I passed out. What a memory!

    • Tina

      My mom was there too, not sure what year. She had him sign a boot and he told her that he had signed a lot of things, but never a boot. 😉

  • Betty Skel

    I first saw George Strait at the Arcadia Rodeo grounds in 1984. After the show I walked up to his bus, knocked on the door and he came out and took pictures and signed my ticket. I was the only one there. Crazy to think he is retiring. Makes me very sad:-(

  • Jackie

    Met him in El Paso in 1984 at a nightclub called Dallas where he had a concert in the parking lot, he was amazing!! What a great memory of the King!!!

  • Joyce Morris

    Well, I must say it: George went to high school with some “dumb-ass” girls….everyone knows the shy ones are the BEST! I loved this article. Thank you for sharing this gentleman’s recollections with his fans, but most of all, thank you for the photos. George Strait is drop dead gorgeous with sex appeal that would blow up a Richter Scale! I love George Strait and his voice.

  • linda Dilgard

    When I was a student at SWTSU(79-80), I was invited to go to a local honky tonk (unknown name) to see a “new”guy with a group of my friends. I decided to stay at the dorm and study for a test…….one great regret of my life. It was George Strait. My friends said he was really good and after he sang he came over and just sat and visited with them. He is my favorite singer and only wish I had been able to meet him.

    • Joyce Morris

      Bummer :(

    • jane

      I think it was called ‘Cheatham Street’ bar or something like that?

      • Lisa Howard Shanks

        It was Cheatham Street Pub, yes… I didn’t see him there but many of my friends did.

  • Beth

    I first saw King George at a county fair in Kansas in 1983. His kids and Norma were at the show with him and interrupted the show to tell him they’d be playing “right over there”. It was great. I was only 13, but to see a real gentleman and family man really made an impression on me. That show started me on a 31 year journey as a George Strait fan. My daughter’s first concert was George Strait, and she’s as big a fan as I am. My friends, who were into hair metal, even loved King George. Every generation of my family loves George Strait, and he is the only artist I can say that about.

  • Paul

    I saw his first show in Kingsville when he had the team roping he sponsored. I still have a ticket and it was only $10.00…. I am going to his last concert in Dallas and the tickets is now over $600.00…he has come a long way and there will probably never be another like him.

  • Cowboy Bud

    Wife and I saw Him in Tampa, Fl when he was Touring with Reba. AWESOME Show!!!!!!! Wife got to see King George and I got to see Reba. Made both our nights

  • debbey

    i meet him back then at cedars club in arlington,tx
    i got a kiss on the lips(i can verify that) he’s wife didnt seem to like it much tho
    i’ll never forget that♥

  • Cmiuc Cat

    i was in Lubbock, texas at the South Plains Fair in 84…when he was the “new” future of CM… and look at him now…

  • Guest

    This pic is from about 1982, at CowTown in Lytle Texas.

  • Guest

    This was taken around 1982, at CowTown Dance Hall in Lytle Texas. Me and my friend Lisa!

  • C P Rando

    Thanks for the flashback! I saw George at the Purple Sage in Uvalde before his career took off. Me and my friends (Debbie, Patti and Sheila) were the only fans standing in front of the stage. What a treat!
    I think I have a photo of George, in the smokey blue velvet jacket, reaching out and touching my sister’s hand.

    Thanks Mr. Strait for sharing your talent with us all these years!



  • Roger Ramsey

    I’m in a George Strait Jacket in this Pic – Roger Ramsey -MCA Recortds

    • Wendall Maloy

      Do you still have the lip tattoo? I just got back from Hendersonville and my visit with James, Michael and Donny. I also got to meet Wesley Orbison at James’ house. It was good to see you in the photo…those were great times.

      • Roger Ramsey

        Good to hear from you Ole Friend.. No lips faded years ago – I was a 18 years ole Paratrooper in Paris when I got them – Now I’m an Ole 69 year old Record PushingTroubadour…
        RADIO PROMOTIONS  713 542 7766

  • Guest

    Texas State Fair 1984, my mom took this pic.

  • Scarlett

    I saw him in in a concert at Gilley’s in Pasadena in the Rodeo Arena. There were maybe 5,000 people there. We could see him on stage really well. There was so much excitement in the audience. The 4 of us screamed at him during one of his songs. He tipped his hat at us and we just about died. I will never forget how thrilling that was!!! It was in 1985-86. I still love George Stait!

  • Marsha in Vegas

    I remember hearing “You look so good in love” for the first time surrounded by my parents, my kids and my husband in front of my TV. I could not believe the beautiful sound I was hearing. I starting sweating and breathing very deep and fell into a trance. Suddenly I came out of it at the end, and I looked at very confused eyes from all my family and husband. Very uncomfortable. My teenage daughter, says, “Gees Mom”. Thank you George for singing so wonderfully that it takes you to another place.

  • Gabrielle Miller

    I could have gone to see him in Robstown, TX, but didn’t go! Boy, was I sorry.

    • Jill

      At the High Chaparral, I was there, not many others though. It was my first time to see him and he was great. Way before he got famous!

  • H. Liz R. Hajovsky

    Why can’t I see any of the pictures here? They’re “grayed out” no matter which browser I use

  • Lisa

    I am in the 3rd Picture – think this was in Odessa, Texas early 1984. So glad I saw this!

  • Shawn Rutherford

    If you’d like to see some old (1984) video of George Strait:when he was to play in Victoria, Tx., here ya go!

  • DarkKnight77587

    Unfortunately I met George and Norma beside the road where there daughter had just died. She was the passenger in a Mustang 5.0 that tried to make a hard left turn onto Hunter lane (from McCarty) and rolled over with her falling half way out and being crushed. I was the first Sheriff’s Unit to arrive and tried to do CPR but the damage was too great. I didn’t know who she was until advised by bystander…..

  • Caitlyn Bunton

    Tears on the Jukebox in the song is called Let’s Fall To Pieces Together

  • Caitlyn Bunton

    Why did you throw boots on the stage while George was singing