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 HW 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”
“Any Old Love Won’t Do”
“Back to Bein’ Me”
“Down and Out” *
“Drinkin’ Man” *
“Easy Come, Easy Go” *
“Famous Last Words of a Fool” *
“For Christ’s Sake, It’s Christmas”
“Four Down and Twelve Across”
“Friday Night Fever”
“Give Me More Time”
“Good News, Bad News”
“Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart”
“He’s Got That Something Special”
“Holding My Own”
“Honk If You Honky Tonk”
“Honky Tonk Crazy”
“I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore”
“I Belive” *
“I Get Along With You”
“I’d Just as Soon Go”
“If I Know Me” *
“If Heartaches Were Horses”
“If It’s Gonna Rain”
“I’m All Behind You Now”
“Is It That Time Again”
“It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You” *
“I’ve Come to Expect It From You” *
“Lead On” *
“Living for the Night” *
“Marina Del Rey” *
“Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” *
“Ocean Front Property” *
“Peace of Mind”
“Rocking’ in the Arms of Your Memory”
“She Let Herself Go” *
“She’s Playing Hell Trying to Get Me To Heaven”
“She Took the Wind From His Sails”
“That’s My Kind of Woman”
“That’s the Breaks”
“That’s Where I Wanna Take Our Love”
“The Best Day” *
“The Breath You Take” *
“The Chair” *
“The Road Less Traveled”
“Unwound” *
“We’re Supposed to Do That Now and Then”
“West Texas Town”
“What Would Your Memories Do”
“When You’re in Love”
“Without Me Around”
“Without You Here”
“You Sure Got This Ol’ Redneck Feelin’ Blue”

* released as a radio single

LOOK: George Strait Through the Years

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