The Lone Star State Exes Behind George Strait’s 1987 Hit “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”

Before Sanger Shafer (1934-2019), better known as Whitey Shafer, connected with George Strait in the 1980s, he had already written for Merle Haggard, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, James Carr, The Osborne Brothers, and more from the late ’60s throughout the 1970s.

Throughout the years, Shafer also accumulated a string of exes back in his home state of Texas. When he and his fourth wife, Lyndia, were writing together, he already had the title—”All My Ex’s Live in Texas”—ready for a song explaining why he couldn’t return to Texas and now hung his hat in Tennessee.

Coincidentally, Shafer’s third wife, Darlene, helped him pen Strait’s 1984 chart-topper “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind,” the title track of his fourth album.

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All the Exes

Even though Strait led the complete opposite of the song, marrying and remaining with his high school sweetheart Norman since 1971, he made Shafer’s song his own. Released on Strait’s seventh album Ocean Front Property, All My Ex’s Live In Texas” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

In the song, Strait sings about his love for his home state and how he can’t return there for fear of running into his exes Rosanna, Eileen, Dimples, and Allison.

All my exes live in Texas
And Texas is a place I’d dearly love to be
But all my exes live in Texas
And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee

Rosanna’s down in Texarkana
Wanted me to push her broom
Sweet Eileen’s in Abilene
She forgot I hung the moon
And Allison’s in Galveston
Somehow lost her sanity
And Dimples who now lives in Temple’s
Got the law looking for me

George Strait in 2021.
AUSTIN, TEXAS – George Strait performs onstage during the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival Presented By Capital One at The Frank Erwin Center on October 30, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Editorial Use Only. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

“That was a fun song to write,” said Shafer. “I was kinda writing my biography. I changed the names to protect the guilty. I do have some exes in Texas. Thank God they live down there. It’s not really why I live in Tennessee, but it’s a good kicker for the song.”

In Shafer’s original lyrics, he mentions the Brazos River, which Strait changed to the Frio River since that was a familiar spot for him growing up.

I remember that old Frio River
Where I learned to swim
But it brings to mind another time
Where I wore my welcome thin
By transcendental meditation
I go there each night
But I always come back to myself
Long before daylight

On Ocean Front Property, Shafer also co-wrote the track “Second Chances.” Before writing about his exes, Shafer’s first collaboration with Strait was on Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. Along with the title track, Shafer was also behind several other songs on the album, including Strait’s covers of “Honky Tonk Saturday Night,” a song Shafer penned years earlier for John Anderson, along and Whitey’s own 1974 song “I Need Someone Like Me” and “What Did You Expect Me to Do” from 1975.

Shafer also contributed the song “Lefty’s Gone” on Strait’s fifth album Something Special in 1985 and “Overnight Success” from Strait’s 1989 release Beyond the Blue Neon.

Ocean Front Property topped the Country chart, and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” gave Strait his eleventh No. 1.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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