Vince Gill was brought to tears last Thursday during the R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) banquet when he was called upon to honor his longtime friend and former bandmate, John Hughey. Hughey, who played steel guitar for Conway Twitty before joining Gill's band, passed away last year. Gill recalled the first time he talked to Hughey.

"I called John in 1989 to see if he would want to play in my band. When he answered the phone I said, 'This is Vince Gill and I...' and he stopped me and said, 'I know who you are, you're that boy that sings like a woman.'"

Hughey accepted Gill's invitation and was in his band for 12 years. Gill says the famed musician played a big part in his career success.

"He gave my music validity and credibility that you don't usually get from a kid like I was at the time," Gill says.

Gill told the gathering of music industry VIPs and fans that since Hughey passed away he hasn't been able to go back into the studio and start a new record. Also a consummate guitar player himself, Gill is appreciative of what a good musician contributes to a song. He says early in his years as a singer he remembers being drawn to the players first and the singer second when it came to listening to records or attending concerts. He pointed to Hughey's solo on his song 'Look At Us' as a prime example.

"John played the best steel guitar solo ever and it was on my record," he said, addding, "I am grateful to John for all he did in my career."