George Strait has been one of country music's most consistent hit makers for decades, but he was just another young singer looking for a break on Sept. 4, 1981. That's the day he released his debut album, Strait Country.

Unlike many of his contemporaries in country music, the Texas native was a real-life cowboy who had a working ranch before launching his career as a country singer. His debut single, "Unwound," did well enough that MCA Records offered him the chance to record an entire album.

Strait had some unusual rules for an aspiring country star. He wanted his private life with his family to remain as private as possible, refusing to do the usual rounds of interviews and promo appearances to sell his work. He also insisted on remaining on his ranch in Texas instead of moving to Nashville to be closer to the music business, and though those were potential strikes against him, that approach ended up working so well that Strait went on to score 60 No. 1 hits over the course of the next several decades, more than any other artist in country music history.

You Think You Know George Strait?

He realized early on the importance of touring, he recalls in Mark Bego's biography George Strait: The Story of Country’s Living Legend.

"I mean, hearing your first record on the radio, when it was something that you had been trying to get to for so long, and then finally having it happen, it was wild," Strait says. "Here I was driving around the ranch there, and I’d hear it go up the chart, and I’m saying to myself, ‘What’s wrong with this picture? I’ve got a hit record. I need to go out on the road and go play some concerts.'"

Strait placed two more hits from Strait Country with “Down and Out” and “If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger (There’s One Coming Home)," but he would not score his first No. 1 hit until he released "Fool Hearted Memory," the lead single from his second album, Strait From the Heart, in 1982.

George Strait Through the Years