04/06/2014 at 11:15 PM EDT
presented Merle Haggard
with the ACM Awards Crystal Milestone Award Sunday, honoring the 77-year-old's contributions to country music on a very appropriate occasion: Haggard's birthday.
George Strait and Miranda Lambert
led the band in a performance of Haggard's most famous songs, including "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," "Mama Tried" and "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive."
Ethan Miller / Getty
The standing ovation that greeted Brooks as he walked onstage made it clear he's still a beloved figure in country music. Yet the moment belonged to Haggard – and the impromptu performance of "Happy Birthday" the onstage crew bestowed upon him was sweet proof of the music man's eternal popularity.
"Country music's been great to me all my life," Haggard said, "and it's great again tonight."
Follow PEOPLE on Facebook!