On Wednesday evening (Dec. 5), after their concert in Spokane, Wash., the Oak Ridge Boys caught a red-eye flight to Houston, Texas, in order to perform at a hometown memorial service for former President George H.W. Bush. According to the Tennessean, it was a trip that the country group had been preparing for for a long time.

"President Bush means so much to us," the band's Richard Sterban explains. "George Bush requested before he passed away that we sing "Amazing Grace," his favorite song, at his funeral. There's no way we wouldn't do it."

The Oak Ridge Boys' longstanding relationship with Bush extends back to the 1960s, when band member Duane Allen and a few friends took a job distributing flyers for Bush, who was at the time a young politician running for office in Texas. After beginning their career in country music, the band encountered Bush once more before a 1980s performance at a White House barbecue, when the then-vice president stopped by during soundcheck to tell them what a fan he was. Bush requested songs from the group, including obscure deep cuts from their discography, and presented the Oak Ridge Boys with vice presidential T-shirts. From there, a lifelong friendship was born.

"We sang for him at his call after that," Allen explains. "We'd fly to Kennebunkport, [Maine], with our wives and stay in their house and spend the summertime with them together. We last went two years ago and had lunch with them. Those were some of the most special times in our lives."

In fact, performing "Amazing Grace" at Bush's funeral represents something of a full-circle moment for the country group. They played the same song at his presidential inauguration ceremonies.

"One final time here on this earth, we're going to sing it for him," Sterban continues. "And we believe in our hearts that we'll see him again one day, and we'll sing it for him again."

Readers can press play above to watch the Oak Ridge Boys perform "Amazing Grace" during Bush's Houston service. The former president died on Nov. 30, at the age of 94.

Country Artists Who Have Died in 2018

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