Rock legend John Fogerty is the first star to arrive in the backstage room at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Arena, and as he takes his seat, he points excitedly to the riser below, where a strip of paper reading “Taylor Swift” has been taped. “Honey!” he calls to his 11-year-old daughter, “Taylor will be standing right there! Right there!” A minute later the Band Perry walk in and share their own moment of awe as they spot Fogerty.
In fact, the crowd of artists gathered for a PEOPLE Country photo shoot before the April 8 taping of McGraw’s ACM Superstar Summer Night is so star-studded, even Keith Urban can’t resist whipping out his iPhone to capture the moment. With rapper Pitbull, R&B star Ne-Yo and some of country’s top talent in attendance, hip-hop star Nelly can hardly believe his eyes. “This would never work at the BET Awards!” he laughs.
Luke Bryan strolls in and is quickly surrounded by well-wishers congratulating him on his Entertainer of the Year win at the Academy of Country Music Awards the night before. “I heard when you won, you cried like a baby,” Kimberly Perry teases him. “Like a little boy!” Bryan confirms with a laugh.
But as the stars assemble for the shot, the focus turns to McGraw (Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley has even dressed superfan-style in a Tim McGraw Indian Outlaw tee) and cutting loose for the camera. Faith Hill blurts out a bawdy “Howdy, f*****s!” to crack up the group as she takes her place next to her husband in the shot. And McGraw calls out a mock complaint about having Nelly’s buff biceps on display. “Can you cut his arms out of the picture?” he jokes to photographer Joe Pugliese. Bryan can’t resist a little teasing. “You’re losing the gun show,” he taunts McGraw. But McGraw just grins. “That’s why I’m wearing a jacket!”