George Strait is to tour for the last time in 2013 and 2014
Strait has had more U.S. platinum records than The Rolling Stones
He stressed repeatedly that he is not retiring from the music business
The country icon was inducted in to the hall of fame in 2006
Country music icon George Strait has announced his final concert go-round but stressed that he does not plan to ride into the sunset after his two-year “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour” ends in 2014.
“Don’t think I’m retiring, because I’m not,” Strait, who turned 60 this year, said at a press conference Wednesday at the Country Music and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
“If a special event happens to come up somewhere I want to do, by all means, I’m going to do it,” he said. “I hope I still have a lot of those left in me.”
A likely prospect, if his future at all resembles his past.
Strait lays claim to 59 number one hits – at least one a year for 30 years - and 65 million albums sales, according to the news release announcing his final tour.
Straight broke into stardom with his 1981 album “Strait Country” and has cranked out an album almost every year since – in some years two, according to his discography on allmusic.com.
To say the country star has been wildly popular would be an understatement: With 13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum and 38 gold records, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, only the biggest names in popular music, the likes of The Beatles and Elvis have outdone him in album sales in the United States.
In recorded music, Strait, with his smooth Texas accent and traditional county style, has even outsold The Rolling Stones stateside, who RIAA lists with 11 multi-platinum, 28 platinum and 42 gold albums.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, a rarity for a still actively recording artist.
The music icon was no stranger to 1960’s musical phenomenon known as the British Invasion, which brought The Beatles and The Stones to America, according to Strait’s hall of fame biography.
Growing up in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas, it was the music he listened to.
In an almost clichéd country music scenario, Strait’s mother took her daughter and left Strait and his brother “Buddy” with their father, a math teacher, to raise, according to the singer’s biography on allmusic.
Strait was a sod buster but also a rock musician. He helped work the family’s 2,000-acre ranch and joined garage bands in high school, the hall of fame wrote.
After eloping with his high-school sweetheart, he enlisted in the army, where he became a country singer in a band on his base in Hawaii.
He stuck with it when he arrived back home, and while playing with country band “Ace in the Hole,” promoter Erv Woolsey, who later became Strait’s manager, discovered him and got him a recording contract with MCA.
Over 30 years later, the first year of his final tour will kick off and wrap up in his home state of Texas.
“We start out in Lubbock and are going to go up there and play for a bunch of Red Raiders,” Strait said. “That’s always fun.”
A list of the 21 venues for 2013 can be found on the singer’s Facebook page. Popular female country artist Martina McBride joins him as guest artist for the first year of the tour.
The tour is named after one of Strait’s many hits, The Cowboy Rides Away, a sad melody about a woman breaking a man’s heart.
“It’s a song that we’ve closed our show with for many years,” Strait said, who also shared a memory of playing it for President George Bush, Sr. at Camp David, a week before he left office.
Strait felt it was important to quit while he’s ahead and not to wait for the public to end the relationship some day, leaving him crooning before dwindling audiences.
He also has no intention of preserving himself as a Las Vegas casino act. “I don’t feel like I’ll ever want to do that,” he said.
When the stress of touring has evaporated two years down the road, Strait said he plans to spend more time playing golf and angling with a special partner.
“I have a new grandson, so I will certainly be spending a lot of time with him,” Stait said. “I’ll try to steal him away from his parents for a while and maybe take him fishing.”
But he couldn’t stop repeating that he is not through with music and even announced he will be recording a new album soon. “I think it’s been the longest time right now between records for me ever since ‘81, so I’m pretty anxious to get something out.”
He even left a back door open – well, maybe just cracked – on the possibility of touring again in the coming years.
“In 2016 I might say ‘what a dummy,’ ” Strait quipped, drawing warm snickers from the audience, “and if that’s the case, maybe I’ll reconsider, but at this particular time, I’m pretty sure I won’t.”
It seems that for the cowboy, as his tour theme song says:
“Oh the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say,”
And this is where the cowboy rides away.”
CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report