Dean Dillon ‘Got Good and Drunk’ Writing George Strait’s Breakout Hit
In 1981, George Strait hit it big with his major-label debut single, "Unwound." Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus wrote the song after a less-fruitful writing session with famed poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein -- but it was pure luck that landed Strait what would be his breakout song.
Dillon recalls to Texas Monthly that, after moving to Nashville in 1973, Dycus was the first songwriter he met. A few years later, he was leaving his writing session with Silverstein, at the Third Coast bar and hotel -- "We wrote this s--tty song. I can't even remember it, it was so bad," Dillon recalls" I'm really depressed because the song's horrible" -- when he ran into Dycus.
"I said, 'Man, I’ve got a great song idea. Let’s write it,'" Dillon recounts. "He said, 'What is it?' I said, 'She’s got me wrapped around her finger, but tonight I’m gonna unwind.' And he looked at me and thought for a minute, and he said, 'What about this: 'That woman that I had wrapped around my finger just came unwound?''
"And I said, 'Well, hell, I like that better,'" Dillon adds. "So we sat down at a table on that patio and wrote a song called “Unwound.” In about 45 minutes. And got good and drunk doing it."
That Strait would get "Unwound," however, was far from a given. When producer Blake Mevis stopped by to ask Dillon and Dycus for songs that Strait might be able to cut, the writers were hoping to pitch the song to Johnny Paycheck.
"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. "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.'"
Pitching an unknown artist -- which Strait was at the time -- wasn't something writers did back then, Dillon admits: "Nobody that was a songwriter in their right mind would give some 20-something-year-old kid from Texas, completely unknown, their top-drawer stuff," he explains -- but, Dillon liked Strait's voice, so he continued to pitch the future country superstar some of his other songs.
The early vote of confidence from Dillon proved incredibly fruitful: Strait cut six of Dillon's songs on his debut album, Strait Country, including two singles. In the years since, Strait has cut more than 50 of Dillon's songs, and the two frequently co-write together.
Strait's 2019 album Honky Tonk Time Machine features half a dozen songs penned by the two men. Fittingly, that album also includes a cover of Paycheck's "Old Violin."
Press play above to get the whole story on Strait's "Unwound." The video is part of the The Secret History of Country Music series from The Boot's sister site, Taste of Country.
A Look Back at George Strait's Legendary Career