Ace in the Hole Band

The Ace in the Hole Band is the backup band for country music performer George Strait, who was the band's lead singer before beginning his solo career in the early 1980s. The band formed at San Marcos, Texas in the 1970s, and recorded several singles for "D Records" including the Strait-penned "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This" and "I Don't Want To Talk It Over Anymore". After Strait attained status as the "King of Country", the group released an album of its own in 1995 featuring vocals from Darrell McCall and Mel Tillis.

Ace in the Hole Band
George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band in Hartford, Connecticut, 2013
George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band in Hartford, Connecticut, 2013
Background information
Also known asStoney Ridge
OriginSan Marcos, Texas, U.S.
GenresWestern swing, honky-tonk
Years active197?–1975 (as Stoney Ridge)
1975–present (as Ace in the Hole)
LabelsD Records, MCA, Texas World
Associated actsGeorge Strait, The Strangers
MembersTerry Hale, Mike Daily, Ron Huckaby, Rick McRae, Benny McArthur, Gene Elders, Joe Manuel, John Michael Whitby, Marty Slayton, Wes Hightower
Past membersDavid Anthony, Ron Cabal, Ted Stubblefield, Tommy Foote, Jay Dominguez, Bill Mabry, Roger Montgomery, George Strait, Jeff Sturms, Thom Flora, Mike Kennedy

The band, originally known as "Stoney Ridge", performs such styles of traditional country music as honky-tonk and western swing and were influenced by such performers as Bob Wills, Johnny Bush, and The Strangers. Contemporaries of the band include Asleep at the Wheel and Jerry Jeff Walker.



The Ace in the Hole Band derived from the band "Stoney Ridge," which was composed of Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) students Ron Cabal (lead guitar), Mike Daily (steel guitar), Terry Hale (Bass guitar), Tommy Foote (drums) and Jay Dominguez (lead vocals). Dominguez and Foote left the band after graduating in 1975, prompting a search for a new singer. The band members posted bulletins around the campus of Southwest Texas.[1] One was noticed by an agricultural science student, George Strait. He contacted the band and was hired after an audition. Soon after, the group was renamed "Ace in the Hole" and George quickly became the lead singer.[1]

The band regularly performed at Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas, where they debuted on October 13, 1975 along with new member Ted Stubblefield, who temporarily replaced Foote as the drummer. Acts such as Asleep at the Wheel and Jerry Jeff Walker also played at the forum. The band appeared at the locale nearly every week until the early 1980s, when they began touring with Strait. Drummer Foote returned to the lineup late in 1975[1] and remained as drummer until 1983 when he relinquished his position to become the band's road manager, a position he holds to this day.[2]


In 1976, Pappy Daily, the father of band member Mike Daily, decided to record the group for his "D Records" label at a studio in Houston, Texas. At the first session, the band recorded Dallas Frazier's "Honky Tonk Downstairs" (later recorded on Strait's 1981 debut album Strait Country) and the Strait-penned "I Just Can't Go on Dying Like This" (later recorded on Strait's 2013 album Love Is Everything). The songs were released to radio stations in Texas and Oklahoma. In 1977, Bill Mabry was added to the lineup as a fiddle player and the band recorded their second single, which featured the songs "Lonesome Rodeo Cowboy" (later recorded on Strait's 1990 album Livin' It Up) and "That Don’t Change the Way I Feel About You" which was written by Strait. The next year, the band recorded the songs "Right or Wrong," and "Little Liza Jane",[1] which were later included on the 2005 D Records label release Complete D Singles Collection, Vol. 6: The Sounds of Houston, Texas.[3] Strait re-recorded "Right or Wrong" in 1983 for his album Right or Wrong and took it to number one on the country charts. "The Loneliest Singer in Town" and Strait's "I Don’t Want to Talk It Over Anymore" also came out of this session. The three songs composed by Strait were later released on his 1995 compilation album Strait Out of the Box.[4]

In 1981, after Strait signed with MCA Records, the band began to tour with him and played the instrumentals on his recordings. They were honored in 1991 with the SRO's "Touring Band of the Year."[5] Four years later, the band released an album without vocals from Strait, featuring singers Darrell McCall and Mel Tillis.[1]


The band plays in a honky-tonk and western swing style, and credits such performers as Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Johnny Bush, George Jones, Merle Haggard and The Strangers as influences.[1] Allmusic describes the band's styles as Alternative country, Neotraditional and Western swing revival.[5] Because of the group's traditional style, performances in the city of Austin, Texas did not occur often due to the city's demand for progressive sounds.[1] Strait traveled to Nashville in 1977 with hopes of beginning a career, but most in the industry passed on him, shunning his traditional approach for pop-influenced sounds popular in country music during the late 1970s Urban Cowboy era.[1]


Current membersEdit

  • Mike Daily - steel guitar (1975 – present)
  • Terry Hale – bass (1975 – present)
  • Ron Huckaby – keyboards (1983 – present)
  • Rick McRae – lead guitar (1984 – present)
  • Benny McArthur – guitar & fiddle (1984 – present)
  • Gene Elders – fiddle (1985 – present)
  • Wes Hightower - backing vocals (1999 - 2006; 2016 – present)
  • Marty Slayton – backing vocals (2000 – present)
  • Joe Manuel - acoustic guitar (2005 – present)
  • John Michael Whitby – keyboards (2006 – present)
  • Lonnie Wilson - drums (2019–present)

Former MembersEdit

  • Ron Cabal - lead guitar (1975 – 1983)
  • George Strait – lead vocals & acoustic guitar (1975 – 1980)
  • Ted Stubblefield – drums (1975)
  • Tommy Foote – drums (1976 – 1982)
  • Bill Mabry - fiddle (1977 – 1979)
  • Richard Casanova - fiddle (1980 – 1984)
  • Roger Montgomery – drums (1983 – 1986)
  • David Anthony - acoustic guitar (1985 – 2002)
  • Phillip Fajardo - drums (1987)
  • Phil Fisher - drums (1988 – 1990)
  • Mike Kennedy - drummer (1991 – 2018; died 2018[6])
  • Jeff Sturms - acoustic guitar (1998 – 2007)
  • Liana Manis – backing vocals (1999)
  • Anthony Bazzari - keyboards (2002 – 2005)
  • Thom Flora – backing vocals (2007 – 2014)




Year Single Album
1977 "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This" Strait Out of the Box (George Strait album)[4]
"Honky Tonk Downstairs" Complete D Singles Collection, Vol. 6: The Sounds of Houston, Texas[3]
"Lonesome Rodeo Cowboy"
"(That Don't Change The) Way I Feel About You" Strait Out of the Box[4]
1978 "I Don't Want To Talk It Over Anymore"
"Loneliest Singer In Town" Complete D Singles Collection, Vol. 6: The Sounds of Houston, Texas[3]

Albums with George StraitEdit

Hit Singles with George StraitEdit

Ace in the Hole Band (album)Edit

Ace in the Hole Band
Studio album
ReleasedApril 16, 1995
GenreWestern swing
LabelTexas World
ProducerBilly Stull, Lucky Tomblin

The Ace in the Hole Band released their self-named debut album in 1995.[7] Among its many covers, the album features the song "You're Something Special to Me," which was recorded by George Strait on his 1985 album Something Special.[8]

Track list
1."Returning the Corn"Rick McRae, Riff Ryder2:45
2."You're Something Special to Me"David Anthony3:51
3."Mirrors Don't Lie"Merle Haggard3:14
4."What Comes Natural to a Fool"Ronnie McCown2:45
5."I'll Be Waiting Here Til Then"Anthony, Benny McArthur, McRae2:29
6."Texas Bounce"Gene Elders, McRae3:25
7."Back in the Swing of Things"Anthony, McArthur2:55
8."The Difference Between Me and Him Is You"Gary Harrison, Tim Mensy3:24
9."My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You"Lee Ross, Bob Wills2:50
10."I'm Ragged But I'm Right"George Jones2:32


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Grant Mazak (2006). "Ace in the Hole Band". Texas Music History Online. Texas State University. Archived from the original on August 11, 2010. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  2. ^ Corcoran, Michael (2009-09-25). "San Marcos musicians discovered Strait; the rest is country music history". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
  3. ^ a b c "Complete D Singles Collection, Vol. 6: The Sounds of Houston, Texas". Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Bruce Eder. "Strait Out of the Box". Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Charlotte Dillon. "Ace in the Hole Band". Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  6. ^ Kreps, Daniel (2 September 2018). "George Strait's Longtime Drummer Mike Kennedy Dead at 59". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Ace in the Hole". Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  8. ^ Stephen Erlewine. "Something Special". Retrieved December 8, 2011.