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2013 ACM Awards preview photos: Garth Brooks, George Strait to honor Dick Clark


ACM/Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Richard A. Clark, executive producer of the ACM Awards and hosts Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton at 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards rehearsals at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, April 5, 2013.

2013 ACM Awards: Rehearsals

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan rehearse for the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, April 5, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Garth Brooks, left, presents George Strait with the Artist of the Decade Award at the ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert on April 6, 2009, in Las Vegas.

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Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Dick Clark in this undated photo.

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George Strait, Dick Clark, Reba McEntire and Randy Owen in this undated photo.

Miranda Lambert rehearses for 2013 ACMAs

Lady Antebellum rehearses for 2013 ACMAs

Jason Aldean rehearses for 2013 ACMAs

It will be the first time in country music history that Artists of the Decade George Strait and Garth Brooks will share the same stage. The two superstars will sing separately and then in a duet paying tribute to the Academy of Country Music Awards’ late producer Dick Clark.

It’s a Super Bowl matchup of Nashville’s knights, and it’s likely to be the most emotional moment of today’s 3-hour CBS telecast from MGM Grand Garden Arena (the show is live on the East Coast and airs tape delayed at 8 p.m. PT). Fans are over the moon that the two legends will finally perform together, and it will be one of the major highlights of the star-studded 2013 ACMAs.

Details are still under wraps today, but there’s buzz that Reba McEntire will introduce them. Between Garth and George, they have nearly 80 No. 1 singles; each will perform one of his own classics and then duet in what will be one of the two artists’ songs.

We’re putting down bets that we’ll hear Garth’s “Friends in Low Places” and George’s “Amarillo by Morning.” Could the duet be “Cowboy Rides Away” or “Much Too Young”? However, George’s newest single has the right ring to it for the tribute: “Give It All We Got Tonight.”

Dick produced the annual ACMAs from 1979 and stayed involved with it right up until his death a year ago. Now his son R.A. Clark is following in his father’s footsteps and is the executive producer.

Garth often told the story in his residency run at Wynn Las Vegas that George is the country star he most admired and was the inspiration for his entry into country music.

“I’m in line with everybody else who loves him and worships him,” said Garth. “It’s so cool getting to sing with someone who’s attained a level you only get if you die. It is going to be a very special moment for a very special man.”

Garth says he wanted to be like George from the days he played guitar under his trademark cowboy hat for tips while in college in Oklahoma.

Network execs, producers and ACM officials say other duets will make for wow moments during the awards, and the opening number with hosts Blake Shelton and first-timer Luke Bryan will be a knockout. You’ll see Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, Sheryl Crow and Brad Paisley onstage with the self-described rowdy boys.

The lineup of superstar power is phenomenal, with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Hunter Hayes, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley and John Mayer. In addition to Reba, presenters include Shania Twain, Trisha Yearwood, Beth Behrs, Nancy O’Dell, Kaley Cuoco, John Fogerty, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Chiklis and Willie and Korie Robertson.

Blake and Luke rehearsed together for the first time Friday with the stars of tonight’s opening knockout number, including Brad. Brad will race back to The Orleans Arena to host Fan Jam, which will be used for live remotes into the MGM Grand telecast. Rehearsals continued all day Saturday and into the night.

TV talk-show host Katie Couric was one of a few permitted into the arena to watch, so the surprises are being kept under wraps. You can watch “ACM Red Carpet Live” on GAC or at starting at 3 p.m. PT. Our backstage pressroom with the winners also will stream live on starting at 5:30 p.m. PT.

Luke, the troubadour of “Tailgates & Tanlines” who takes over from former host Reba, told Las Vegas Weekly colleague Matt Kelemen: “I’m excited and nervous. I hope I can fill Reba’s shoes adequately. I think it’s going to be a fun night. There will be a lot that’s scripted, but then there’s a lot he and I can run with. I think keeping it spontaneous and keeping the mood up so everybody has a good time is what makes it fun.

“Blake and I are really good buddies. For years, we’ve had people tell us we’re ‘hick brothers of another mother.’ At the end of the day, the main thing is to enjoy the moments and not get too worked up about it.”

Caesars Palace headliner Shania is returning for the first time in nearly a decade, and she’s tipped to present Entertainer of the Year, which is being fought over by Luke, Blake, his wife Miranda, Taylor and Jason. Luke and Blake also duke it out for Male Singer of the Year.

Our preview of the 2013 ACM Awards events was posted on Thursday. Check back for our additional 2013 ACM and “The Week that Vegas Goes Country” coverage, including Jewel’s acoustic concert, The Band Perry at The Orleans, stars on Fremont Street, golfing for charity and an archery shootout with Luke.

Also check back for our red carpet fashion report and photos. Editor at Large John Katsilometes of The Kats Report will live blog the awards, and I’ll use Twitter @robin_leach. On Monday, we’ll have a wrap of the awards and photos, plus, a preview of Monday night’s all-star concert by Tim.

Here’s to a phenomenal 2013 ACM Awards starting at 5 p.m. PT live from Las Vegas. As network exes told us earlier: “There are more stars on this show than any other awards show on television.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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