Eric Church to Honor Merle Haggard at 'CMT Artists of the Year' Special

The legendary Hag will receive the inaugural Artist of a Lifetime honor from Billy Bob Thornton during Tuesday night's live broadcast

Eric Church performs in New York City's Madison Square Garden on his Outsiders World Tour. Credit: Mike Coppola/GettyImages

Eric Church will lead an all-star tribute to Merle Haggard during Tuesday night's CMT Artists of the Year broadcast. Haggard is set to receive the first-ever Artist of a Lifetime award during the live show. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban make up the five contemporary honorees during the annual ceremony, which looks back at each artist's storied year through presentations and performance. Ashley Monroe and T Bone Burnett will join Church in the salute to Haggard.

Church is a natural choice to perform for the Country Music Hall of Famer, to whom he paid homage on his 2006 debut album, Sinners Like Me, with the track "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag." Haggard himself lent his voice to the song, which has become a staple of Church's live show.

Billy Bob Thornton, who cites the Hag as an influence on his own music with the band the Boxmasters, will present the singer, songwriter and eternal badass with the Lifetime honor. Haggard, who prefers to travel by bus than plane, will make a rare journey from California to Nashville to pick up his award at the Artists of the Year gala, held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown.

CMT Artists of the Year, hosted by comedian Larry the Cable Guy, airs December 2nd at 8 p.m ET.