Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: George Strait, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”

“Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”

George Strait

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

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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    • I really appreciate that. I’m trying hard to keep up with it along with work/family/final year of doctorate, and these comments push me forward.

      I see the engagement that the posts are getting behind the scenes, but the comments make it feel more real!

  1. So I knew that Blake Mevis and George got to the point that they weren’t working well together at all, and I knew that Jimmy Bowen gave GS a lot of creative control, but I don’t think I knew that the same thing happened with Blake Mevis happened with Ray Baker to the extent that it did. Scrapping almost an entire album’s worth of songs? Wow.

    It certainly worked out well for George, though; this has always been one of my favorites from him, and the album of the same name is probably my favorite GS album to this day.

    And that was a lightning-fast turnaround, too, given that Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind was released less than a year after Right or Wrong.

    • I really hope this is the final nail in the coffin for that old canard.

      Though I do wish all of those folks who say Randy Travis saved country music would pay closer attention to who he is anointing as his successor among the current crop of radio artists.

  2. I know I will mostly likely be on an island by myself here, but I actually think G. Strait’s songs became more boring as the 80’s and 90″s went on. They were all good but nothing unique anymore.

    • …guess, you didn’t think of taking one of his later albums to that lonely island then, tom p. however, the “ocean front property” album with “without you here” and “am i blue” on it might have been worth a consideration under the circumstances.

      • I always loved the “Beyond the Blue Neon” album. To me he finally stripped away the studio gloss of some of the songs on his album. Plus so many fantastic songs on one album.

      • I think he is always consistently very very good. Zero complaints on his singing or production. I just think the song selections were a bit boring and everything started to sound the same to me. It’s just personal taste I suppose.

      • I was a big fan of the songs GS recorded with his road band on that one, ”Hot Burning Flames” and ”You Can’t Buy Your Way Out of the Blues.”

  3. This has always been one of my favorite GS songs. As a someone who locked in to Country Music Fandom around 1989, I only wish I could have heard some of these as they rose on the charts!!

  4. Of course, George Strait would elicit all this wonderful sharing and insight.

    Classic songs have that affect on listeners.

    This one is outrageously good.

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