10 Greatest CMA Awards Moments Ever
Many are shocking, a few are emotional and at least two of these greatest CMA Awards moments of all-time are controversial. Not every show leaves fans with a performance or speech they’ll remember forever, but in 2012, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert did just that with a teary-eyed acceptance after winning Song of the Year. The couple get an honorable mention on this list, although Lambert turns up as a solo artist at No. 5.
Faith Hill Reacts to Carrie Underwood’s Win
This was a faux controversy that some will still hold against Hill today. In 2006, the nominees for the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award were all in boxes on the television screen. Carrie Underwood was announced as the winner, and fans watched as Faith Hill mouthed “What!” and stormed out of view instead of graciously applauding. She later tried to explain that she was only joking, as it was somewhat obvious Underwood would take the award. The ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’ singer was not offended, but the incident proved to be the “What!” heard ’round the world.
Charlie Rich Starts a Fire
In 1975, CMAs presenter Charlie Rich — the previous year’s CMA Entertainer of the Year winner — opened the envelope, read the name to himself and set fire to it before walking off of the stage. He never even announced the winner! John Denver was linked up via satellite, so he was unaware of Rich’s stunt and accepted his Entertainer of the Year win graciously. As for Rich, things didn’t go well for him after that. He was blacklisted from future CMA Awards and his record sales began to slip. Later, he would admit to being on prescription medication and under the influence of gin and tonic at the time. Needless to say, there is a long history of traditionalist reluctance to accept crossover artists.
Dolly Parton Has a Wardrobe Malfunction
“My Daddy said that’s what I get for putting 50 pounds of mud in a five-pound bag,” Dolly Parton quipped while accepting the Entertainer of the Year award at the 1978 CMAs. Johnny Cash and Ronnie Milsap didn’t quite know what to say to that! Thankfully, Parton was able to borrow a jacket to hold in front of her torn dress, preventing what could have been a big embarrassment for both her and the association.
Taylor Swift Wins Entertainer of the Year
Taylor Swift ended Kenny Chesney‘s run of three straight Entertainer of the Year wins at the CMA Awards when she picked up her first one in 2009. She was the youngest artist to ever win the honor, and while later some would accuse her of manufacturing the shocked expression, this one was undoubtedly real. It was a fairytale moment for Swift.
Johnny Cash Dominates 2003 CMA Awards
The tribute to Johnny Cash at the 2003 CMA Awards was touching, but his three posthumous wins were the real story. Cash was an innovator until the day he died. The ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’ album earned Album of the Year, while ‘Hurt’ scored Single and Music Video of the Year.
Miranda Lambert Performs ‘Kerosene’
Miranda Lambert almost burned down New York City when she performed ‘Kerosene’ at the 2005 CMA Awards. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but the country newcomer did steal the show with a performance that included much more guitar and way more pyrotechnics than fans were used to from country females. It was a brilliant, inspired introduction to the singer who is so loved today.
Reba McEntire’s Red Dress Has Censors on High Alert
It’s a gown so famous they put it in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Reba McEntire took the CMAs stage in a plunging red dress that almost gave Kris Kristofferson a heart attack. “I got more press off that dress than if I’d won Entertainer of the Year,” she said. “I told lots of people I had it on backwards.” In the years that followed, she would reveal that her stylist was supposed to add sequins.
A CMA Tribute to Glen Campbell
Late 2011 and early 2012 was the time to pay tribute to Glen Campbell. The singer stood up to say thanks and even strapped on his guitar toward the end of the short celebration of his life and music. Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Vince Gill led the crowd through ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix,’ ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘Galveston’ before offering meaningful hugs and words of gratitude. Four months later, the Grammy tribute would prove to be more memorable, as Campbell actually got to perform.
Loretta Lynn Wins Entertainer of the Year
The first Female Vocalist of the Year would also become the first female Entertainer of the Year. In 1972, Loretta Lynn accepted the honor. Her win is one of only nine (through 2012) for a woman. Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Barbara Mandrell are among the other ladies who’ve won in the years since. Only Swift and Mandrell have won twice.
Alan Jackson Performs ‘Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning’
Less than two months fell between the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2001 CMA Awards. In the days before the show, Alan Jackson penned and rehearsed a song that would become known as one of the all-time best in country music history. ‘Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning’ wasn’t just a song or statement — it was part of the healing process for millions of Americans nationwide. It’s difficult to argue that another performance in the award show’s nearly 50-year history has been more important than this one.