In addition to nabbing the coveted entertainer of the year trophy, Swift won the female vocalist award and also claimed album of the year honors for Fearless and the video of the year award for “Love Story.”
Rucker, who embarked on a solo career after multi-platinum success as lead vocalist for Hootie & the Blowfish, won the CMA’s new artist award. In doing so, he not only solidified his mainstream country career, he also became the first black artist to win the CMA’s new artist award or, as it was once named, the Horizon Award.
Brad Paisley, who co-hosted the awards show with Carrie Underwood, won two awards, including the male vocalist prize. His collaboration with Keith Urban on “Start a Band“ was named musical event of the year.
Swift’s acceptance speeches ranged from the humorous to the heartfelt. During her comments after her female vocalist win, she said, “I want to thank Reba McEntire and Faith Hill for being themselves.” Adding a reference to her encounter with Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards, she noted, “And I want to thank everybody in the room tonight for not running up on the stage during my speech.”
Regarding the album of the year victory for Fearless, she said, “This album is my diary, and so to all the people who voted for me for this, thank you for saying that you like my diary. That’s the nicest thing, the nicest compliment.”
At age 19, Swift is the youngest person ever named the CMA’s entertainer of the year.
“In this moment, everything that I have ever wanted just happened to me,” she said before inviting her touring band to the stage — and identifying each of them by name.
“They’ve been with me every single night this year,” she said. “And the fans who come to the show with the shirts you’ve made for yourself and the look on your face, that’s why I do this. Thank you for this moment.”
Lady Antebellum’s debut album contained a string of hits, but they seemed especially surprised when their name was announced in the vocal group category. Referring to three of the other nominees, vocalist Charles Kelley said, “Rascal Flatts, you’ve inspired us for such a long time. The Eagles, my gosh. … Zac Brown has had the biggest year of all of us.”
Rucker also appeared to be genuinely shocked at being named new artist of the year. He thanked members of his management team, but had special words for Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan, who signed him to his country recording contract.
“Everybody told you you were crazy,” he said. “They told you were crazy, [that] this wouldn’t work. Mike Dungan, thank you. God, thank you. To the fans, thank y’all for accepting me. And most importantly, to country radio, you took a chance on a pop singer from Charleston, S.C., and God bless y’all for that.”
“Well, we don’t usually expect this, but we definitely didn’t this year,” Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles said.
She invited Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn to come to the stage to address the audience, but they declined the offer. She then told them, “Thank you for what you’ve done for us. Thank you for what you’ve done for country music. It’s an honor to be in your category.”
Song of the year honors went to “In Color,” the Jamey Johnson hit he co-wrote with Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto. Johnson previously won a CMA song of the year award for co-writing the George Strait hit, “Give It Away.”
“I never thought y’all would even let me come to stuff like this,” Johnson said. “Thanks again, ya’ll. This has been an unbelievable experience. Thank you for listening to my music and letting me do what I do.”
Mac McAnally, a frequent sideman to Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney, was named musician of the year during an announcement prior to ABC’s CMA Awards telecast from the Sommet Center in downtown Nashville.
Swift opened the show with some writhing onstage as she sang “Forever and Always,” but the true performance highlights of the night were a series of interesting collaborations, especially the hardcore country of Johnson and Kid Rock singing “Between Jennings and Jones.” Another moment to remember was Martina McBride‘s tribute to Barbara Mandrell, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year along with Roy Clark and session musician Charlie McCoy. With McCoy providing his signature harmonica sounds, McBride sang one of Mandrell’s biggest hits, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” And while George Jones sang a few lines near the close of Mandrell’s 1981 recording, McBride surprised the crowd by inviting a different George — George Strait — to sing the part.
Rock and country also melded during Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews’ performance of “I’m Alive” and when ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons provided his guitar crunch to Brooks & Dunn’s “Honky Tonk Stomp.” Vince Gill joined Daughtry on “Tennessee Line,” a collaboration featured on the rock band’s latest album.
The Zac Brown Band was moving at breakneck speed during a fiery version of the Charlie Daniels Band‘s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Other performances were provided by Rucker (“Alright”), Paisley (“Welcome to the Future”), Strait (“Twang”), Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now”), Underwood (“Cowboy Casanova”), Sugarland (“Keep You”) and Urban (‘Til Summer Comes Around”). The performances also included Miranda Lambert (“White Liar”), Tim McGraw“Southern Voice”), Jason Aldean ( (“Big Green Tractor“), Reba McEntire (“Consider Me Gone”) and Billy Currington“People Are Crazy”).
HERE’S A MESSAGE FROM JEFFREY THE GIRAFFE FOR ALL THE KIDS FROM “TOYS-R-US”
TAYLOR SWIFT made country music history last night — at 19, she’s the youngest-ever winner of the CMA’s top honor, the Entertainer of the Year Award. She’s also the first solo female performer to win in that category since SHANIA TWAIN did it in 1999. In addition, Taylor picked up the awards for Female Vocalist, Video of the Year for “Love Story” and Album of the Year, for Fearless.
Also making history last night was DARIUS RUCKER, who became the first African American artist ever to win the Best New Artist award, and the first African American artist since CHARLEY PRIDE ever to win a major individual CMA award, period. His Best New Artist trophy should fit nicely next to the Best New Artist Grammy he won with HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH back in 1996.
Here are the rest of Wednesday’s CMA Award winners:
Entertainer of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
New Artist of the Year
Album of the Year
Fearless — Taylor Swift
Single of the Year
“I Run to You” — Lady Antebellum
Song of the Year (Award to Songwriter)
Video of the Year
“Love Story” — Taylor Swift
Group of the Year
Duo of the Year
Musician of the Year
Musical Event of the Year
“Start a Band” — Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
Taylor Swift became one of country-pop’s brightest (and youngest) faces in 2006, when the 16-year-old vocalist released her first album. Although new to the American public, Swift had been performing since early childhood, taking inspiration and encouragement from her opera-singing grandmother. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a Philadelphia 76ers game at the age of 11; the following year, she began practicing her guitar skills for several hours each day, only stopping when her fingers began to bleed. Swift’s parents realized their child’s dedication and began making regular visits to Nashville, TN, where Swift would perform casually and meet with songwriters in the area. The family then decided to move from their native Pennsylvania to an outlying Nashville suburb, which accelerated Swift’s career.
While performing at the intimate Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Swift caught the eye of music industry veteran Scott Borchetta, who signed her to his newly formed label. Swift joined the roster at Big Machine Records and released her debut single, “Tim McGraw,” in August 2006. The song drew upon her experience as a lovelorn high-school student, a theme that Swift revisited throughout her self-titled debut album. Released in late 2008, Taylor Swift catapulted the young songwriter to stardom, spawning a handful of hits (five consecutive Top Ten singles, a new record for a female solo artist) while earning multi-platinum sales. Swift also received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, an award she ultimately lost to Amy Winehouse. Two subsequent EPs — Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection and Beautiful Eyes — helped maintain Swift’s popularity while whetting public demand for her sophomore release, Fearless, which arrived in November 2008. ~ Andrew Leahey & Megan Frye, All Music Guide
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