The men of country music weren't shy about honoring their lovely counterparts during Girls' Night Out: Superstar Women of Country, which premieres Friday (April 22) on CBS. The music-packed special honors the Judds, Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles with testimonials and performances by Jason Aldean, John Fogerty, Vince Gill, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton.
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Backstage at the Las Vegas taping earlier this month, many of the stars visited with CMT Insider host Katie Cook. Surprisingly, Underwood told Cook the night was "wonderful and embarrassing." She continued, "You're up there and everybody's looking at you. But the best thing about it was the company for sure. I mean, come on. Reba and Vince for me, growing up in Oklahoma, they were -- and are -- it."
In addition, Gill spoke generously of Underwood after providing the guitar accompaniment to her version of "How Great Thou Art."
"When she sings, people respond," he said. "It was really a treat to be out there and watch her shine like that. I was thrilled that she picked that song to sing. I told her, 'I can't sing a verse because I can't get through it. I just can't sing that song.' It's the first song I remember hearing as a little boy, so it was pretty special that she chose that."
Aldean performed "She's Country" in tribute to all the honorees.
"The cool thing is, you have some of these acts that have paved the way for some of these younger acts that are out right now, like Carrie and Taylor and Miranda," he said. "I'm glad they asked me to come and do this. There's so much talent out there right now onstage tonight. It's going to be really fun to watch."
Meanwhile, Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus had nothing but kind words to say about McEntire.
"I think she's timeless," he said. "I think she's recorded some of the best music that will live on long after we're all here. And that, to me, is the epitome of a country music superstar. So we were proud to be up there with her tonight."
Sara Evans, who paid homage to Tammy Wynette, also took a moment to praise two of her personal friends.
"Reba McEntire is like my all-time idol," she said. "I'm so in love with her, like I almost can't talk to her, because ... I just love her that much. I toured with her on the Girls Night Out tour 10 years ago, and I just idolize her. When I was a teenager, I knew every single song, every word on every album. She's phenomenal. And I always love to hear Martina because she's a friend and she's incredible, of course. This is just a really, really fun event."
The JaneDear Girls, who covered Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," felt overwhelmed by the company they were keeping.
"We feel like we're living in dream land or something," said Danelle Leverett. "All these people that we've looked up to our entire life, we just got to play in front of them, so we're ecstatic."
"We're pinching ourselves right now," added Susie Brown.
The Judds, who reunited for a final tour in 2010, have continued to be influential on countless country artists, including The Band Perry.
"I remember when I was in the fourth grade, I had their Greatest Hits CD," Kimberly Perry said. "We took a family trip down to Disney World, and I played 'Young Love' over and over and over. That was my favorite song on the whole CD. They could probably be credited with half the reason I chose to be a country singer -- strong women and strong voices."
"During the performance, I was just staring at them the whole time," added Neil Perry. "I just can't keep my eyes off them. They're just such heroes of ours."
Despite the superstardom in the room, the Judds enjoyed the camaraderie as much as the music.
"I feel honored to call these women my friends," Naomi Judd said. "I teared up earlier when I was thinking about it, but I know these women. I mean, I've had dinner at Reba's house. I've watched [McEntire's son] Shelby grow up. Martina brings her girls over to the farm. I'm just really getting to know Carrie and Miranda, but ... ."
"It's the generations together," Wynonna continued. "Loretta's the reason we're here. We're passing the baton to the younger generation. It's all a part of the big tapestry of country music."
But perhaps the most concise explanation came from Lambert, who simply noted, "It was unbelievable tonight. Really unbelievable."
View photos from the Girls' Night Out taping.