With two days of honky tonkin’ musical showcases in the rearview mirror, the 2023 Ameripolitan weekend in Memphis came to a close on Sunday — but not without a few more fireworks. 

From a showcase of one of country music’s most recognizable instruments to memorable award show speeches, here are the four best things we saw on the final day of the Ameripolitan weekend.

Steel Guitar Pull

The final day of Ameripolitan kicked off down the street from Graceland at Hernando’s Hideaway, a music venue and restaurant owned by Ameripolitan founder Dale Watson, with a steel guitar pull led by Ernest Tubb’s former pedal steel player, Lynn Owsley. The stage was a revolving door of pedal steel and other players such as Rose Sinclair, Jake Penrod, Stephen Carney (Cory Grinder & The Playboy Scouts), Kevin Skrla (The Broken Spokes) and others.

The two-hour performance included cuts of Jimmie Rodgers’ “In the Jailhouse Now,” Duke Ellington’s “Pretty Woman,” Waylon Jennings’ “Rainy Day Woman,” Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight Lady” and Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway,” which collectively served up a vibrant historical look back on the evolution of the pedal steel guitar, a uniquely American instrument.

Summer Dean

Upon winning the Ameripolitan Award for Honky Tonk Female of the Year, Summer Dean gave a heartfelt speech that shouted out the strong female presence on hand at Graceland all weekend long and influences like Connie Smith and Leona Williams, whose music has helped to shape her into the artist she is today.

“To win any award feels amazing, but to win an award that has ‘female’ and ‘honky tonk’ in it makes me very, very proud,” said Dean. “That being said, I don’t think this award has anything to do with anyone being the best at anything… After being here all weekend and seeing all the shows, it’s no secret that I love men, but the women have won the weekend.”

Johnny Rodriguez

Tejano and country music sensation Johnny Rodriguez was honored during Sunday night’s show with the Ameripolitan Master Award, celebrating his half-century of making music, which produced six No. 1 hits and an induction to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Everyone in attendance, from the audience to the house band, was shocked when Rodriguez himself emerged to accept the award before launching into a couple of his signature hits, including “Ridin’ My Thumb to Mexico,” which resulted in some of the largest applause of the night.

The Adams Brothers

Another iconic collection of country musicians acknowledged during the show were The Adams Brothers, best known for their work as “The Jones Boys” backing up fellow legend George Jones and The Lovemakers backing Johnny Paycheck. Following the death of Gary Adams in 2022, brothers Arnie and Don Adams were on hand to accept Ameripolitan’s 2023 Founders of the Sound Award.

Floored by the standing ovation they received, the duo humbly accepted the award, thanking their family for their sacrifices that allowed the brothers to pursue their dream.

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