This April 6 photo shows George Strait performing 'I Got a Car' at the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Reuters
Known for his easygoing manner and everyman's appeal, country music legend George Strait strolled from the floor of the Dallas Cowboys' lavish stadium onto the custom-built stage Saturday night in a blue plaid shirt, Wrangler jeans, a silver belt buckle and a black cowboy hat, facing the largest crowd for an indoor concert in North American history.
About 105,000 people packed in for the last concert of Strait's final tour - exceeding the stadium's official capacity by 5,000 - and shattering the previous record set by The Rolling Stones at The Louisiana Superdome in 1981.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be here tonight. It's just been on my mind since we started this tour two years ago, and finally it's here tonight," Strait said. "We broke a record for the most people, ever. Really? Why wouldn't we, huh?"
Pickup trucks full of tailgaters started to pull into a parking lot across the street from the stadium hours before show time. Fans exchanged stories about seeing the legendary country star over his lengthy career and belted along to hits playing on a car stereo.
The show Saturday brings an end to nearly 40 years on the road for Strait, which started in 1975 with the Ace in the Hole Band. And he is doing it in style, having invited several of country's biggest stars, including Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Kenny Chesney and Eric Church.
Gill ambled onto stage to join Strait for his second and third songs, "Lovebug" and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind."
"I wouldn't have missed it, I've known this man for 33 years," the 57-year-old Gill said.
Strait reminded his fellow Country Hall of Famer about playing together when he headlined a sold-out show at the Houston Rodeo in 1990.
"Vince let me play his guitar. Of course I forgot mine," Strait said with a toothy grin.
Despite the star-studded lineup, the focus Saturday remained squarely on the 62-year-old singer, who is beloved in country music with a career decades longer than most. He's had more songs top Billboard's country music charts than any other musician. And while he's quitting the road, he may yet add to his chart-topping total after renewing his deal with MCA Records last year to produce five more albums.
Born in Poteet and raised in Pearsall, about 60 miles southwest of San Antonio, Strait's 1981 single "Unwound" propelled him to stardom. His first No. 1 hit came the following year with "Fool Hearted Memory" and he's now had 44 songs spend time atop Billboard's country music rankings. He has more gold and platinum albums than any other music act except The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
He's been just as successful on the road. His 584 shows since 1990 have grossed more than $405 million. He has sold more than 68.5 million copies of his 46 records.