50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #5: “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait
50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs: #5
“Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait
Album: “Strait From The Heart”
Chart Peak: #4
City, State, or Town: Amarillo, Texas
The final George Strait song on this countdown is a Texas song that along its long history has became one of the most popular cover songs of its time until Strait’s version hit it big. In a few simple verses this song tells the story of a bull rider who can’t wait to return home to Amarillo, the place that he calls home. In the process of his trip home the bull rider explains the misfortunes that have followed his life threw out his latest run as a cowboy and his patience but longing to get back home.
What makes this song so significant as compared to the many other King George songs on the countdown is that sincerity and calmness that comes with the character’s situation. George takes the persona of a bull rider, or cowboy, who has lost everything because of his most recent expedition into his sport of choice. And now we find him longing after all this time to get back to where he feels safe and secure, Amarillo, Texas. In the few verses that are provided George manages to give the listener a full blown look at the chaos that has come out of out bull rider’s life. However he shows his character with little or no hurt in his current state as he looks back on the mishaps. This is the way of the cowboy. The lyrics try to show the personal understanding that a cowboy usually has towards the life they choose to lead and the possible setback that can and do occur.
The song sets the mood opening with George’s free and easy vocal performance that has made many of his songs very easy to identify. His characters begins his recollection, setting the scenery up with him at San Antone preparing to ride bulls in the morning sun but excited to be returning to Amarillo, hoping to get there by morning. It’s hard to determine right away whether he really wants to go home or not, or if Amarillo is the next place to chase his bull riding dreams. We don’t catch on to it as his home until the first verse comes into play.
The first verse of the song really gets into the bull rider’s story and reveals everything that his career has led to that under other circumstances should have destroyed him from the inside out. However, like the bull rider he is, we find that he is able to take a lot of pain and just keep on walking through it. George reveals how the bull rider not only lost his saddle when he was competing in Houston, but also suffered a broken leg in Sante Fe. Two common ailment to the life of a bull rider and two very possible setbacks that could end the dream of a devoted dreamer. Along with broken limbs and a broken spirit came several broken hearts from not only his wife but also a girlfriend of two. This also shows how his dedication to his riding not only interferes with his romantic life, but takes him away long enough to move on from one broken heart to another away from home. The biggest conflict he faces is finally revealed as he hoped for a decent score after his run.
These events are ordered quite well in the only real verse in the song. They provide a chronological stream of events that could be the summery of his latest adventures as a rider. It can be concluded that he suffered from setbacks in Houston and San Antone. These probably caused major financial issues and put fear and regret into his wives eyes that led to her leaving to escape the possible pain of losing him. After recovery he would have moved on to another girl, and along the way lost her yet again to his inattentiveness to anything outside the ring and his risky lifestyle. Finally he reaches his last match in his current location and longs for a good score to end his run. After all this is done in his mind all he can think about is his quiet Texas town where he plans to return and probably put his life back together.
The final chorus sums everything up into on bold statement. Once again George allows his character to call out to Amarillo hoping to get there by morning. We never find out if he won or lost his round, but we are shown that the bull rider has lost everything or leaves with only the cloths on his back. Now poor and heading home he remains optimistic, as most bull riders need to do in their field of choice, and praises his free lifestyle along side his lack of needing anything but what he has. He states how “what I got is mine”, referring to the cloths on his back, the few possessions he still own from his riding and, most likely, his hat.
This song tried for years to become as big of a hit as King George helped it become. Terry Stafford co-wrote the song based on his journey home to Amarillo from San Antone with his band and also recorded it in an attempt to make it a hit. Although it originally surrounded the lifestyle of a singer, it became more popular as a bull rider’s tune and thus was covered by the famed country singerand bull riding supporter Chris LeDoux. Finally, in the earlier years of his career, George Strait turned his respect for cowboys and bull riders as well as his respect for Texas into the winning factors for this excellent city song. This song makes a shout out to the suffering that comes with being a dedicated bull rider by allowing the listener to see a character who must not only face the physical torture of the bull, but also endure the emotional and mental pains that result from his dedication to the sport. In the end you have a very powerful representation of how strong willed and realistic a bull rider needs to be in and out of the ring.