AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | 7:07 a.m.
After nearly three decades of making music and No. 1 singles, George Strait has been named the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Artist of the Decade.
“It’s about damn time,” former reining ACMA Artist of the Decade, Garth Brooks, said.
Strait was given the honor Monday night during an elaborate ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The event will be broadcast on CBS next month.
The 56-year-old star joins Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Alabama and Garth Brooks as the fifth ACMA Artist of the Decade award winner.
“It's kind of ironic to be standing up here getting ready to present this award to the man who’s fully responsible for where I’m at today,” Brooks said.
“It is an honor to pass the torch to the man who I believe has carried the torch for country music for the last 30 years,” he said.
Fellow country icons Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift were among those who performed during Monday night’s tribute, along with 11 other acts and A-list stars.
“He was one of the singers who made me want to move to Nashville,” Jackson said of his country-singing colleague.
Jackson, who played a show in Primm on Friday, said Strait has withstood the test of time.
“After knowing him for 20 years, take all that hit stuff all away from him and he’s still a good ‘ol boy from Texas who loves country music,” Jackson said, just moments before launching into his version of Strait’s 1985 single, “The Fireman.”
The night served as a retrospective of Strait’s hits, past and present.
Toby Keith performed the legend’s first No. 1 hit, 1981’s “Unwound,” while the recent ACMA Album of the Year winner, Taylor Swift, sang one of Strait’s more recent singles, 2001’s “Run.”
While the crowd seemed to enjoy the all-star cast and their cover songs, Keith conceded, “the bad news is … he’s got to listen to all of us butcher his stuff.”
Strait has enjoyed 57 number one hits during his more than a quarter century of performing. Thirty-four of his 38 albums have gone platinum or multi-platinum, and the former cattle rancher has been nominated for more Country Music Association and ACMA awards than anyone else.
“He’s had so many killer, unbelievable songs,” Eddie Montgomery, of Montgomery Gentry, said.
“The ladies liked him for his looks and the guys liked him because he’s a cowboy,” Troy Gentry said.
The pair performed Alabama’s classic, “Mountain Music,” in honor of the ACMA Artist of the Decade for the 1980s, Alabama.
Former award winners were saluted throughout the program. Keith Urban performed a montage of Marty Robbins’ hits; Faith Hill sang Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain't Woman Enough;” and Martina McBride covered Garth Brooks’ classic, “The Dance.”
The performers seemed to idolize Strait just as much as members of the audience – if not more.
AMCA Artist of the Decade for the 1990s, Garth Brooks, can still remember the first time he heard Strait on the radio.
“I was a senior in high school, I can remember the spot on the road where I was at,” he began. “The song was ‘Unwound’ and from that moment on, from that very second, I knew what I wanted to be. … I wanted to be George Strait,” he said.
“As a songwriter, the ultimate goal is to get George Strait to cut one of your songs,” another performer, Dierks Bentley, said. “I’m not afraid to say I’ve stalked and ambushed him a number of times … I think the last time was in an elevator in Nashville,” he joked before slipping Strait’s wife, Norma, one of his CDs.
ACMA Single of the Year award-winner, Jamey Johnson, had Strait sign his guitar immediately after he and Lee Ann Womack serenaded their idol with a duet of Strait’s 2006 single, “Give it Away.”
Johnson largely credits Strait for his success, and was honored to have him sign his beloved six-string.
“It was the first guitar I ever bought with my own money … I’ve written just about every song I’ve every written on it,” Johnson said of his cherished Epiphone EJ 200.
The most unexpected performance of the night came from rapper-actor Jamie Foxx, who provided an alternative perspective to Straight’s 1983 classic, “You Look So Good in Love.”
Strait later remarked, “I'm going to have to rethink how I sing ‘You Look So Good in Love’ now.”
Another surprise came from Lee Ann Womack, who performed a brand new song, "Stand There and Sing," that was written especially for Strait’s Artist of the Decade celebration.
Strait said he was “truly honored” to receive the distinction amidst the shining tributes.
“it's almost … like this was a farewell deal, but I’m not ready to go yet,” he mused.
Upon receiving the award, he first thanked God, then his fans.
“When you get right down to it, that's what this is all about, and you're the ones who make this all possible,” he told the crowd.
Strait celebrated his win with a live performance of “Ocean Front Property” and “Write This Down” before inviting the night’s performers to join him onstage for a group sing-along set to last year’s No. 1 single, “Troubadour.”
The George Strait Artist of the Decade special will air at 8 p.m. on May 27 on CBS and will feature footage of live performances by Brooks and Dunn, Jamie Foxx, Jack Ingram, Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, John Rich, LeAnn Rimes, Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.