Everyone Loves George

updated 06/17/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/17/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Backstage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas April 6, as 21 of country's brightest stars—plus Oscar winner and country fan Jamie Foxx—joined George Strait for an exclusive photo with PEOPLE, Miranda Lambert neatly summed up what everyone was thinking: "George Strait is the king." Later that night Strait, 57—who has amassed a record 57 No. 1 country singles in his 28-year career—was crowned the Academy of Country Music's fifth-ever Artist of the Decade at a star-studded tribute concert airing May 27 on CBS. Before the show, country's biggest names bordered on giddy as they surrounded the man of the hour for PEOPLE'S group shot. "He's an inspiration," said Keith Urban. "The real deal, just as pure as they come. He's never wavered and he is still kicking ass." And the rodeo's not over. "This is like a farewell deal," Strait later said as he accepted his prize. "But I ain't ready to go yet."

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