In the words of Eric Church and probably countless others….
“Waylon fucking Jennings man.”
With the ACM Awards coming up this week and the CMA Awards around the corner, it got me thinking about some of the great awards show moments throughout the years.
And by great, I mean the time Alan Jackson had his drummer play without sticks at the ACMs, the time Sturgill Simpson busked outside of the Bridgestone Arena during the CMAs, and back in 1975 when Waylon Jennings won Male Vocalist of the Year.
The greatness of Waylon was a little before my time, and I know I don’t appreciate his legacy like those that were there, but back in 1975 he was nominated for a ton of awards including Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. And based on his own words, Waylon hated every second of it.
“Now they needed me again, because I was up for Best Male Vocalist, Song of the Year (“I’m a Ramblin’ Man”), Album of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. As I walked in with Jessi, scratching at my tuxedo, her telling me I should have hit them, Neil came over to me. “You won Male Vocalist,” he whispered. “Jessi didn’t win anything.”
So much for secrecy. If nobody’s supposed to know the awards before they opened the envelope, how did word get around? My heart went out to Jessi, and though my first instinct was to get the hell gone, I thought that maybe by staying I could raise some of the larger problems that faced country music, such as its closed mindedness and suspicion of change.
When it came time for Best Male Vocalist, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette made a great show of opening the winner’s envelope. I tried to be nice in my acceptance speech, thanking everybody for their support, though I knew that block voting and mass trading between the big companies—we’ll give you two hundred votes for your artist if you give your four hundred votes to our writer—probably had more to do with it than anything else.
At least Glen Campbell, the host, was happy. “All I can say, Waylon, is it’s about damn time.” Predictably, the CMA got a few letters protesting Glen’s use of profanity.
I was happier watching Charlie Rich get drunk and burn up the Entertainer of the Year award, holding a cigarette lighter to the envelope, please. They went to grab him, but when Charlie was drunk, it was best to stay out of his way… Oh, yeah. John Denver won Entertainer of the Year. Now that’s what I call country.”
Spoken like a true outlaw.
In his speech, all he said was:
“Thank you, they told me to be nice, I don’t know what they meant by that. Thank you.”
And that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Glen then followed it up with “it’s about damn time” and as Waylon mentioned in the excerpt, people were pissed that he would curse on TV. And how about Glen calling Tammy and Tanya “two of the most attractive female vocalists you’ve ever saw in your life?” That sure as hell wouldn’t fly these days.
Time have changed…
Here’s a clip of Charlie lighting John Denver’s envelope on fire.
Most speculate that Charlie did this because he was pissed that a folk-pop singer/songwriter like John Denver was winning country music award. Others, say he pissed at the industry and no John himself. Charlie’s own son claimed that he was just wasted and thought it would be funny, and that it wasn’t a shot at John
Either way, it’s an all-time moment in CMA history, although Charlie’s career never really recovered.
Still, I kinda wish the industry had a little more of this fire nowadays (no pun intended).