These days, the CMA Awards always seem a little… vanilla.
And granted, awards shows are always a little corny, that’s just the nature of the beast, but the CMA Awards always come off pretty watered down, overly scripted, and just… bland.
Not to mention the whole lack of actual country music issue…
But, over the years, they’ve definitely had their fair share of controversial moments.
We saw Charlie Rich light the envelope on fire as he declared John Denver the Entertainer of the Year in 1975. We saw Alan Jackson play a George Jones song in protest at the 1999 CMA Awards and we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter play a protest song (perhaps an F you to Dwight Yoakam) of her own in 1990.
And there’s been a handful of others.
But one of the most talked about, maybe for a good reason and maybe not, came in 2006.
It was the breakout year for Carrie Underwood at the 40th Annual CMA Awards, shortly after winning American Idol in 2005. She secured the first nominations of her career, and she did more than just get nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, she won.
Nominated alongside Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride, Sara Evans, and Faith Hill, one of the nominees was visibly PISSED that young Carrie took home the win.
Faith Hill was backstage when the nominees got read, and as Carrie was announced as the winner, Faith screamed “WHAT!?” and threw her hands up.
It almost seemed like she was expecting to win, perhaps even told ahead of time that she won, but either way, folks called her out for the poor reaction and it was front page news the next morning.
Faith and her team quickly released a statement to clarify that there was no ill-intent, and that she was just trying to be funny, but to this day, some country music fans aren’t so sure.
According to a press release, she said:
“The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me. For this to become a focus of attention, given the talent gathered, is utterly ridiculous. Carrie is a talented and deserving female vocalist of the year.”
Her longtime manager, Gary Borman, also released a statement:
“I’ve worked with Faith for many years now, and the idea that she would ever insult or undermine another artist, let alone another human being’s success, is absolutely preposterous.
Those who know her know that she’s incapable of such actions. She was being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after.”
Still hard to tell for sure if she was joking or not… what do you think?
CMA Awards 1999: Alan Jackson Delivers Protest Performance Of George Jones’ “Choices”
Country music awards shows pretty much suck lately…
Even Blake Shelton recently said they’re beginning to lose credibility:
“First of all, thank you to the fans… and I really do believe that these awards shows are beginning to lose credibility over the last few years and fan-voted awards, to me, are really the only stand-up awards shows left in our industry it feels like sometimes.
Because you guys are the ones that buy the records, you come to the shows, and you vote on these things.”
But with the CMA Awards right around the corner next week, we’ve been taking the opportunity to walk back through some of the most memorable performances, hilarious speeches, and wildest moments.
From Sturgill Simpson busking outside to Charlie Rich lighting a fire, both Alan Jackson and Waylon Jennings walking out in difference instances, the CMA Awards haven’t always been as boring as they are these days.
So that being said, let’s take a walk back to 1999, back when the respect for country music was still alive and well.
In 1999, country legend George Jones release the Billy Yates and Mike Curtis-written song “Choices” as the lead single from his Cold Hard Truth record. It was an absolute hit and even won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
When the CMA Awards came around later than year, it was nominated for Single Of The Year as well and the CMAs even invited George to perform the song during the ceremony.
However, they were only going to give George, a country music LEGEND, approximately a minute to perform an abridged version of the song. George refused and didn’t even come to the show.
So when it was Alan Jackson’s turn to perform (the CMAs asked him to play his current single “Pop A Top”), Alan gave them a big middle finger and played, “Choices.”
He began his performance with “Pop A Top,” but about halfway through, he broke into the George Jones hit and was immediately awarded a standing ovation.
And when he was done, he just walked right off that stage and out of the building. Not back to his chair, Alan wasn’t sticking around for the rest of it. He made his statement and left.
When asked about it later, George admitted he was moved to tears by the gesture.
“What he did meant more to me than I could ever say. I was watching the show, and when he began singing ‘Choices,’ it moved my wife Nancy and me both to tears.
He made a huge statement on my behalf, and on behalf of traditional country music, and didn’t worry about what the consequences might be.”
Alan Jackson people… they don’t make ’em like that any more.
Alan later explained his reasoning saying that, although abridged performances were common at awards shows, this was the legendary George Jones… show him some damn respect.
Hard to argue with that.
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CMA Awards 1999: Alan Jackson & George Strait Perform “Murder On Music Row”
The year is 1999.
It’s a week night and you’re winding down after a long day at work, so you decide to run to the gas station and get you a sixer of Bud heavy’s, and flip on the TV for a little while before you call it a night.
Typically you’d just flip it on the 6 o’clock news or whatever is in primetime TV so you have something to stare at while you fall asleep on the couch.
Until the first thing that pops up is Alan Jackson and George Strait, giving a big “F-YOU” to Music Row at the CMA Awards.
I’m talking about Jackson and Strait’s iconic performance of “Murder On Music Row” at the 1999 CMA Awards.
Country music was at its peak in popularity, and you had some absolute studs rocking the stage year after year at country music awards ceremonies. However, the “pop-country” sound was slowly starting to make its way into country music radio, and country music purists were not happy, to say the least.
And what happened at the 1999 Country Music Association Awards, simply can’t be forgotten.
Alan Jackson and George Strait took the stage that year and took a much-needed shot at mainstream Nashville with a performance of their duet, “Murder On Music Row.”
Originally written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell, it was a lament of the death of traditional country music.
“For the steel guitars no longer cry
And the fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars
Are mixed up in your face
Ol’ Hank wouldn’t have a chance
On today’s radio
Since they committed murder
Down on music row.”
You gotta love it.
And we have to take this opportunity to share, because Lord knows the CMAs would never let a singer perform a song like this on stage nowadays.
Because unfortunately… it’s gotten worse.
Maybe if the CMAs ever get their head out of their ass, Muscadine Bloodline can sing this one there.
It’s not hard to see how “Dispatch to 16th Ave.” was inspired by “Murder On Music Row,” another great “stick it to the man” country songs of this generation.
Dierks Bentley & George Jones’ Cover Of “Murder On Music Row” Is Seriously Underrated
Where has this been hiding?
“Murder On Music Row” was originally written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell in 1999, and recorded by Larry’s bluegrass band Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, as the title track from their album of the same name.
But when George Strait and Alan Jackson got a hold of it, it became a hit… especially among fans of more traditional country music who were upset at the direction of the industry. It obviously got a lot worse…
George and Alan performed it at the 1999 CMA Awards, and recorded the tune for Strait’s 2000 Latest Greatest Straitest Hits album. It went on to win Song of the Year at the CMA Awards the following year.
But then, Dierks Bentley and George Jones cut the song as well… a version that has flown under the radar for many country music fans. Recorded for a special Cracker Barrel “Songs of the Year” album in 2007, it featured covers from Blake Shelton, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson and more.
Dierks Bentley and ol’ Possum teamed up for a cover of “Murder On Music Row,” for that record, and it’s pretty damn good. Not to mention, I’m willing to bet plenty of country fans don’t even know about it.