The 37th Annual Country Music Association Awards ceremony or CMAs took place Wednesday night at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee.
Much of the evening became a tribute to Country legend Johnny Cash, who died September 12 at age 71. Cash won Video of the Year, and Single of the Year for Hurt. He also won in the Album of the Year category for American IV The Man Comes Around, bringing his career CMA total to nine.
In 1985, Cash won the first CMA video award for Highwaymen, a collaboration with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Johnny's only previous win in the singles category came in 1969, for A Boy Named Sue.
In accepting the Single of the Year Award for his father, John Carter Cash spoke of his dad's unique ability as a performer.
"My father could take any song, it seemed, and he could look at it, and he could know if it could work for him or not," he said. "He had that amazing way of taking the most unthought-of songs, and turning them into his own. When he recorded that in the studio, there was not a dry eye in the room. I'm totally overwhelmed with honor and respect to know that my father's heritage lives on. And he would be grateful and know if he was here tonight. Thank you."
Johnny Cash also was posthumously presented the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence. It's the first time the honor has been given in 12 years. Following the presentation, a musical tribute to Johnny Cash was performed by Willie Nelson; Hank Williams, Junior; Sheryl Crow; Travis Tritt and Kris Kristofferson.
Song of the Year honors went to composers Doug Johnson and Kim Williams for Three Wooden Crosses, performed by Randy Travis. Three Wooden Crosses became the first song released on a Christian music label to reach Number One on the Country chart.
In what has become an annual tradition, Brooks and Dunn won the Vocal Duo of the Year Award for the 11th time in the past 12 years. Their only loss during that span was in 2000, when Montgomery Gentry won the award.
The Horizon Award, given to the newcomer who's shown the biggest career growth in the past year, went to singer Joe Nichols. Last year's Horizon Award winners, Rascal Flatts, claimed the 2003 Vocal Group of the Year Award. In accepting the CMA, the group dedicated the award to vocal group Alabama, citing them as a major influence. Alabama retired from performing earlier this year.
Martina McBride won her third Female Vocalist of the Year Award. She's been nominated in this category every year since 1998. In accepting her CMA, Martina recognized the other nominees.
"I am so honored to be in this category with the women that are in this category," she said. "Dolly Parton … My God! … I mean … she is my Female Vocalist of the Year every year. Patty Loveless … I've sang in my dad's band vintage Patty Loveless; Don't Toss This Away, and Timber … I'm Falling. They've both been such a big influence on me. Allison [Kraus] … you know how I feel about your singing. And Terri [Clark], I'm just so proud of her. She's doing so great. And I don't know why it's me that's up here. But, I'm very grateful and very proud … And I don't know what to say. Thanks so much!"
The late pianist and sessionman Floyd Cramer along with 1950s-1960s hitmaker Carl Smith were this year's inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Toby Keith entered the evening with seven nominations. Brad Paisley was nominated for four CMAs. Both left empty-handed.
Vince Gill served as master of ceremonies for the 12th consecutive year. The awards show also featured live performances by Dolly Parton and Norah Jones, Shania Twain, newcomer Buddy Jewell, Patty Loveless, and Kenny Chesney, among others.
In addition to Johnny Cash, the night's other big winner was Alan Jackson, who took home three CMAs. In accepting the Vocal Event of the Year award for It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson's duet partner on the song talked about his own Country roots.
"Thank you, Alan Jackson," he said. "I'm glad I could help your struggling career. It was about 31 years ago that I came to this town to pursue my musical madness. And, I've never won anything for anything, and it's great to do it here. Thank you!"
Alan Jackson also won in the Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year categories, bringing his career CMA total to 16.