The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled its new exhibit dedicated to the country superstar on Thursday

By Nancy Kruh
May 26, 2017 07:00 PM

For Jason Aldean, this has been the week of big reveals.

On Monday, he and his wife, Brittany Kerr Aldean, told the world via an Instagram video that they’re expecting a boy. Then Thursday, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled its new exhibit dedicated to the country superstar.

With his wife, two daughters, parents and stepparents in tow, Aldean privately toured the expansive exhibit that traces his life and award-winning career before he declared it “pretty amazing” at a reception in the Nashville museum’s Hall of Fame rotunda.

“It’s not only cool for me and my family,” Aldean, 40, told gathered guests, “but hopefully cool for everybody else that gets to come through and see it and maybe learn a little bit more about me and where I come from and my background.”

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“Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy” features a moving array of artifacts that tell the story of the stops and starts of the singer’s career long before he began packing stadiums. Two side-by-side documents encapsulate his early struggles: a $134.77 pay stub for his job, in 1996, as a Pepsi delivery truck driver – money needed to make ends meet – and a down-to-the-penny tally of band expenses at the same time (including $50 voice lessons and a $16.95 guitar strap). Vintage posters during that same era advertise Aldean as the opening act for Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood.

After moving to Nashville in 1998, Aldean saw several record deals fall through before finally signing with Broken Bow Records in 2004, and the hits eventually began to pile up. Items highlighting Aldean’s rise include CMA and ACM award envelopes, a set list from Aldean’s historic 2013 concert at the University of Georgia stadium, and a handwritten note from Kelly Clarkson thanking him for “thinking of me” for the award-winning “Don’t You Wanna Stay” duet.

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The exhibit also draws attention to Aldean’s life away from the music: Sports uniforms and equipment represent his athletic side; a state-of-the-art hunting bow reflects his life as an avid outdoorsman; and a sentimental collection of boyhood objects offers a window into his early years.

The museum can thank Aldean’s parents (who divorced when he was 3) for such items as a rocking horse that was under his first Christmas tree and a certificate attesting that he “bravely met all of the requirements of receiving his first haircut.”

At the reception, Aldean’s mother, who has remarried but goes by Debbie Aldean, said she kept boxes of his belongings not because she thought he’d be famous someday but “because he was my only child and everything he did was special.”

She confessed she “started to cry” as she began to take in the exhibit, but then Aldean’s 14-year-old daughter, Keeley, instructed her to “suck it up” – and Grandma dutifully complied.

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Her son, she said, was mostly astonished by how much “stuff” his parents had kept. He may be even more surprised when he finds out where it’s eventually going: “I’m gonna take what I have,” Debbie Aldean said, “and give it to him when this is over.”

As thrilling as the exhibit was to Aldean’s parents, both expressed far more excitement about the upcoming birth of their first grandson.

“Finally got a boy,” said father Barry Williams. “I need somebody to hang out with. I miss that. I used to do that with Jason, and we still hunt and fish, but when they’re little, you teach them that stuff. It’s going to be fun.”

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Debbie Aldean was still relishing being at the gender-reveal party that Aldean, his wife, and daughters shared on Instagram.

“Of course I’m excited about it being a boy,” she said, “because I’ll have a little Jason. But anybody that knows me knows that my grandbabies are my heart, so this one won’t be any different than my other two.”

“Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy” officially opens Friday and runs through Nov. 5.