Garth Brooks says he's never seen anything like the reaction he's gotten since it was announced he will share the stage with George Strait for the first time Sunday during the Academy of Country Music Awards.
"Everywhere I go, restaurants, stores, whatever — 'Hey, you're gonna be singing with George. Hey, we can't wait to see you with George,'" Brooks said in a phone interview. "It's so cool. It's like getting to sing with someone that's attained a level that you only get if you die. They love him and worship him and I'm in line with everybody else."
The show airs live at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan hosting. The show also will include appearances by top nominees Eric Church and Hunter Hayes, who's performing with Stevie Wonder, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert.
Brooks has often said he wanted to be just like Strait when he first picked up a guitar and a cowboy hat and started playing for tips while in college in Oklahoma. He demurred when asked what the two will perform, but said he believed it will be remembered as a special moment for a special man.
Clark began producing the ACMs in 1979 and was involved until his death last April. The show continues to be run by dick clark productions and Clark's son, Rac, serves as executive producer.
Brooks said he admired Clark for his down to earth and personal approach when it came to artists. When Clark had an idea or wanted to talk over an appearance, he would pick up the phone and call a performer directly. He wouldn't use a middle man. He thinks renaming the academy's artist of the decade award in Clark's honor was appropriate and in line with the legendary status of previous winners, who include Brooks, Strait, Loretta Lynn, Alabama and Marty Robbins.
"Those are all the cream of the crop and that's what Dick Clark meant," Brooks said.