It’s CMA Awards week here in Nashville, which means that the city will be once again taken over by actors and actresses, athletes, models…and a few country music stars here and there too.
The 57th Annual Country Music Association Awards kick off on Wednesday, November 8, live from Bridgestone Arena. Hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, this year’s awards will feature performances that include a tribute to Jimmy Buffett from Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally and Zac Brown Band, as well as a performance from Post Malone, HARDY and Morgan Wallen paying tribute to some “country classics.”
Long before the Janet Jackson halftimes and the Lady Gaga meat dresses, and even before Shania Twain was really established as country music’s leading sex symbol, Reba was actually the one making waves for her style choices at the annual CMAs.
Country’s most beloved redhead took to the stage in a matching red dress for her scheduled duet performance of “Does He Love You” with Linda Davis.
But Reba’s vocals were far from what the crowd would be talking about in the aftermath of her performance.
Instead, the focus fell to the “revealing” neckline of Reba’s dress, and although it was doubly covered in red sheer and sequins, many felt that the dress was scandalous and should have never been selected by the “Fancy” singer.
In Reba’s memoir, Reba: My Story, she shared that she was in bed recovering from foot surgery during the making of her CMA dress. She helped select colors and shapes, but she basically left all of the major decisions to her trusted friend and designer, Sandi Spika. When she first saw the revealing mesh, Sandi assured her that she was going to cover more of it with sequins…. and she didn’t.
“I had only had two fittings with Sandy Spika. One was at our office and I said, ‘I think you need to fill some more stuff in!’ When I put it on in the dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry for the show, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just the lighting in here.’”
She recalled feeling “spectacular” listening to the response from the crowd that night as she stepped out in her red ensemble, but she soon realized that much of the outcry was about her low neckline.
“And when I walked out on the stage, I heard the audience go ‘Oooooh!’ And I thought, ‘Dang, I look good!’”
It’s crazy to think that this same dress is one that wouldn’t even cause a second glance in 2023, but for Reba it caused the nation to question her “country sweetheart” title and wonder if she’d lost her morals by coming out for a performance dressed that way. Regardless, Reba received lots of backlash. A tremendous amount, actually, even after the awards had wrapped that night.
She shared in Reba: My Story that outraged opinion pieces were printed in Nashville newspapers and that one person even called a local radio show to express their “strong protest” of her red dress. Ultimately, the dress was probably made a bit more daring that Reba would have personally chosen had she been around for more of the dress making process, but her lack of hesitancy in wearing it become quite iconic.
She was interviewed following the events by Ralph Emery where she shared:
“I got more press off that dress than if I’d won Entertainer of the Year”
Reba made her reply to the 1993 outrage clearly known, wearing the dress regularly in concert for many years following the debacle.
She even donned the dress for her hosting duties at the ACMs in 2018, proving that she still has the vivacity and rebelliousness to pull off the red dress of controversy.
WATCH: @Reba tells @NorahODonnell about her famous red dress that’s become a staple at her shows. She even wore it to host last year's @ACMAwards.
Back in 1990, George Strait took home the win for the highly-coveted Entertainer of the Year. But it was Mary Chapin Carpenter who might’ve made the biggest splash of the evening.
With a few albums to her name at the time, Mary Chapin Carpenter decided to go the unreleased route and perform a new song titled “Opening Act.”
She may have toned it down a bit for the CMA Awards, but “Opening Act” was pretty much a sarcastic tongue-lashing of some “a**hole in tight jeans” that she opened for.
And most folks think it’s about Dwight Yoakam, who she toured with around the time the song was written:
Take a listen to some of the lyrics:
“I don’t have a hit in the Billboard charts I don’t have a limousine that stretches three blocks Ready to take me from door to door Just like the jackass I’m opening for He doesn’t know me, I’m his opening act.
Now I’m not going bald, so I don’t wear a hat Tight jeans don’t fit me; I’m a little too fat I can’t sing like a frog blowing farts through his nose So I don’t expect you’ll like me, but that’s how it goes.”
I mean, if the shoe fits…
But if performing a song like that during the CMA Awards sounds like career suicide, Carpenter thought so too. In fact, there was no way in hell she was gonna play that (probably with Dwight in the room), however the CMA Awards producers really pushed for it (my, oh my, how times have changed).
Carpenter, who received a standing ovation, later discussed the performance with Engine 145:
“When they first asked me, I immediately said ‘no.’ It was a novelty number; I was afraid that it would lose a little bit of bite because there was actually a dirtier version of the song that we did live… but it was a special opportunity and I did it.
I’ll always remember that night. Michael Campbell, Ricky Van Shelton’s manager at the time, was there during soundcheck and he was the last person I saw before I went on stage.
Right before I went out, I heard him say, ‘That was a nice career you had going there, Carpenter!’ When the audience stood and applauded, I was just flabbergasted.”
However, despite many folks still thinking it is written about Dwight Yoakam, Carpenter says it’s based on more than one experience… one that many “opening acts” can relate to:
“If it was written about one person in particular, why did the entire audience relate to it? The entire audience related to it because it’s a universal experience. That’s why it went over, as far as I can tell.”
Fair enough, but I still think it’s about Dwight Yoakam…
George Jones earned his nickname “No-Show Jones” over the years while he was struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, which would often cause him to miss performances.
But at the 1993 CMA Awards, it wasn’t the booze that kept George Jones off the stage: He just needed to take a leak.
Possum was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year for his song “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” which featured a slew of country music’s biggest names like Vince Gill, Mark Chesnutt, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Alan Jackson, Pam Tillis, T. Graham Brown, Patty Loveless and Clint Black.
But just before the award was to be given out, Jones decided he needed to go to the bathroom.
As his wife Nancy recalls in her recent book Playin’ Possum: My Memories of George Jones:
Just about the time the Vocal Event award was coming up on the program, George leaned over to me and said, “I’m going to the bathroom.”
“George!” I said. “Do you have to go right now? It’s almost time for the vocal event award.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “We’re not going to win anything anyhow. There are a lot of great performances in the category this year. They won’t even miss me.”
“George, you’re going to win this award,” I said.
“No, I’m not,” he said, as he gave me a smirk. “Look who we’re up against. Honey, I’m goin’ to the bathroom.”
The songs they were up against for the award included “A Bad Goodbye” by Clint Black and Wynonna, “Tell Me About It” by Tanya Tucker and Delbert McClinton, “The Heart Won’t Lie” by Reba McEntire and Vince Gill, and “Walkaway Joe” by Trisha Yearwood and Don Henley.
I mean, nothing against those songs, but I’m not sure why George thought he wouldn’t win. And just as Nancy had predicted, when it came time for Shelby Lynne and Steve Wariner to present the award, “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” was called out as the winner – while George Jones was still in the bathroom.
Wariner joked about George’s reputation as “No-Show Jones” while the crowd and presenters waited awkwardly for Jones to come to the stage:
“Did he show? Did he show?”
Well Jones finally made it to the stage – but it wasn’t George.
Nancy Jones ran to the microphone to assure everyone that George showed up…but that he was in the bathroom.
The crowd erupted in laughter, as Nancy called on Clint Black to help with the awkward moment. But Clint tossed it right back to Nancy, who instead accepted the award in her husband’s place:
“He’s gonna kill me…
He’s in the bathroom. I promise I’ll have him here in a minute. Somebody find him.
Well, if George was standing here I think he’d say thank you, and…what am I doing?”
It was a hilarious moment, and as Nancy recalled, George was upset that he missed the award when he returned from his bathroom break:
When George returned to his seat, I told him, “You won. I told you that you were going to win.” He was upset that he had missed the award. “I wasn’t gone that long,” he fumed.
At the celebrations after the show, everyone was congratulating George on winning the award. “You did good, man! We’re so proud of you.”
“Well…ah…I didn’t get to see that part of the show,” he said.”
In 1978, the great Dolly Parton, finally received the credit she was due – winning Entertainer of the Year on the heels of her Heartbreaker album release.
But in the moment that Johnny Cash and Ronnie Milsap announced Dolly the winner, the popular singer actually hoped her name wouldn’t be the one called. She explained why in her acceptance speech:
“I had this dress made in case I won and about five minutes ago, I was hoping I wouldn’t win because I busted the front out of it! But my daddy says that’s what I got for putting 50 pounds of mud in a 5 pound bag!”
In the moments before she was “crowned” Entertainer of the Year, Dolly realized that her specially made dress had busted in the front.
Luckily, she was sitting next to Kenny Rogers’ wife who was wearing a big fur stole:
“I was sitting down there near her, so I grabbed her stole and held it up”
In an interview with People Magazine, Dolly said she remembered the dress’s fabric being so fragile and delicate. She even recalled thinking that with her preference for tight clothing, she really hoped the whole thing would, “all hold together.”
Unfortunately for her, that wasn’t the case:
“I remember thinking this is such a beautiful dress, but the fabric is so delicate. I thought, ‘Man, as tight as I wear my clothes…’ and I was a little hefty then anyway, I thought ‘I hope this all holds together!.
When they called my name, I felt something creeping up my stomach and I thought, ‘Oh My God, my dress is coming apart!’ And I thought ‘What am I gonna do?’”
And talk about a terrible moment to have a wardrobe malfunction, but Dolly handled it with grace – as always, even giving the crowd a good giggle in the mean-time.
Dolly shared her thoughts on one of the biggest moments in her career:
“I wanted to look good when I won the award, but I did think, ‘Well, this is very entertaining!’ That that fit in well with the award!”
So the backstory goes, actor Tim Allen (Toy Story, Home Improvement) is sitting right behind Blake Shelton, who at the time was quite the superstar in country music and also a judge on this popular new singing show called The Voice.
So Tim and Blake get to yuckin’ it up during the ceremony and then this rockin’ blonde comes out on stage… Miranda Lambert.
And here’s the kicker, Tim Allen has no idea that Miranda Lambert (at the time) is married to Blake Shelton. But apparently, Tim is more than comfortable chatting it up with Blake… and ummm, you could say he crossed the line.
Tim explained the awkward conversation that followed on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show:
“I’m watching right behind Blake Shelton, who wouldn’t move, and he’s the largest man on the planet, I can’t see anything. I’m actually irritated with the guy.
He turns around I happened to a fan of that show ‘The Voice,’ and I happen to be of his on that show so we started a conversation.”
Here’s where it gets uncomfortable:
Then a woman comes up, and you probably know this, and everybody else knows it, but I didn’t know this… Miranda Lambert. So she’s up there rocking out with the crazy one, some song about her being nuts and tattoos and booze.
I was like, ‘I love this woman’ and he turns around and says ‘Boy, I’d love to tap that’ and I said ‘Me too!’
And then I get that look. And he goes, ‘That’s my wife!’ And like a comic I said, ‘Let me finish…’
So yeah, we haven’t spoken since… but she’s really good.”
Blake went on to win Entertainer of the Year that night, the first of his career, so my guess is he probably forgot all about what Tim said. But either way, a pretty cringeworthy comment to make.
I mean, let’s be honest… you’re a guest at the CMA Awards, you’re not part of the country music world. You should probably just show up, smile, wave, say your lines and keep your mouth shut.
But I’m not gonna lie, I’d be more afraid of Miranda Lambert hearing that than I would Blake Shelton. We all saw what happened to the sh*tbag in “Gunpowder & Lead.”
Back at the 1995 CMA Awards, Shania Twain’s unabashed confidence was on full display.
She took the stage to perform her hit “Any Man Of Mine,” and she didn’t just plainly walk down the aisle to get there…
She made sure to stop and see some of the biggest names in country music on her way up, sitting on the laps of Tim McGraw (pre-Faith Hill), Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart (who seemed to enjoy it more than any of the other guys), as well as flirting with John Michael Montgomery, Tracy Lawrence and the one and only Johnny Cash in the process, too.
“Any Man Of Mine” was co-written by Shania and her former producer and ex-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange, and was included on her breakthrough 1995 The Woman In Me album.
It also became her first number one hit at country radio, when it was released as the second single in 1995.
The iconic music video garnered some criticism at the time, because she’s showing off her midriff (how times have changed, huh?), with country music purists hating on her for the pop leanings of a lot of the production in her music.
Eventually, though, she won a Grammy for this record for Best Country Album.
At the 1995 CMA’s, the song and video were both nominated for awards, and Shania was up for the Horizon Award (now New Artist of the Year), against David Ball, Johnny Berry and Faith Hill.
These days, I don’t think people would think much of what she did sashaying down the aisle and flirting with some of country’s most famous men as part of the show of her performance, but back then, it was a pretty damn bold move.
Most of the guys seemed to at least get the humor of it and laughed it off, even if they might’ve been a little uncomfortable, though I have a sneaking suspicion that they probably didn’t have any real problem with it at all.
Vince Gill introduced Shania ahead of the performance, saying:
“Let’s get this thing started, Shania Twain, everybody!”
I mean… this is a total queen move, and it was certainly a daring choice from a young lady who’d already been receiving her fair share of criticism leading up to the show because of her musical style.
She was way ahead of her time, and that is quite obvious just from this whole video alone.
I’ve always known she had guts, but I have a whole new respect for her after watching her waltz straight up to Johnny Cash and tousle his hair in front of an audience of her peers, and a national audience watching at home on TV, in addition.
Country music was at its peak in popularity back in the ’90s, 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.
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. Here’s a short excerpt from his 1988 autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography:
“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.’”
And knowing that his wife Jessi Colter didn’t win anything, he was content just to leave.
“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.”
And not much has changed… however, Waylon stuck around to make his acceptance speech. But rather than make a statement, pull a real outlaw move and the give the powers that be a good tongue lashing, he just walked up and said “thanks.”
The moment of truth…
“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, and naturally, that was pretty frowned upon at the time. People were pissed that he would curse on TV so he, or the CMAs, might’ve been fined for it.
And how about Glen introducing Tammy Wynette and Tanya Tucker as “two of the most attractive female vocalists you’ve ever saw in your life?” I’m pretty sure we won’t be hearing Luke Bryan introduce Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert like that this year.
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. Abridged? That’s a teaser clip. 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, not out to the bar for a drink… 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.
Back in 2017, Sturgill Simpson won Best Country Album at the 59th annual Grammy Awards, and was also nominated for Album of the Year. But apparently that wasn’t enough to get him an invite to the CMA Awards, which instead featured performances from P!nk and former One Direction member Niall Horan that year.
So Sturgill decided to show up and perform anyway – outside of Bridgestone Arena during the ceremonies.
“They were all out of seats, I couldn’t get a ticket. So I thought I’d come down here and play some country music since we’re celebrating it tonight in Nashville, Tennessee.”
He put his Grammy in his guitar case, and for nearly an hour Sturgill busked outside of the CMA Awards as shocked onlookers started to realize what they were witnessing.
Sturgill streamed the whole performance live online (and probably got more viewers than the actual awards) as he treated the crowd to “Turtles All the Way Down” and “Water In A Well,” as well as answered questions from his fans – and even gave a preview of what his acceptance speech would sound like if he ever were to win a CMA Award:
“Nobody needs a machine gun. Coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to, and get married if they want to, without fearing getting drug down the road on a pickup truck.
Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets, and getting enslaved by the industrial prison complex, and hegemony and racism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you very much.”
And he also revealed that he would perform Merle Haggard’s “Are The Good Times Really Over” if he were ever invited to the CMA Awards (which, let’s be honest, he won’t be).
It was quite the scene, seeing a Grammy-winning country singer busking outside of the CMA Awards while the eventual Entertainer of the Year winner was inside lip-syncing his newest single.
And it highlighted the absurdity of the Nashville popularity contest, where all too often the best country artists aren’t even invited to the show – and are forced to busk on the sidewalk.
2006 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?
The year was 2017. Garth Brooks won Entertainer of the Year for the sixth time (he’s won it once more since then too), and during the show he got up on stage and performed his latest single “Ask Me How I Know.”
Well, sort of.
During an interview immediately after the show, Garth admitted that he had lip-synced the performance, blaming it on being sick and in the midst of 12 shows in 10 days.
Here’s the performance of Garth lip-syncing:
“We did a game-time call on whether we did sing the track or lip-sync it, and decided to lip-sync because the voice is just not there and you want to represent country music the best you can.”
Fans were understandably disappointed, taking to Twitter to blast Garth for not singing live during his performance – I mean, is lip-syncing really “representing country music the best you can?”
But it wasn’t just the fans who blasted him: So did fellow Entertainer of the Year nominee Eric Church.
In an interview with Rolling Stone the following year, Eric had some strong words for Garth:
“We don’t use machines. We use instruments.
So the winner of the biggest category of the night lip-synced in the biggest moment on the show?
F*ck that! And I didn’t like his excuse at all.”
Tell us how you really feel, Chief.
And Church went on to call lip-syncing a “red line” that he’s never going to cross:
“It is and always will be a red line. It’s fabricated. I don’t want young artists thinking it’s OK, because it’s not.”
Gotta love Eric Church. You always know exactly where he stands – and it’s usually on the side of his fans.
Back in 2016, the CMAs invited Beyoncé to perform with the Dixie Chicks, a decision that left many scratching their heads on a night that was supposed to be celebrating 50 years of the Country Music Awards.
And apparently Alan Jackson wasn’t a fan.
According to one Nashville manager interviewed by Billboard, Jackson stood up from his seat in the front row and walked out in the middle of the performance:
“The overall show was great, but in my opinion that seemed out of place and felt forced. It just didn’t fit the night to me, celebrating the 50 years, and the Dixie Chicks seemed like her backup band on it, without enough of a real shout-out to them.
I was sitting behind Alan Jackson, and he actually stood up from the front row and walked out in middle of the performance, so I think that spoke volumes for the traditional, real country acts.”
Jackson wasn’t the only country artist who was unhappy with the decision to have a pop artist performing during what’s supposed to be “country’s biggest night.” Travis Tritt also took to Twitter to mock and express his displeasure with the decision:
I have nothing against Beyoncé. It's the CMA producers that I'm disappointed in. Country doesn't need pop acts for ratings.
Waylon Jennings… the man was one of kind. I wish the country music legend was still alive to this day, and I could have the privilege to sit down with him and listen to all of the wild stories he accumulated throughout his famed career.
Above all else, he was always authentic as they come… and didn’t care to deal with the bullsh*t, especially when it came to the pageantry of the corporate country powers that be. Like… the CMA Awards.
He admitted in his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography, that he was a scheduled performer for that year’s show, performing his 1968 hit “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” However, the show lasted a little longer than expected and organizers were running short on time, so they asked Waylon if he could cut the song short, to only a verse and a chorus.
According to the man himself, this is exactly how it went down:
“One year I’d stormed out of the awards and didn’t mind telling anyone who would listen why. It was Kris Kristofferson’s night… he was a shoo-in for several categories. I had been scheduled to perform ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.’
They said they were strapped for time, and they wanted me to cut the song to one verse and chorus. I said, ‘Why don’t I just dance across the stage and grin? Maybe do one line. That’ll give you a lot of time.’
They told me to not get smart. Either I did it or I got out. They said, ‘We don’t need you.’
I decided that was true, and I left.”
Yup… Waylon Jennings walked right out of the CMA Awards. I mean, how are you gonna tell Waylon Jennings to cut it down?
After a rough 1975 that contained many off stage incidents due to his drinking habits, Charlie Rich wasn’t nominated for any CMA Awards, but was asked to present the Entertainer of the Year. But before he made his way on stage, he started putting down some gin and tonics until he was certifiably hammered…
When the time came, Charlie came out on stage visibly intoxicated, fumbled with the envelope, stumbled through the list of nominees and then did something that ended up being the de facto end of his career.
After clumsily tearing open the envelope, he took out a lighter and lit the card on fire before announcing the winner as “My friend, Mr. John Denver.”
Some took this as a rebellion against the Music Row controlled Nashville sound, however, the more popular theory was he was unhappy with the award going to John Denver, whose sound he considered too pop, and not country.
Kind of ironic that the man who made jazzy, R&B country would criticize another for not being country enough, but booze will make you do funny things…
His son gave his side of the story in a post on his website.
“I’ll tell you why I thought he did it.
Number one, he thought it would be funny.
He set it up by talking about how the potential winners were probably nervous, as he had been the previous year.
Number two, bad judgement.
He had recently broken his foot in a freak accident at his home in Memphis. It sounds funny, but he got his foot caught in an awkward position while getting out of a reclining chair. He cracked several bones in his foot.
So, due to the pain, he took pain medication the night of the show: Bad idea! Secondly, he and another country star got to drinking Gin and Tonics while waiting in the dressing room.
The show was long, so by the time Dad was supposed to go on, the drinks on top of the medication got him buzzed. So, there ya’ go. That’s why I think he did it. Primarily he thought it would be funny.
I know the last thing my father would have wanted to do was set himself up as judge of another musician. He felt badly that people thought it was a statement against John Denver.”
Regardless of the true reason, his popularity took a nosedive after this incident and that was pretty much all she wrote on the career of Charlie Rich, who continued to put out music, and while a few songs cracked the Top 10, nothing caught fire (pun intended) like it did in ’74 and ’75.
If only the awards shows were still this entertaining.
I guess we’ll have to tune in this week to see if anything in the 2023 edition of the CMA Awards comes close to matching any of these wild moments. But I’ll admit, I’m not holding my breath…