NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WHNT) — Iconic country group Alabama surprised the CMA Fest crowd over the weekend, and in turn, got a big surprise of their own – the Country Music Association’s highest honor.

Alabama has received over 250 industry awards in its 50-plus year career, but in a reaction to winning the CMA Pinnacle Award, the band said this is arguably its biggest honor yet.

The CMA Pinnacle Award was created to recognize artists “who have achieved both national and international prominence through concert performances and record sales at levels unique in country music,” according to the association.

Country music’s highest honor has only been given to three other artists: Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney. Now, Alabama joins this short list of artists who have reached the pinnacle of prominence in the genre.

“We understand that the only others who have received this award are Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks,” said Gentry in the band’s press release. “That puts us with some amazing talent that are still recording and touring. We thank the CMA board for this award and are thankful to the three generations of fans who love our music.”

Dierks Bentley came out to present the award to founding members Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry on the CMA Fest stage Sunday, just after the pair surprised fans with an unannounced performance of “Dixieland Delight,” “Mountain Music,” “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band),” and “Tennessee River” at Nissan Stadium.

“We had a great time playing CMA Fest, but we still call it Fan Fair,” says Owen. “To celebrate our 50th anniversary as a band and to play the Fest on its 50th anniversary was very special. Receiving CMA’s highest honor, the Pinnacle Award, was the surprise of the night, and we are so honored and humbled.”

Owen and Gentry received this award just a couple of weeks after June Jam made its return in Fort Payne, with Alabama hosting the event for the first time in 26 years. June Jam was brought back to continue helping those in need and aid disaster relief around the state of Alabama. 

The event also honored founding member Jeff Cook, who passed away last November.