Country Rewind: The Bluegrass Roots of Alan Jackson and George Strait’s ‘Murder on Music Row’

George Strait

Ever since Alan Jackson and George Strait performed “Murder on Music Row” at the 1999 CMA Awards, the song has been a rallying point for traditional country music fans with no time for the pop-friendly country radio hits that have dominated Nashville for the past 20 years.

WATCH George Strait & Allan Jackson-Murder on Music Row VIDEO BELOW:

Yet Jackson and Strait weren’t the first country artists to rail against the country music industry for trading steel guitars for rock and pop acceptance. Bluegrass group Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time first recorded “Murder on Music Row” as the title track of a 1999 album.

When performed by Jackson and Strait on such a huge stage, the Cordle and Larry Shell co-write began to represent the promotional and fiscal gap widening between traditional-minded stars and such pop-oriented peers as Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain.

The song’s claims that music akin to that of Hank Williams and Merle Haggard wouldn’t suit the charts anymore proved prophetic when Jackson and Strait’s recorded duet, from Strait’s 2000 compilation Latest Greatest Straitest Hits, barely cracked the Billboard Hot Country Songs’ top 40. However, their collaborative recording did win the CMA’s Vocal Event of the Year and Song of the Year awards.

Over the past 20 years, the song has been covered by the multi-generational pairing of Dierks Bentley and George Jones and drawn more attention to an actual “Murder on Music Row”: the 1989 shooting death of Kevin Hughes at the hands of record promoter Richard D’Antonio.

Now Watch Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time – Murder On Music Row VIDEO BELOW: