George Strait's tenuous first recording contract relied on a song Dean Dillon wrote, but the late Johnny Paycheck may deserve the thanks. "Unwound" cleared the way for the Texan Strait to become a superstar, reaching No 6 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in 1981.

Dillon and Frank Dycus wrote "Unwound" for Paycheck, but Strait's producer Blake Mevis needed a sure thing. Per Rolling Stone, MCA Nashville only offered Strait a one-song record deal in 1980, meaning if it flopped, we wouldn't care about a "George" out of Texas until a few years later when George H.W. Bush became president.

Mevis drove to Dillon's house and begged the two writers to let him have "Unwound," and they agreed, perhaps convinced that the newcomer was a better long play, or perhaps discouraged by the prospect of Paycheck recording the song. The "Take This Job and Shove It" singer was in jail at the time, although it's not clear why. Texas Monthly first shared this story in 2014, and while Paycheck was known to be in and out of jail throughout his life and career, records for a jailing around 1980 are hard to come by.

WATCH: The Full History of George Strait's "Unwound" 

Remarkable about Dillon giving Strait this song is that songwriters didn't offer great songs to new artists back then, but the east Tennessean decided to take a chance on the Texan. Dillon would go on to write over 50 of Strait's songs across his Country Music Hall of Fame career, including "The Chair," "Marina Del Ray" and "Ocean Front Property," plus hits like "Tennessee Whiskey" (David Allan Coe, George Jones and later Chris Stapleton) and "Homecoming '63" (Keith Whitley).

The 65-year-old Dillon is now a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, set for a 2020 medallion ceremony alongside Hank Williams, Jr. and Marty Stuart. He continues to write, but now also runs his own record label, Wildcatter Records. The Voice winner Sundance Head is the first artist signed to the label.

George Strait Songs Written by Dean Dillon:

“A Real Good Place To Start” (Carrying Your Love With Me, 1997)
“Any Old Love Won’t Do” (Strait Out of the Box, 1995)
“Back to Bein’ Me”  (If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin' 1988)
"Blue Marlin Blues" (Here for a Good Time, 2011)
"Blue Water" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
"Codigo" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
“Down and Out” (Strait Country, 1981)*
“Drinkin’ Man” (Here for a Good Time, 2011)*
“Easy Come, Easy Go” (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1993) *
"Even When I Can't Feel It" (Cold Beer Conversation, 2015)
"Every Little Honk Tonk Bar" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
"Everything I See" (Cold Beer Conversation, 2015)
“Famous Last Words of a Fool” (If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin' 1988)*
“For Christ’s Sake, It’s Christmas” (Merry Christmas Strait To You, 1986)
“Four Down and Twelve Across” (Honkytonkville, 2003)
“Friday Night Fever” (Strait Country, 1981)
“Give Me More Time” (Troubadour, 2008)
“Good News, Bad News” (Somewhere Down In Texas, 2005)
“Her Goodbye Hit Me In the Heart” (Strait Country, 1981)
"Here for a Good Time" (Here for a Good Time, 2011)
“He’s Got That Something Special” (Twang, 2009)
“Holding My Own” (Holding My Own, 1992)
“Honk If You Honky Tonk” (Honkytonkville, 2003)
“Honky Tonk Crazy” (Strait From the Heart, 1982)
“Honkytonkville” (Honkytonkville, 2003)
"House Across the Bay" (Here for a Good Time, 2011)
“I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore” (It Just Comes Natural, 2006)
“I Believe” (Love Is Everything, 2013)*
“I Get Along With You” (Strait Country, 1981)
“I’d Just As Soon Go” (Blue Clear Sky, 1996)
"I'll Always Remember You" (Here for a Good Time, 2011)
“If I Know Me” (Chill of an Early Fall, 1991)*
“If Heartaches Were Horses” (Troubadour, 2008)
“If It’s Gonna Rain” (George Strait, 2000)
“I’m All Behind You Now” (Ocean Front Property, 1987)
“Is It That Time Again”  (If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin' 1988)
“It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You” (7, 1986)*
“I’ve Come To Expect It From You” (Livin' It Up, 1990)*
“Lead On” (Lead On, 1994)*
“Living for the Night” (Twang, 2009)*
“Marina Del Rey” (Strait From the Heart, 1982)*
“Nobody In His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” (7, 1986)*
“Ocean Front Property” (Ocean Front Property, 1987)*
“Peace of Mind” (Always Never the Same, 1999)
“Rocking’ In the Arms of Your Memory” (Blue Clear Sky, 1996)
“She Let Herself Go” (Somewhere Down In Texas, 2005)*
“She’s Playing Hell Trying To Get Me To Heaven” (Strait Country, 1981)
“She Took the Wind From His Sails” (George Strait, 2000)
"Sometimes Love" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
"Take Me Away" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
“That’s My Kind of Woman” (It Just Comes Natural, 2006)
“That’s the Breaks” (One Step at a Time, 1998)
“That’s Where I Wanna Take Our Love” (Always Never the Same, 1999)
“The Best Day” (Latest Greatest Straitest Hits, 2000)*
“The Breath You Take” (Twang, 2009)*
“The Chair” (Something Special, 1985)*
"The Night Is Young" (Love Is Everything, 2013)
“The Road Less Traveled” (The Road Less Traveled, 2001)
"The Weight of the Badge" (Honky Tonk Time Machine, 2019)
"Three Nails and a Cross" (Here for a Good Time, 2011)
“Unwound” (Strait Country, 1981)*
“We’re Supposed To Do That Now and Then” (Livin' It Up, 1990)
“West Texas Town” (Troubadour, 2008)
“What Would Your Memories Do” (Strait Out of the Box, 1995)
“When You’re In Love” (Troubadour, 2008)
“Without Me Around” (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1993)
“Without You Here” (Ocean Front Property, 1987)
“You Sure Got This Ol’ Redneck Feelin’ Blue” (Something Special, 1985)
*Released as a radio single

See Pictures of George Strait Through the Years:

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