The secret history of George Strait's very first country hit reveals just how little room for error the King had. It was put up or shut up time for Strait, and thanks to an ambitious producer and Johnny Paycheck's troublemaking ways, he was able to put up.

The song was "Unwound" and it'd crack the Top 10, thus allowing Strait to release another single, and another and another until he amassed a few No. 1s and gold-certified albums. His first contract with MCA Records was a single-song deal, however. That means their faith in him was dime-thin, and if he misfired, he'd be back on the farm in no time.

Strait wasn't seen as a savior in 1981 — in fact, he'd gone from being told he wasn't country enough to being labeled as too country in just a few years' time. The culture changed, but thankfully he never did. What does Paycheck have to do with all of this? That story is the center of this week's episode of The Secret History of Country Music. At the time the "Take This Job and Shove It" singer was reaching new career heights, but he never did quit the bad boy ways that kept him in jail or worse throughout his life. Lengthy prison sentences bookended his career, but this short stint in lockup cost him a great song.

Perhaps we're all better for it, however. Is Strait hadn't recorded "Unwound," then another country legend wouldn't have heard it on the radio and decided he wanted to chase country stardom. That is the story Garth Brooks tells — watch for yourself and imagine "What if?"

The Secret History of Country Music is a new weekly series hosted by Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar. We'll go deeper inside the stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and figures. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.

Next: The Secret History of Brooks & Dunn's Breakup:

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