Longtime Manager for Country Singer George Strait, Erv Woolsey, Dies at 80

Bruce Hinton of MCA, George Strait and Erv Woolsey, circa 1991
Beth Gwinn/Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Record promotion executive and artist manager Eugene Ervine “Erv” Woolsey passed away on March 20, 2024. He was 80 years old and died following surgery complications. He was the longtime manager for country music star George Strait and helped the careers of many country singers including Lee Ann Womack and Dierks Bentley.

Strait released a statement after the news broke, “My manager for around 45 years and most importantly my friend for even longer, Erv Woolsey, passed away this morning. He had complications from a surgery and just couldn’t overcome it. He was a very tough man, and fought hard, but sadly it was just too much. We will miss him so very much and will never forget all the time we had together. Won’t ever be the same without him.”

Strait's longtime manager Erv Woolsey; The Cowboy Rides Away Tour promoter, Louis Messina of The Messina Group; George Strait; Jerry Jones, Owner, President and GM of the Dallas Cowboys; and press conference moderator and editor and publisher of Country Aircheck, Lon Helton attend the press conference for the 2014 The Cowboy Rides Away tour at Dallas Cowboys Stadium on September 9, 2013 in Arlington, Texas

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Essential Broadcast Media

“Without the savvy and determination of Erv Woolsey, we may never have heard of George Strait,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Erv heard Strait in a Texas bar in 1975 and was an immediate fan and proponent, when others said the singer sounded too traditional. Later, as an MCA Records exec, Erv pushed the label to sign Strait in 1981. And when execs urged Strait to change his image and his sound, Erv as his manager backed Strait’s determination to stay true to himself. You know the rest. Strait became a superstar who filled stadiums, and together Strait and Erv helped lead country music back to its traditions. All of us owe Erv Woolsey an enormous debt of gratitude for leading with his convictions and always supporting artists and new talent.”

Woolsey began his career working in Decca Records’ promotion department. He worked at several labels before moving to Nashville in 1973 and then worked as the head of promotions for ABC Records’ country division. It was there that he began his long career helping country music singers. Woolsey and his wife Connie owned the club The Prairie Rose, where he met Strait and booked him as a regular performer.

Tony Martell Lifetime Entertainment Achievement Award recipient Louis Messina and George Strait Manager Erv Woolsey attend the T.J. Martell Foundation 9th Annual Nashville Honors Gala at Omni Hotel on February 27, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for T.J. Martell Foundation

In 1981, he convinced MCA Records to sign Strait to the label where he remains. In 1984, Woolsey left MCA to manage Strait’s career full-time. During his career, Woolsey also became a songwriter and is credited with co-writing the songs “In Too Deep” and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” He also served on the Country Music Association’s board of directors and the board of directors for the Tennessee Museum of History.

Kings Of Country
Want More?

Kings Of Country

March 2022

From outlaws Willie & Waylon to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, we have every tear in your beer covered

Buy This Issue
More Of This: