The audience members at Willie Nelson's concert at Chastain Park (now Cadence Bank Amphitheatre) in Atlanta in 2016 had no idea they were in for the treat of a lifetime. Nelson and longtime friend and collaborator Kris Kristofferson welcomed two honorary guests to the stage. Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter joined half of the Highwaymen for a rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Merle Haggard was originally billed to share the stage with Nelson for the Chastain Park show. After the country legend's passing, Kristofferson joined the concert lineup along with two of Haggard's sons, Ben Haggard and Noel Haggard.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter had been known to be huge Nelson fans and were spotted braving the rain from the front row during the Atlanta show.
The nearly 7,000 fans in attendance cheered wildly and stood up to applaud as the Carters walked on stage. Nelson started singing "Amazing Grace," and the Carters and Kristofferson joined in for an epic singalong. In the video, you can see the sea of fans recording the special moment on their phones.
When the song finished, the quartet received a standing ovation. The Carters shared their appreciation and were sure to shake the hands of the entire Family Band before exiting the stage.
The 2016 surprise performance wasn't the first time the Carters performed with Nelson. The couple previously joined the country icon onstage during a 2004 taping of CMT's "Homecoming: Jimmy Carter in Plains."
Decades earlier, the couple joined Nelson on stage during a 1985 concert in their hometown of Plains, Ga.
Nelson famously visited the White House during President Carter's term. In a 2015 interview with GQ, the country legend confirmed the story that he smoked weed on the roof of the White House with an "insider," long rumored to be Carter's middle son, Chip, now known as James Earl Carter III. (James Earl Carter III has never confirmed the story.)
"We were there, and there it was, and why not, you know?" Nelson said. "And they have a great view from the roof."
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter also shared a special bond with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. The former first couple of the United States grew close to the reigning first couple of country music through both families' dedication to Habitat for Humanity.
Rosalynn, who was credited with expanding the role of first lady due to her prominent position in her husband's presidency, died on Sunday (Nov. 19). She was 96.
Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia in May and recently entered hospice care at her home in Plains. According to a statement from the Carter Center, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's nonprofit organization, Rosalynn passed away with her family by her side.
Jimmy Carter called his wife his "equal partner in everything I ever accomplished." The couple's 77-year marriage was the longest-running marriage of any first couple in U.S. history.
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