The first time George Strait ever played Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas, it was a Sunday afternoon on a hot, summer day in the late 1970s
“We were eager to get a gig and (owner) Pat Moluk decided he would charge 25 cents at the door,” Strait told a small crowd of reporters who had gathered at the iconic honky tonk Wednesday for an impromptu press conference. “I think we made about seven bucks total.”
Strait has come a long way since that first show, and the legendary country singer was back at the famous Texas venue 34 years after he last played the venue to announce a special run of shows in Las Vegas, and the release of Strait Out of the Box: Part 2, a 56-track collection of music spanning the last 20 years of Strait’s releases. The triple-album box set will be available this Friday, Nov. 18, exclusively at Walmart and Walmart.com
The press conference and concert were hosted by Universal Music Group Nashville and Messina Touring Group, offering 500 music industry types, family members and press a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the legendary country singer at one of Texas’ most famous dance halls.
“I’m a little nervous right now. When George walked in, I got goose bumps,” promoter Louis Messina told Amplify during an interview at Gruene Hall. “This is totally cool, like the feeling I get when I do a stadium show.”
About 500 people attended the special show to see Strait and his Ace in the Hole band perform hits like “Here for a Good Time,” “The Fireman,” “Amarillo by Morning,” “The Chair,” “Troubadour,” “Take Me to Texas,” “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” and a rowdy encore that included Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and Strait’s “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and “The Cowboy Rides Away.” After the show, Strait exited the stage through the men’s bathroom (which doubles as backstage), and then walked through the crowd, flanked by security and local sheriff’s deputies, shaking hands on the way to his tour bus. Hundreds of fans who couldn’t get into the show circled the building’s perimeter, listening to nearly two hours of music and flanking the perimeter for a chance to get a glimpse of the country star.
“This is history. Every time George Strait steps on stage, history is made,” Messina said. “I’ve never done a show here before, and it’s so exciting for me to be here. I’ve heard so much about this place but I’ve never stepped foot into Gruene Hall until today.
The run of double shows at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is being billed as “Two Nights of Number Ones,” featuring live performances of his record-breaking run of No. 1 singles, split over two nights, April 7-8, July 28-29, Sept. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9.
“George Strait said he was never retiring, but he said he never wants to tour again,” Messina said. “So I asked him, ‘How about, instead of you touring, we have your fans tour and come to you? And what’s better than going to Las Vegas to see George Strait?'”
The chance to play his top hits over two nights “is something he’s never done before,” Messina said, adding that Casey Musgraves is opening the first two sets of shows while Cam is opening the last two performances.
“I still want to do shows and record; I just quit touring,” Strait said during the press conference. “Since we’re exclusive to the MGM (properties) next year, I wanted to do something exclusive. And since it’s always tough to do every song that people want to hear, I’ve decided to do all my 60 number one records split over two nights. It’s something that I’ve never done before.”