It has to be a little unnerving to stand in front of the Academy of Country Music's Artist of the Decade and sing his songs for him. That's exactly what a host of singers did a few weeks ago as they taped "George Strait: ACM Artist of the Decade All Star Concert" in Las Vegas. The star-studded special airs tonight (May 27) on CBS-TV.
Jack Ingram, a fellow Texan who, like George, honed his craft in the beer joints, honky tonks and dancehalls of Texas, says, "I'll never be George Strait; I wouldn't even think of trying," says Jack. "But I love him, and I love his music, and I love the way any time I've ever wondered which way I should go, he was one of those artists I could look to and know the right thing was the thing that made me more me rather than somebody else."


The singer/songwriter, who performed George's classic 'All My Exes Live in Texas,' took a somewhat different approach to the song when it came his turn to sing. He looked at his performance as an opportunity to show how King George's songs have not only influenced him but can translate into his world. "I told the band 'Play it like you're in a bar ... and you're drunk ... and you've had a fight with your girlfriend.' They knew just what I was talking about it - and they really tore it apart. Thankfully, when I looked over, George and Norma [Strait's wife of 38 years] seemed to like it."

Another Texan on the bill, Lee Ann Womack, has been friends with George for many years, so when it came time for the producers of the show to find someone to sing a special song for him, they called on her. When Lee Ann first heard they had a surprise planned for George, she wasn't sure she wanted to be a part of it. "I didn't know how much George would like a surprise on national TV," she explains. "But they sent me the song and I thought, 'He's really going to love this'."
That was confirmed by George himself at the reception after the taping. "He told a room full of people that he got really emotional and really choked up and he thought if there were ever a moment in the night he was going to lose it, it was during that song," Lee Ann says. "The song was written specifically for that event and I know he was very, very grateful to the writers for having done that."
Lee Ann also performed "Give It Away" with Jamey Johnson, the CMA-Award-winning single which Jamey co-wrote with Bill Andersonand Buddy Cannon.
Alan Jackson, who sings 'The Fireman' during tonight's special, perhaps made the understatement of the evening when he told the Texas-born singer "I think they're a couple decades late getting to you."

And Jack put into words what was on everyone's mind as artist after artist stepped to the microphone to honor George."George Strait defines what it means to be a Texan. He is completely his own man: he maintains high standards for himself, for his music and he always follows his own sense rather than other people's."

Others performances on the show include Tim McGrawsinging 'Marina Del Rey,' Sugarlandperforming 'Adalida' and John Richdoing 'Amarillo By Morning.' They'll be joined by Dierks Bentley, Brooks and Dunn, Jamie Foxx, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, LeAnn Rimes, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swiftand Keith Urban.
Garth Brooks, who was the Academy's Artist of the Decade for the 1990's, will present Strait with his award. "George Strait: ACM Artist of the Decade All Star Concert" will air tonight at 7 p.m. ET on CBS-TV.