How Olivia Newton-John’s 1974 CMA Award Win Sparked A Massive Backlash From George Jones, Tammy Wynette & More

Olivia Newton John Country Music

The late, great Olivia Newton-John will be sorely missed by people across the world.

The British-born, and Australian-raised singer, passed away yesterday morning at her ranch in Southern California, after a decades-long battle with breast cancer.

Of course, Olivia became a superstar after landing her iconic role as Sandy in the 1978 film Grease alongside John Travolta, who also shared a sweet tribute to his friend on Instagram.

She had many hit songs during her long and successful music career, some from the Grease soundtrack and many of her own solo hits, and she actually spent a good chunk of time in the 1970s making a little country music.

In 1973, her song “Let Me Be There” was released as the second single from her studio album of the same name, where it spent 22 weeks on Billboard’s country chart and rose to #7. It also won a Grammy for best female country vocal performance, the first of four career Grammys.

The next year in 1974, she released the title track to her next album, “If You Love Me Let Me Know,” which peaked at #2 on the country charts and stayed there for two weeks, ultimately becoming her biggest country hit. The album itself became a #1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums.

Later that year, her song “I Honestly Love You” peaked at #6 on the country chart, and won Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Pop Female Vocal.

All of this landed her a nomination from the Country Music Association for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974, where she ultimately won and beat out the likes of country greats Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton, and Tanya Tucker.

Many country traditionalists were not too pleased with the decision given the fact she was a pop artist from Australia (though the award is voted on by professional industry people), and it actually caused a lot of backlash.

Her name was also botched during the ceremony and it almost seemed a little bit intentional. Either way, she wasn’t even there to accept the award…

So much so that George Jones and Tammy Wynette formed a counter-group called the Association of Country Entertainers (ACE), which consisted of mostly Grand Ole Opry members to protest the influx of pop into country music and promote what they considered to be “real country music” at the time.

According to the Encyclopedia of Country Music, the organization consisting of Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Dottie West, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Ernest Tubb, and more, was less than effective and closed its doors in 1981.

The following year, in 1975, greater outrage occurred when the CMA Association gave the coveted Entertainer of the Year award to John Denver.

This led Charlie Rich to light the envelope on fire at the podium after revealing the winner, which some speculate had to do with John winning, while others think it was aimed at the larger CMA Association and their choices as a whole.

The great Waylon Jennings also seemed to disapprove of John’s win, though, sarcastically saying:

“John Denver won Entertainer of the Year… now that’s what I call country.”

After the ’70s and the Grease era, Olivia mainly stayed in the pop realm, scoring #1 hits like her signature song “Physical” in 1981, as well as “I Honestly Love You,” “Magic,” and “You’re the One That I Want” with John Travolta from the Grease soundtrack.

And though it didn’t chart anywhere officially, she also did a fantastic cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” back in 1976 for her Come On Over album:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock