50 of CMA Fest’s Most Unforgettable Onstage Collaborations
For 50 years, CMA Fest has celebrated country music by putting the spotlight on its fans. What started as one-day event in a single venue has blossomed into a multi-day musical event that takes over downtown Nashville, with shows happening at all hours, all over the city.
Before being renamed "CMA Fest" in 2004, this fan-focused event was aptly called Fan Fair. The celebration — which began in 1972 — initially drew in an average of 5,000 country music lovers to Nashville's Municipal Auditorium. Today, festival organizers say more than 80,000 guests from all 50 states and 39 countries invade Music City to see their favorite artists perform and discover new ones to fall in love with.
One thing that the festival has become known for is its epic and sometimes unexpected collaborations onstage. Some artists will bring out guests to sing previously-recorded duets live, while others will throw a wrench in the gears and invite someone out of the genre to perform. For example, Jason Aldean sang with Lenny Kravitz in 2013, and Carrie Underwood brought out Joan Jett in 2019.
And don't forget about the mashups that stay in the country music lane that leave fans wishing for an official collaborative effort, like Brad Paisley with Hank Williams Jr., and Tim McGraw with Luke Combs!
The history of CMA Fest is the subject of a new documentary titled CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair, streaming on Hulu. Let's take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of CMA Fest's biggest onstage collaborations.
2023's CMA Fest TV special airs Wednesday, July 19, at 8PM ET on ABC.