Not long after Dierks Bentley took the stage at the inaugural Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas did he realize that his career had come full circle. "My very first concert was Dwight Yoakam," Bentley says, "so it was really cool to see him tonight."
That's right, he took the stage after one of his music idols, someone whose presence still gives him goosebumps. Rolling Stone Country sat down with the "Drunk on a Plane" singer to discuss a few more of the biggest "fan boy" — or as Bentley says, "fangirly" — moments of his career.
"There are a lot of people, bluegrass guys and acoustic artists, that the general country fans wouldn't know," he says. "Like, I really get sort of 'fangirly,' if that’s what you want to call it, about songwriters and a lot of the backdoor Nashville people."
Still, there are some well-known folks whom Bentley has all but freaked out over meeting:
"The first time I met George Strait was in April of 2004 on tour. He was walking down the hallway and I got the nerve up to say hi to him. He was getting ready to go onstage and I was with my band in the dressing room and I said, 'I'm going to do it. I'm going to make my move.' I said, 'George, hey, it's Dierks. I'm so excited to be a part of this tour.' He his [musician earplugs] in and he said, 'I can't hear you, I got my ears in. I'll talk to you later,' and he walked onstage. That was big time fangirling."
Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton
"Alison Krauss is probably my Number One. She came into the studio to sing on my first record. Dolly Parton was there, too. My dog Jake ran up to Dolly Parton and he put his nose up her skirt. We were like, 'Oh my God, don't do that.' I didn't know Dolly and she said, 'Watch out there little doggie, don't start something you can't finish.'"
"I played with him for his picnic and I got the chance to sing with him. My guitar, it was new when I got it, but it has a hole like Willie's where it's just worn out from my pinky going back and forth over the wood over all these years. I got Willie Nelson to sign that spot on my guitar. I'm a huge fan of him."
"I hung out with Merle Haggard on his bus, which sort of freaks me out. It was him and his wife. We played with Merle in Oklahoma City. I'm from Arizona and we talked about Arizona and he remembered playing for two dollars a day down there at a bar. I also become friends with George Jones, which kind of freaks me out."
"Sheryl is such a friend that it's hard to say I fan-girled around her, but you hear her on the radio and it's like, 'Damn, she's so good.'"
"I met Michael Jordan on a golf course! I don't even know what to say. I'm still freaked out that I met him."