Country Radio Broadcasters bestowed its career achievement award on perennial hitmaker George Strait Tuesday evening (Feb. 26) at an honors banquet held at the Nashville Convention Center.
The event, which traditionally kicks off the annual Country Radio Seminar, also saw the induction of six new members into the Country Radio Hall of Fame.
In addition, CRB presented talent buyer and Academy of Country Music CEO Bob Romeo its president's award for his many years of service to country radio.
In a video presentation, one country star after another professed their love and admiration for Strait, who, at 60, still manages to look boyishly shy.
Among those giving him a hearty video thumbs up were Dierks Bentley, Taylor Swift, Lee Ann Womack, Blake Shelton, Jamey Johnson, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Tim McGraw.
Swift, who had earlier toured with Strait, recalled that after the tour, he came to San Antonio just to congratulate her when she headlined her first rodeo.
Alluding to the many times she opened shows for Strait, Womack asked rhetorically, "Where else can you hear that many hits in one night?"
Shelton spoke of the wonder he felt as he stood on the side of the stage evening after evening to watch his idol perform.
For McEntire, a favorite memory was the after-tour parties, during which Strait would join the others in letting off steam by wearing silly wigs.
Summarizing the general sentiments, McGraw asserted, "If you took somebody from off this planet [and wanted to explain to them what country was all about], you'd play them a George Strait record. ... This is the essence of who we are."
The word-thrifty Strait emerged to a long standing ovation. After acknowledging the importance of radio to his success, he gestured toward the video screen from which all the praise had just beamed and said the "great thing" about his career "was meeting people like that and the people who are here in this room."
The remainder of the ceremony was spent in introducing and hearing brief remarks from the 2013 Hall of Fame inductees: Gaylon Christie, veteran disc jockey and former station owner of KUSJ/Kileen-Temple, Tex.; Don Carpenter, host of the Dr. Don Morning Show at WYCD/Detroit; Bill "Dex" Poindexter, host of The Dex & Mo Show at WUSY/Chattanooga, Tenn. Also inducted were Eddie Edwards, longtime air personality at WNOE/New Orleans, and Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase, the Nashville-based hosts of the Crook & Chase syndicated radio and TV shows.
The honorees, confined to five-minute acceptance speeches, were by turns gleeful, philosophical and irreverent.
In the midst of relating how he had progressed in radio, Poindexter mentioned the name of a friend who had helped him along the way. This friend, he then casually informed the audience, "was killed by a hooker." He did not specify the precise cause of death, but even if he had, the crowd was roaring too loudly to hear him.
Carpenter ruminated on the uncertain lives air personalities have to get used to. He remembered moving with his family to Detroit to take a job in talk radio, only to discover when he got there that the station had switched to a country music format.
"We hadn't unpacked yet," he noted. "You don't do that [in radio] until your fifth anniversary."
Sounding a tad resentful toward those who had doubted his on-air talents, Carpenter summed it up by saying, "To all those program directors who fired me, tried to fire me or fired the ones who hired me, I'll try to catch you at your shift at the drive-through and thank you in person."
Edwards, who sometimes joins country stars onstage and backs them on harmonica, whipped out his harp as soon as he came to the podium. He tapped the instrument against the palm of his hand, observing that he had a "seed" stuck in it.
"I smoke so much," he joked, "that Willie Nelson did my intervention." He complimented the banquet sponsors on the quality of wine they had served. "If I'd had one more glass, I'd have come up here as Randy Travis."
Rough as it is, Edwards observed, radio does have its rewards. "Along the way," he said, "I have literally made hundreds of dollars, but I have thousands of T-shirts.
McGraw then came to the stage to introduce Crook and Chase, the final honorees of the evening.
"They have been with me since the beginning of my career," he said. "They've always had a way of making the artist and fans feel at home with them."
He said the first thing he bought when he "got a little money" was a farm outside of Nashville and that the first animal he purchased for the farm was a "jackass" he named Charlie.
McGraw went on to explain that he called the animal "Charlie" because, like its namesake, "He liked my wife [Faith Hill] better than me."
Crook, who met McGraw in 1993, 10 years after she and Chase teamed up together, described the moment she first recognized the young singer's potential. She said she and Chase were hosting a show in front of an audience of high school honor students and that Joe Diffie, then at the peak of his popularity, was booked to perform for them.
At the last minute, Crook continued, Diffie had to cancel. Someone suggested McGraw as a substitute -- and, in desperation, she agreed.
"Two songs in," Crook said, "that teenage crowd flocked to the edge of the stage and treated him like a rock star."
Crying as she neared the end of her speech, Crook thanked her 80-year-old mother, who sat in the audience, and her husband, TV mogul Jim Owens, who first suggested she and Chase work together.
Chase thanked his mother and father for moving next door to a radio station in Rogersville, Tenn., when he was still a kid and thus hooking him on the medium.
Standing side by side with Crook, he declared, "We've discovered a partnership that's as rare as a George Strait single that doesn't go No. 1."