Country music legend Buck Owens owns and operates the Crystal Place, a nightclub/restaurant/music-museum in Bakersfield, California. Recently Buck started a project to assemble a series of bronze statues as a tribute to the greats of country music. Bill Rains was the sculptor commissioned to craft the statues of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Strait, George Jones, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Sr., Bob Wills, and Garth Brooks. The project took two years to complete. Rains had previously made statues of Buck and Johnny Cash, which were already on display in the Crystal Palace lobby. May 26, 2005 was chosen as the day the first series of statues would be shown to the public.
The seven thousand special-event tickets were sold out within two hours (your editor was an hour late). The night began with local band Steve Davis and Stampede, performing on stage with the bronze statues—all covered—behind them. Other local bands and artists performed as well. Several country music greats were in attendance, including George Jones, Merle Haggard and Garth Brooks.
Buck, acting as the master of ceremonies, unveiled the statues in the order each country great made their mark on music, starting with Bob Wills and then Hank Williams, Sr. Each honoree’s accomplishments was enumerated in a short video.
Since Brooks was the most contemporary artist being honored his statue was uncovered last. After a video tribute was shown, and it appeared that that program was nearing a conclusion, Garth lead long-time girlfriend Trisha Yearwood over to supposedly take a closer look at his statue. The spotlights followed them, and suddenly Garth got down on one knee, produced a microphone, and with a background of gasps from the audience, proposed.
Yearwood, though somewhat stunned, accepted his ring, and Garth is reported to have shouted:
“This is one of the greatest days of my life. Thank God!”
Brooks proposal nearly stole the show, even before the major entertainment started, which included appearances of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Dierks Bentley, Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, as well as Joe Nichols and Brad Paisley.
Congratulations and good luck Cousin Garth and Trisha!