By Jason the 200 lb. Cowboy

The CMA Awards celebrated their 50th Anniversary last night and right from the beginning it was evident that the past was going to play a big role in the night’s affair.

The night’s big winner was Garth Brooks, who took home the Entertainer of the Year honor for a fourth time (which was presented by Taylor Swift by the way), but he certainly wasn’t the only one to go home with an trophy.

Chris Stapleton took home his second consecutive trophy for Male Vocalist of the Year, and also won Video of the Year for “Fire Away” earlier in the day. Meanwhile Carrie Underwood won her fourth Female Vocalist of the Year honor. Other winners included Thomas Rhett’sDie A Happy Man” for Song of the Year, Brothers Osborne for Vocal Duo of the Year, Little Big Town for Vocal Group of the Year, “Humble & Kind” for Single of the Year and Maren Morris for Best New Artist.

The show kicked off with a an epic eight-minute performance featuring some legendary artists. The medley got started with Vince Gill paying tribute to Merle Haggard with “Mama Tried” featuring Merle’s son Ben Haggard on guitar, and included performances by hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood (who sang Tammy Lynette’s “Stand By Your Man”), as well as Roy Clark, Charley Pride, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Reba McEntire, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs and Alan Jackson, wrapping with all of the artists on stage for Randy Travis’ classic “Forever and Ever Amen,” with Randy joining them and singing the last “Amen” of the tune, which brought many in the audience to tears.

The evening featured a special tribute to Dolly Parton who was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, with her “9 to 5” friend and co-star Lily Tomlin presenting her the trophy. Dolly’s tribute featured several stand out performances, including “Jolene” by Jennifer Nettles and Pentatonix, Reba performing “9 to 5,” Kacey Musgraves tackling “Here You Come Again” and Carrie and Martina McBride joining the other gals for “I Will Always Love You.” Dolly called the honor a “great compliment,” and said receiving an award named after Willie is an “absolute high,” which drew laughs from the audience.

Also receiving a special honor was four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney who received the Pinnacle Award, which was presented by Peyton Manning. The award has only been handed out to two other artists, Garth and Taylor.

As hosts for the eighth consecutive year, Brad and Carrie kept the mood light and started things off with a song about the crazy presidential race, with the election the butt of many jokes of the evening. They also made a crack about having so many past winners in one place, noting that they had a “Designated Survivor” in the basement of the Opry, which turned out to be Billy Ray Cyrus.

The entire night featured just the right touch of nostalgia to celebrate CMA’s anniversary, whether it was Carrie’s outfits that honored the history of CMA fashion, the clips of past shows, or even just having past winners in the house.

Among the night’s performance highlights:

  • The much-hyped performance by Beyoncé deserved all the hype. The singer wowed the audience with a twangy rendition of “Daddy Lessons,” and brought along the Dixie Chicks with her, as well as an amazing band complete with horns and more, which had the audience on their feet. (P.S. Bey and the Chicks have already recorded a version of the song, which can be found here.)

  • Maren Morris was joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the McCrary Sisters for a rousing performance of her hit “My Church,” that had the audience on their feet and singing along.
  • Garth and wife Trisha Yearwood paid tribute to some country classics with a medley featuring Johnny Cash’s “Jackson,” Roger Miller’s “Chug-A-Lug,” Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Alan Jackson and Martina McBride’s “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Keith Whitley’s“Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s “Golden Ring.” As if the performance wasn’t great enough, Garth ended it by laying a big fat kiss on his Queen.
  • Kelsea Ballerini, surrounded by clouds and a smoke machine, performed her number one hit “Peter Pan, backed by two romantic dancers.
  • Jason Aldean paid tribute to Brooks & Dunn’s 25th anniversary by performing the duo’s first number one hit “Brand New Man,” with the pair joining him for the performance.
  • Dierks Bentley and Elle King performed their CMA Award-wining collaboration “Different For Girls.”
  • Carrie Underwood, who was called upon to sing on several occasions during the show, also performed her latest single “Dirty Laundry.”
  • Little Big Town slowed things down for their new Taylor Swift-penned single “Better Man”
  • Miranda Lambert opened her performance of her latest hit “Vice” a cappella before the curtain came up for a sultry full band performance.
  • Tim McGraw performed his thought provoking “Humble & Kind” ending the song surrounded by a sea of youngsters holding candles.
  • The Oak Ridge Boys gave the audience a little taste of “Elvira,” accompanied by Brad, with Lee Greenwood joining Carrie and Brad before a commercial break for “God Bless the U.S.A.”
  • Alan Jackson and George Strait teamed up for their performance, starting off with Alan’s “Remember When,” followed by George’s “Troubadour.”
  • Keith Urban performed his latest Top Ten hit “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” backed by a dozen violinists.
  • Thomas Rhett was surrounded by fans for his Song of the Year winner “Die A Happy Man,” which he performed on a small stage in the middle of the audience
  • Chris Stapleton and Dwight Yoakam saluted the marriage of country and soul with a rousing performance of Willie Nelson’s “Seven Spanish Angels”

  • Luke Bryan got the audience up and dancing to his latest number one “Move.”
  • Florida Georgia Line were joined by Tim McGraw for “May We All”
  • Eric Church performed “Kill a Word,” with Rhiannon Gibbons joining him for the performance
  • Brad Paisley performed the last song of the night, his latest single “Today,” as clips of past and present CMA winners accepting their awards played behind him.


Entertainer Of The Year

  • Garth Brooks – WINNER
  • Luke Bryan
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

Single of the Year
(Award goes to Artist, Producer(s), and Mix Engineer(s))

  • “Die a Happy Man,” Thomas Rhett – WINNER
  • “Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw
  • “My Church,” Maren Morris
  • “Nobody To Blame,” Chris Stapleton
  • “Record Year,” Eric Church

Album of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley, “Black”
  • Maren Morris, “Hero”
  • Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood” – WINNER
  • Keith Urban, “Ripcord”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Storyteller”

Song of the Year
(Award goes to Songwriter(s))

  • “Burning House,” Cam, Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhasker
  • “Die a Happy Man,” Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur
  • Humble and Kind,” Lori McKenna – WINNER
  • “My Church,” busbee and Maren Morris
  • “Record Year,” Eric Church and Jeff Hyde

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood – WINNER

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Tim McGraw
  • Chris Stapleton – WINNER
  • Keith Urban

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town – WINNER
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Brothers Osborne – WINNER
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Joey + Rory
  • Maddie & Tae

Musical Event of the Year

  • “Different For Girls,” Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King – WINNER
  • “Home Alone Tonight,” Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild
  • “The Fighter,” Keith Urban (featuring Carrie Underwood)
  • “Think Of You,” Chris Young (duet with Cassadee Pope)
  • “You Are My Sunshine,” Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton

Music Video of the Year

  • “Burning House,” Cam
  • “Fire Away,” Chris Stapleton – WINNER
  • “Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw
  • “Record Year,” Eric Church
  • “Somewhere On A Beach,” Dierks Bentley

New Artist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Maren Morris – WINNER
  • Old Dominion
  • Cole Swindell

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