“Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”
Written by Darlene Shafer and Sanger Shafer
#1 (1 week)
George Strait’s rise to superstardom seemed smooth and effortless, but by the time he was recording his fourth album, tensions had boiled over behind the scenes.
Strait was already wildly popular, drawing massive crowds on the road and getting reliable airplay on country radio. His first two albums had been produced by Blake Mevis, but he requested that Mevis be removed from his third album after laying some tracks down. He was concerned that Mevis was trying to push him in a pop-flavored direction that he wasn’t comfortable with.
Ray Baker took over producing duties for his third album, Right or Wrong, which became his first to receive a gold certification. Strait grew increasingly frustrated with Baker while recording his fourth album. Baker refused to listen to Strait’s input on how the sessions should go, and sent him out to the waiting room after he laid down scratch vocals. Strait demanded a meeting with Jimmy Bowen, the new head of MCA Nashville, and he flat out refused to put final vocals on the eight tracks that Baker had completed.
Bowen offered to co-produce with Strait instead. His first act of business was to replace nearly all of the studio musicians, bringing in young talent that would freshen up Strait’s sound. He required them to see Strait live on the road, and to model what they did in the studio after Strait’s touring band. Once they regrouped in the studio, Bowen told Strait to direct the studio musicians like he would do with his own band.
For the first time, Strait’s live sound was captured on record. Coupled with Bowen’s commitment to much higher recording studio standards than his veteran colleagues, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” is the first Strait single to truly sound like a Strait record. You can hear it from the opening seconds, as Strait takes his sweet time getting started. The piano and fiddle are given room to breathe. Then Strait and his signature twang belt out the opening line: “Cold Fort Worth beer just ain’t no good for jealous.”
The arrangement is in complete service of his vocal, as opposed to his earlier hits, where he had to squeeze himself into a cookie cutter backing track that could’ve been used for any artist. Bowen’s accomplishment here as a producer is similar to the work he’d soon do with Reba McEntire: he put a visionary artist in control of their own music and then got the hell out of the way.
The impact on his career was immediate. Fort Worth was certified gold seven months after its release, and was named both ACM and CMA Album of the Year, while Strait took home his first Male Vocalist awards on the strength of the project. The album produced two more top five hits that have endured longer than the title track: “The Cowboy Rides Away” and “The Fireman,” both of which recently received gold certifications thanks to their high streaming numbers.
Strait returns to No. 1 later this year with the lead single from his fifth album.
“Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” gets an A.
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