When the producers of the Academy of Country Music's annual television special approached Tim McGraw about the 2013 edition, the country music star immediately flashed on the program's format.
"They were tribute shows and I certainly didn't want anything to do with that," the 46-year-old McGraw said with a laugh. "I wasn't ready for that yet."
Instead, McGraw decided to take the show in a new direction, recasting it as a summer tour preview for fans. "ACM Presents: Tim McGraw's Superstar Summer Night," taped one day after the ACM Awards last month in Las Vegas, aired Sunday on CBS.
McGraw invited top country stars like his wife, Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and The Band Perry to perform, but said he was most excited by appearances from pop- and rock-world acts like Ne-Yo, Pitbull and John Fogerty.
"There were a lot of great country artists there, but I see those guys all the time," he joked.
McGraw served as host, sang some of his own songs and joins his fellow artists for others. Most of the invited stars performed one of their own songs during the show.
He and Ne-Yo teamed up on "She Is." McGraw joined Pitbull on "Felt Good on My Lips," and he teamed up with Swift and Urban on "Highway Don't Care."
The moment that really sticks with him, though, was joining Fogerty, Aldean, Urban and Bryan for Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born on the Bayou."
"We were completely floored when he opened his mouth and started singing," McGraw said of Fogerty. "We're all Fogerty fans, CCR fans, all the stuff that he did that was fantastic. But when he started playing guitar and started singing 'Born on the Bayou' in that voice – I think he's in his mid-60s, if I'm not mistaken. He can flat ... sing. We just sort of stepped back and looked at each other and said, 'Are you kidding me?'"