How Johnny Paycheck’s Jail Time Led to Garth Brooks’ Country Career
Outlaw country star Johnny Paycheck was in and out of trouble with the law for much of his life, and maybe in at least one case, that's a good thing.
Paycheck was still a big star when Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus wrote a new song titled "Unwound" after running into each other at a Nashville hotspot called Third Coast. They were hoping to pitch the song to Paycheck, but he was in jail at the time, so when producer Blake Mevis asked if they had any songs they might want to pitch for a new artist that he was producing a single on, they obliged.
"He rolled his window down and said, 'Hey, man, I got to cut this new kid from Texas. Y’all got any songs?'" Dillon recalls to Texas Monthly. "I said, 'We’ve always got songs. As a matter of fact, we’ve got a song we were gonna pitch to Johnny Paycheck, but he’s in jail, so we’ll give it to you.'"
That young newcomer was George Strait, and "Unwound" would go on to become his career-establishing hit in 1981. But as fate would have it, his would not be the only legendary career the song would help to launch. Another young man by the name of Garth Brooks was so inspired when he first heard the song on the radio, he decided on the spot that he wanted to become a country singer himself.
"I can remember the spot on the road where I was at when I heard the DJ come on the radio and say, 'Here's a new kid from Texas, and I think you're gonna like his sound," Brooks recalled in a speech at Strait's ACM Artist of the Decade ceremony in 2009. "The song was 'Unwound,' and from that moment on, from that very second, I knew what I wanted to be. It was so easy, and it didn't seem that far away. I wanted to be George Strait."
That's just one of the crazy facts Taste of Country uncovered in a recent episode of the video series The Secret History of Country Music. Each Monday, Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar takes fans inside the untold stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and artists.
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