Country Music’s Biggest Night has always been my favorite night of the year. As a kid I can remember begging my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime so I could see all the CMA Awards performances and winners’ acceptance speeches. From as early as I can remember, my family and I have always sat around the tv to watch the yearly telecast.
This year the CMA Awards is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and to help commemorate the big milestone, I’ve compiled 30 of my favorite CMA moments and I’ll be counting them down for y’all. Just a heads up, there are far more than 30 moments that I could have chosen from but it was difficult to find videos on YouTube. However, I did manage to find these. Here are the first 10 on my list of 30 favorite CMA Moments.
30. Alan Jackson & Patty Loveless perform “Monday Morning Church”
During the 2004 awards ceremony, superstar Alan Jackson entered the night as one of the leading nominees thanks to his hits “Remember When” and “Five O’Clock Somewhere.” His performance of his underrated song, “Monday Morning Church,” featured Patty Loveless and was easily one of the highlights of the entire night. This is AJ’s first of many appearances on my list.
29. Reba, Linda Davis, Martina McBride, & Trisha Yearwood perform “On My Own”
For her 1995 CMA awards performance, Reba McEntire brought female power to the stage as she invited Linda Davis, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood to perform the power ballad, “On My Own.” The four powerhouse vocalists come together beautifully during the live version of this song with each woman holding her own alongside each other. The CMAs are known for big collaborations and this was no different.
28. All-Star tribute to Johnny Cash
The legendary Johnny Cash passed away in 2003 and to honor the country pioneer, the CMA put together an all star tribute. Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band all took the stage to perform several of the icon’s biggest and timeless hits. The singer was posthumously honored that year with three wins including Album of the Year for his American IV: The Man Comes Around album.
27. Leann Rimes Opens the 1997 Awards with “Blue”
A teenage Leann Rimes opened the 1997 CMA awards ceremony with her breakout single, “Blue.” Right after her performance, host Vince Gill joked that her placement at the beginning of the show was so that she could make it home in time to get her math homework done. Later on in the night she would become the youngest CMA award winner as she claimed the prestigious Horizon Award.
26. Dolly Parton joins Vince Gill to sing “I Will Always Love You”
Dolly Parton’s signature song got a nice facelift when the singer and Vince Gill rerecorded the iconic song as a duet. During the 1995 ceremony, the pair took the stage to deliver a stunning version of the new recording. Their version would go on to win Vocal Event of the Year at the 1996 CMA Awards, becoming the first time the iconic song would win a CMA award.
25. Tammy Wynette and George Jones Reunite
The President and First Lady of Country Music have recorded some of the most timeless country classics. During one of the CMA awards telecasts, the divorced pair reunited to perform a few of those songs. “Golden Ring,” “One,” and “They’re Playing Our Song” are all performed during the performance that was met with a huge standing ovation (did y’all see June Carter Cash in the audience??).
24. The King Dominates the 1996 CMAs
George Strait was King of the 1996 CMA awards. Not only was he a leading nominee entering the night, but he would go on to win three awards including Album of the Year for Blue Clear Sky. Joined by his Ace in the Hole Band, he performed the album’s title track to great fanfare from the audience. Even Kris Kristofferson enjoyed it!
23. Mary Chapin Carpenter Doesn’t Hold Back During her CMA debut
During the 1990 CMA Awards, newcomer Mary Chapin Carpenter was able to secure a coveted performance slot and boy, did she make use of it! The singer performed a song describing an unpleasant experience she encountered during the early stages of her career. “Opening Act” was met with laughter, applause, and a well deserved standing ovation from the industry crowd featuring some of country music’s biggest headliners. Carpenter wouldn’t remain an opening act for long as she would go on to win Female Vocalist of the Year just two years after making her CMA debut.
22. Australian Underdog wins Entertainer of the Year
The 2005 CMA Awards made a historic move to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. At the end of the night, Billy Joel and Shania Twain presented the Entertainer of the Year award to a stunned Keith Urban, who hadn’t even headlined his own tour at the time. That same year he would win his second Male Vocalist of the Year trophy…just five short years after winning the Horizon Award.
21. No Show Jones…Sorta
Timing was a bit unfortunate for George Jones during the 1993 CMA ceremony. Nominated for Vocal Event of the Year with a slew of his friends, the Possum chose the wrong moment to head to the restroom. The category was presented and he ended up winning the award for “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” forcing his wife, Nancy, to accept the award on his behalf. Though I’m sure all of us would have loved to see him accept the award, I think it’s safe to say that his wife’s speech is a moment in CMA history that won’t ever be forgotten.
Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 of this 3 part series! And don’t forget to tune in as Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host the 50th annual CMA Awards on ABC on November 2nd!