If you’ve ever listened to country music on the radio, you’ve no doubt heard of Bobby Bones — the infectious deejay whose morning radio show garners a cool three-million plus listeners each day and who Forbes recently dubbed “the most powerful man in country music.” Bones, who grew up in Arkansas and gained radio fame in Texas before moving to Nashville, uses his platform not only to promote undiscovered country music artists, but more importantly, to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I grew up without a lot,” Bones tells PEOPLE backstage before the concert began. “I didn’t have a dad and my mom had her issues and died young — without there being youth groups and different organizations around town that helped me, I don’t think I would be here. I want to do for people, what was done for me.”
It’s Bones’ motivation to give back that brought together Sam Hunt, Garth Brooks, Thomas Rhett, The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts and more country music stars to Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium Monday night for the second annual “Million Dollar Show,” celebrating the astounding $5.9 million raised for the research hospital to date.
Bones, along with radio producer Eddie Garcia and their band The Raging Idiots, formed an all-star house band Monday night. Guitar hero (and Bones’ girlfriend) Lindsay Ell, fiddle queen Natalie Stovall, Craig Campbell, Brandon Ray, Nikita Karmen and more backed the stars who stopped by the Ryman and lent their voices to the celebration.
Egos were checked at the stage door as superstar after superstar hit the stage to perform hits of their own and sing along covers. Bones may be the frontman for the band, but it was Ell and Stovall who brought their back-bending (literally) guitar and fiddle talents to the festivities. The evening was chock full of surprise guests, including the reigning CMA duo of the year Brothers Osborne, who surprised the crowded singing Alan Jackson’s hit “Chattachooche,” along with an acoustic and boot-stomping (literally) rendition of their hit song “Stay a Little Longer.”
Newly engaged Sam Hunt followed, hitting the stage to loud cheers and played Travis Tritt’s appropriately titled for the occasion, “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” and was later joined by his band for a stripped-down version of his hit “Leave the Night On.”
If the evening was a movie, Caitlyn Smith’s performance would have been the epic finale scene where the quiet crowd goes nuts by the end of the song (see: Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition). Smith, one of CMT’s artists to watch in 2017, sang her single “Tacoma” and took the crowd’s breath away concluding with a standing ovation.
Before heading to the stage to present a $2 million check to the St. Jude research hospital, surprise guest Garth Brooks chatted with two young St. Jude patients and Brooks fans.
The evening concluded with Garth Brooks leading the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Friends in Low Places” – a fitting way to close out the festivities.