Twenty-six years ago, on April 23, 1996, George Strait released his 16th studio album, Blue Clear Sky. The multi-platinum-certified record includes three No. 1 singles, including its title track, which draws a bit of inspiration from an unlikely source.
Strait released “Blue Clear Sky” as the album of the same name’s first single in March of 1996. Written by Bob DiPiero, John Jarrard and Mark D. Sanders, the song first came to DiPiero while he was in a movie theater, watching Forrest Gump.
“He was talking about his girlfriend, Jenny, and how she would come and go out of his life,” recounts DiPiero. “At one point, he says, ‘And out of the blue clear sky, Jenny came back.’ And I was listening, thinking, ‘Hey! It’s ‘clear blue sky,’ it’s not ‘blue clear sky!’ Just that little turn of phrase stuck in my head.”
In fact, Jarrad and Sanders had the same reaction when DiPiero pitched them the idea the next day. “I said, ‘I know that’ … and we wrote it anyway!” DiPiero recalls.
So, too, did Strait. “I’m from Texas … and Texas is clear blue sky,” DiPiero remembers Strait saying.
So, DiPiero continues, “I told him the song is all about just giving up on love, and then out of nowhere, out of the blue clear sky, comes the love of your life. And George was kind of quiet for a while, and then he says, ‘Well, you think there’s many Gumpsters out there?’ [Laughs] And I said, ‘Well, yeah, I do!’ And he says, ‘Well, all right then, we’ll be Gumpsters!'”
Following “Blue Clear Sky,” Strait released “Carried Away,” “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” and “King of the Mountain” as singles. The first two went to the top of the country radio charts as well, while “King of the Mountain” peaked just inside the Top 20 (No. 19).
DiPiero, Jarrad and Sanders did not write any other songs on Blue Clear Sky. Dean Dillon, one of Strait’s go-to songwriters, penned two (“Rockin’ in the Arms of Your Memory,” “I’d Just as Soon Go”), while artist Mark Chesnutt is a co-writer on “I Ain’t Never Seen No One Like You.” Singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, meanwhile, co-wrote “Do the Right Thing” with Gary Nicholson.
“We were on a really good roll with George. He could do no wrong. It all came down to analyzing the songs and coming up with the right ones for the album,” producer Tony Brown tells Sounds Like Nashville. He estimates that he and Strait listened to about 1,500 songs while working toward Blue Clear Sky; they recorded 20, and 10 made the final tracklist.
As an album, Blue Clear Sky went to No. 1 on the country albums chart, and has been certified three-times platinum. The project was named Album of the Year at both the ACM and CMA Awards, too.
“It really showed what a great communicator he was with a song, and also how versatile he could be,” Brown says of the record. “People tend to think that what George does is easy, but that’s because he makes it look easy.”
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