On January 17, 2008, fans attending George Strait’s concert at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Alabama got the surprise of a lifetime when Kenny Chesney made a guest appearance.
Strait was in the midst of his 19-city arena tour that began in Austin, TX, and wrapped in Lubbock, TX. Throughout his 90-minute set, the country legend captivated the audience with his classic country stylings in his setlist of songs that included “The Chair,” “Check Yes or No,” “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” “Run,” “She’ll Leave You With a Smile,” “I Just Want to Dance With You,” and more.
However, the energy that surged over the crowd when Chesney unexpectedly walked out added a whole new level of excitement to the show.
After being introduced by Strait, the “American Kids” singer joined him on stage at the BJCC Arena wearing his baggy ensemble of a black long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and a snug, knit cap. Together, they performed the King of Country’s 1983 cover, “Amarillo by Morning.” All eyes were on the country stars as they took turns singing the signature lyrics.
“Amarillo by mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on,” they sang.
Before making his exit with the roar of the fans behind him, Chesney embraced Strait in a hug. The King of Country then casually stated, “That was pretty good wasn’t it?”
This song was featured on Strait’s album, Strait from the Heart, and while it didn’t reach the top of Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it still became an iconic tune among his impressive catalog. It was written by songwriters Terry Stafford and Paul Fraser, and originally included on Stafford’s 1973 album, Say, Has Anyone Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose.
Since this night in 2008, Chesney and Strait have had their fair share of on-stage moments together. In fact, Chesney has credited the critically acclaimed singer for making him the breezy No Shoes Nation artist he is today.
During a previous interview with radio personality, Bobby Bones, Chesney recalled his first time going to the islands to film the music video for his song, “How Forever Feels,” and hearing Strait’s music coming from a local bar.
“I was walking up the street and there was this bar and they had the door open and I heard George Strait coming out of that bar,” he told Bones.
“I walked in and stuck my head in and I said, ‘Is that really George Strait?’ And these two guys looked at me, who ended up being really good friends of mine from Kansas City, they went, ‘Yeah, and are you Kenny Chesney?’ Which really surprised me because this was early in my life, in my journey, in my career.”
“But that’s where it all started,” he said in conclusion. “It was several, several years ago.”
In 2017, Chesney also revealed that at the start of his music career, he was playing a gig in Tennessee, and wasn’t getting any tips in his jar. Suddenly, he decided to give Strait’s “The Fireman” a go.
“That’s when the tips started coming in the tip jar,’’ Chesney shared. “So I learned pretty quickly what to do and what not to do, and George has taught me a lot of lessons that way.”
He continued, “I’m so grateful for his friendship and I’m grateful for so many things that George Strait has given to country music and given to me. I think about that night a lot, just started playing music with a guitar in my hand a tip jar in front of me.”
Hot off the heels of his Here And Now 2022 Tour, Kenny Chesney is looking ahead to his 21-date I Go Back 2023 Tour. This trek is set to kick off on March 25 at State College, PA’s Bryce Jordan Center and wrap up in July.
George Strait is also gearing up for his own set of shows. In October, he announced his six-date stadium tour with Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town. He’ll hit the road beginning May 6 in Glendale, AZ and will make stops in Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee and Nashville before finishing up in Tampa on August 5.