George Strait (Photo: Kevin Winter)The country world gave a collective gasp on Wednesday when the "King of Country," George Strait, announced he would be hanging up his saddle. Don't entirely panic yet--the 60-year-old icon isn't outright retiring. But he'll be playing his final tour over the next two years.
Strait announced during a news conference at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum that he'll be embarking on The Cowboy Rides Away tour early next year, with 20 dates then and an additional 20 dates through 2014. He says he intends to continue making music, but his extended days out on the road are over.
Strait called this a "hard decision," but assured fans he's not abandoning the stage completely. "If a special event happens to come up somewhere that I want to do, by all means, I'm gonna do it," he said.
"This is going to be a very special, emotional tour for me," Strait noted. "Everywhere we're going holds fond memories, and I'm looking forward to paying my respects."
The Texas native begins his tour in his home state, starting January 18 in Lubbock. Strait will be bringing along special guest Martina McBride for his 2013 dates. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale in October. Reportedly, Strait will begin work on a new album that month, as well.
Much of the surprise involved in Strait's announcement stems from the fact that the singer's popularity shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Strait--who became a first-time grandfather earlier this year--has been touring for more than three decades, sold close to 69 million records, has a record 59 No. 1 hits to his name, and is the first artist in history to achieve a Top 10 hit in every single year of his career.