“Amarillo By Morning”

Written by Amy Burt. 11 November 2014. 

One of George Strait’s most famous songs, “Amarillo By Morning” first appears on one of his first albums, Strait from the Heart, and then reappears shortly after on his Greatest Hits album released in 1985. The whole song is about the narrator making his way to Amarillo for a rodeo and all the obstacles he comes across along his way. Throughout the song he mentions breaking his leg, losing his wife and girlfriend, and not having a dime to his name but despite all that going on, the only thing he has on his mind is getting to Amarillo. Despite this song being pretty old, I actually heard it on the radio the other day. The success that Strait found from this song is still being showed today, thirty years later, and it is widely accepted as one of country music’s best singles that has a unique style that includes excellent distinction and appropriateness.

Even though this song was one of Strait’s biggest successes, he was actually not the first person to record it. Terry Stafford wrote and recorded this song initially in 1973, but several other country artists then covered it after that. Terry Stafford’s original version has a harmonic group of voices singing and also uses the steel guitar. Rodeo champion and country singer Chris LeDoux covered it soon after it debuted in 1975 (“Amarillo by Morning by George Strait”). As opposed to the steel guitar and fiddle Strait used for the song, Ledoux’s version included the harmonica, keyboard, drums and bass guitar. His voice is much lower than Strait’s is and he sang very slowly.

Out of all the versions recorded of this song, Strait’s is by far the most famous as it incorporates traditional country instruments such as the steel guitar and fiddle. His famously thin voice fluctuates to match the tempo throughout the song. With this version still appearing on the radio today, it has clearly been the most distinct and memorable over the past thirty years. The narrator originally was supposed to be a rodeo star that was trying to make his way despite all the hardships they came across on their way. “The song described the hard-knocks life of a rodeo rider, but could just as easily be about a traveling musician” (“Top 10 George Strait Songs”). The versatility that this song offered was what made Strait able to record it in the first place, but it was his famous wavering voice and classic traditional country instrumentation Strait had made it so popular.

The song form that is presented in “Amarillo by Morning” is Verse-Chorus, which is pretty typical for a country song written around this time. This form usually consists of songs starting out with verses, followed by choruses, but “there are some eras when it became quite fashionable to open with a chorus”(Neal, 481). This was the case in “Amarillo By Morning” having the opening two lines say: “Amarillo by Morning, up from San Antone, Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on” which is the song’s chorus. Before any verses start, however, there is an eighteen second intro that contains two of the most classic country instruments: the fiddle and the steel guitar. This notably short song only consists of an intro, two short choruses, four verses, and an outro. The outro at the very end of the song is when the fiddle sound is predominant and slowing down, signaling that the song is ending. This song’s instrumentation matched the lyrics and style of singing in an eloquent way. Between LeDoux, Stafford and Strait’s versions of the song, Strait’s was executed most appropriately, meaning the instrumentation matched the singing in the most desirable way. One of the reasons George Strait became such a hit is because music fans found his traditional country sound refreshing and nostalgic considering there had not been a big traditional country artist for years. With that being said, the classic country instrumentation along with the cowboy and rodeo theme in this song reflected the reasons why people appreciated George Strait.

While there have been many country artists up for speculation as to whether or not they are country, there is no question that George Strait is country to the core. The fact that he never felt the need to incorporate pop sounds to his music in order to sell more albums just goes to show how great his success is. This two and a half minute song that has found success for over thirty years serves as a perfect classical traditional country song to listen to while doing things like lounging or conversing with your family and friends.

Time Form Listening Cues Discussion
0:00-0:18 Intro  Fiddle, drums and steel guitar playing.  playing “One, Two, Three, Four!” is yelled out. Instrumentation is then played on, preluding the song. There is a pause between intro and the chorus,building it up to the listeners ears.
0:18- 0:32 Chorus  Instruments start to settle down. “Amarillo by mornin’… “  Song is started out with the chorus. It is a short two lines that will reappear only once more later in the song. The line “Amarillo by mornin’” is repeated several times throughout the song.
0:32- 0:48 Verse 1  “When that sun is high in that Texas sky…”  Comes right after the chorus and has the same tune until his voice slows down leading into the instrumental
0:48-0:55 Instrumental  Fiddle, drums and steel guitar  This short instrumental gives and emphasis on the fiddle guitar while keeping a steady beat at the same time.
0:55-1:09 Verse 2 “They took my saddle in Houston…”  Explains all the things he lost along the way to Amarillo, sound of the steel guitar gets heightened during this verse.
1:09-1:26 Verse 3  “But I’ll be lookin’ for 8 when they pull that gate…” Explaining that despite all of his losses, his sole purpose is to be there for the rodeo and to reach 8 seconds on the bull.
1:26-1:47 Chorus  “Amarillo by mornin’, Up from San Antone…” Instruments get louder and more prominent
1:47- 2:03 Verse 4  “I ain’t got a dime but what I got is mine..”  Song gets louder and faster indicating the song is coming to a close.
2:03- 2:36 Outro  “Amarillo By morning Amarillo I’ll be there…”  Fiddle and drums play until the end of the song, winding down and leading the song to a close.


“Amarillo by Morning by George Strait.” SongFacts. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.


Neal, Jocelyn R. Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History. New York: Oxford UP,

2013. 481. Print.

“Top 10 George Strait Songs.” The Boot. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.