CMA Awards 1999: Alan Jackson & George Strait Take A Shot At Country Radio With “Murder On Music Row”

alan jackson george strait CMA awards
(M. Caulfield/WireImage/Getty Images)

The year is 1999. You’re 11 years old and it’s a school night so you scramble to get your homework done so you can watch some TV later. Maybe a little Johnny Tsunami is on the Disney Channel? But when you get over to the TV, mom and dad are already parked in front for the annual CMA Awards.

Not bad…

You pop a squat next to them and the first thing you see is Alan Jackson and George Strait, giving a big ol’ “F-YOU” to Music Row and the country music establishment. Of course, I’m talking about Jackson and Strait’s iconic performance of “Murder On Music Row” at the 33rd Annual Country Music Association 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. 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.

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. Ironic…

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.

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