With a Clint in Her Eye

updated 10/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

IF GRINNIN' CLINT BLACK LOOKED EVEN more ebullient than usual at the Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday, Oct. 2, it's because the country-music hunk's private life has finally caught up with his professional high. Just days earlier, the singing cowboy announced he'll toss his trademark black Stetson into the matrimonial ring.

The bride-to-be: former Knots Landing star Lisa Hartman, whom he met last New Year's Eve. "I've been saying a long time I didn't see this happening to me, but when it happens, you don't have anything to say about it," drawled the "never been-happier" Black. "That's what happens when you're in love."

Hartman, still single at 35, despite two years of sharing real estate with actor Barry Bostwick at one time, is similarly taken aback. "When we met, we shared the same philosophy that we should wait until we were around 80, because then the chances of it lasting would be really good. And then we found we didn't want to do that."

Black, 29, popped the question—and a three-diamond ring—in Phoenix, where he was doing a concert. "Both our mothers were there," he says, "and we wanted them to be the first to know." Next to know were the guests at an ASCAP dinner in Nashville the following night, where the couple announced the good news to one and all.

The cooing duo are a good fit. Both were born in Houston, where Clint was once a construction worker and Lisa started in showbiz as a singer. They plan to marry in December.

So Clint, why this girl instead of the legions who've stalked you over the years? "I'm just learning what makes her so special," he muses. "If it was something I could put my finger on, I think I'd go out and market it somewhere for other people."

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