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Dierks Bentley Reflects on Love of, Respect for Country Music at Hall of Fame Exhibit Opening

Dierks Bentley is the latest modern country artist to be honored with his own exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Dierks Bentley: Every Mile a Memory features artifacts and memorabilia from all stages of the singer’s life — including a picture he drew as a 6-year-old that claimed he wanted to be a rock star when he grew up.

“My favorite part of that whole deal is, my teacher wrote, ‘Interesting story,’ next to it,” Bentley joked to The Boot and other reporters during a reception held in his honor. “I don’t know who that teacher was, but I’d love to show her that picture.”

All kidding aside, the “Somewhere on a Beach” singer can’t believe he has his own exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s especially incredible to Bentley because his artifacts are only a few steps away from Bill Monroe‘s prized mandolin.

“I have so much respect for country music. I love it so much,” Bentley gushes. “This building is just amazing; it honors country music so well. I used to work out of the original Country Music Hall of Fame, back in ’99, probably. Through TNN, I had a chance to freelance on a CBS News piece, a 13-part documentary on country music; I was the local guy in Nashville they hired to freelance. I was working at the old, original Hall of Fame. I still have a lot of memories.

“Seeing old boots, I think I saw some of Lefty Frizzell’s boots,” he continues. “I remember seeing this document: It was an application for a job that Trisha Yearwood had filled out, trying to be an intern at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she said her goal was to be an entertainer. [There’s] a lot of memories from the Hall of Fame back then, and to be here now, this building is so modern and contemporary and current. It’s cool.”

Bentley’s exhibit includes clothing worn on stage, awards, photos, and his guitar, which he typically uses when he performs during his concerts.

“I got that when it was fairly new,” Bentley recalls. “I was living with my booking agent at the time, who wasn’t a booking agent, and my business manager, who wasn’t a business manager. We were all living in a house in 1998, on Woodmont, that had no air conditioning. It was the hottest summer of my life. That’s saying a lot coming from Arizona. I loved that guitar. Fielding Logan, that was his guitar. I think he’s now Eric Church’s day-to-day manager. We were all friends back then.

“He sold that guitar to me for, I think it was $1,200,” he adds. “It’s been with me everywhere. It’s got a lot of autographs on the outside, from the top country people I look up to: Merle Haggard, George Strait, George Jones and Garth Brooks. Then, on the bottom, I’ve got all the bluegrass guys, like Tim O’Brien and Sam Bush and Tony Rice. Then Pearl Jam, Mike McCready’s over here … Sheryl Crow. I’ve got spots for everybody. Del McCoury’s right on the neck; he’s at the prime spot. So that’s probably the most interesting artifact. It’s been in the U.K., it’s been in Japan, Norway. It’s traveled a lot.”

Although Every Mile a Memory is a temporary exhibit, Bentley calls the entire experience “surreal.”

“I understand I’m not in the Hall of Fame, but I am in the Hall of Fame. It’s a harder process,” he says. “I didn’t use country music as a vehicle to become a star, I’m a star because of my passion for country music. I had never thought about these things. I never pictured myself having a display in the Country Music Hall of Fame; I don’t save stuff thinking, ‘This needs to be saved for this and that.’ There’s so much I lost over the years. It’s really taken being here now to really grasp this whole thing. It’s hard to comprehend being in the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

Having his own exhibit is not something that Bentley takes lightly.

“I’m a country music singer and a country music fan and a student of country music, and I’m not even sure what order that all falls in,” he explains. “I love singing, and I love what we do on the road, but I really do love country music. I’m a geek about it; I love the history of it … I’m pretty honored to be here.”

Dierks Bentley: Every Mile a Memory will be open until Sept. 6. More information can be found at CountryMusicHallofFame.org.

See Pictures of Dierks Bentley + More Country Stars Then and Now

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