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Is George Strait ready to pass the torch - to Dierks Bentley?

So why is George Strait inviting Dierks Bentley back out on tour with him this year?

"I guess all my begging and groveling to George and his wife, Norma, paid off!" jokes Dierks.

Not exactly. "I want somebody that's going to add something to the show," admits George. "We want people that the crowds are going to enjoy seeing, and who have a little name recognition, also."

Dierks fits that bill perfectly. In his young career, he has already scored three hits - "What Was I Thinkin', " "My Last Name" and "How Am I Doin' " - and his self-titled debut CD has gone gold. Still, there's nothing like getting a vote of confidence from George, whom Dierks has long regarded as a hero.

"I am very honored to be invited back to open up shows for the king of country," he says.

"I know when I first started touring, I opened a lot of shows for people, and was certainly happy to do it," recalls George. "You've gotta get that exposure. That's what it's all about."

George's tours have helped push stars like Brad Paisley and Lee Ann Womack to the next level in their careers.

"It's an honor for me to have people to look at our tour that way," he says. "We didn't design it like that."

To read more about George Strait passing the torch to Dierks Bentley, pick up the new Country Weekly on newsstands today!