Heading into the final night of American Idol performances, McCreery was set to play multiple songs, including one by a singer who had a big influence on his style of music. That’s where Strait comes in.
“George called me up,” McCreery tells Taste of Country, “and he was on his boat in the Caribbean doing some fishing and he said, ‘Hey, man. I heard I get to pick a song for you.'”
If that phone call made it to Fox, the video is no longer available, although ToC’s reporting at the time glanced at the detail. Fellow finalist Lauren Alaina had the same opportunities and turned to Carrie Underwood, who picked “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis for the eventual runner-up. Underwood would also join Alaina to sing “Before He Cheats” during the finale, while McCreery would sing “Live Like You Were Dying” with Tim McGraw.
As for the song Strait chose for McCreery? It was his own hit “Check Yes or No” from 1995. Video of that performance does exist:
The contemporary country hitmaker has kept the song in his setlist in the decade since performing it on television, but it’s now surrounded by several of his own No. 1 hits. “Damn Strait” is nearing the Top 40 on country airplay charts, looking to become his fifth straight chart-topper. He’d take that, but some indication from Strait that he approves might be just as satisfying. So far, McCreery doesn’t know if the Texan has heard his song.
“I’m sure he’s heard all sorts of tributes. He’s the King, but hopefully he enjoys this one,” McCreery says.
Look for McCreery on the road early in 2022. The Same Truck Tour begins on Jan. 20. He says he’ll play his full album, top to bottom, on the month-long tour.