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The Kid makes the ACMs rock

By Dan MacIntosh, May 2002

The 'K' word (for Kid in Kid Rock) was the word on everybody's lips at this year's 37th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. His wild reputation made network representatives nervous prior to a scheduled appearance with Hank Williams, Jr., then his duet with the icon on "The 'F' Word" gave the telecast a strong jolt of much needed energy. Even his appearance backstage added the unexpected, to an otherwise predictable music awards ceremony.

Just the sight of producer Dick Clark laughing out loud while watching Kid Rock and Hank Williams, Jr. performing together - on a monitor in the backstage tent - was simply priceless. Artists like Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson may be solid performers (and award winners), but they're hardly charismatic individuals.

Clark rolled the dice when he invited Kid Rock and Hank Williams, Jr. to participate in this year's ceremony, and his laughter served as the victory guffaws of a winner.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Rock made a brief appearance backstage, to the obvious delight of the press. Kid Rock strolled up to the microphone with a freshly opened light beer in hand, and then apologized to Clark for the brew by saying, "Dad, this is only my first."

The two didn't have a whole lot to say, but then again, their very presence at this event spoke volumes by itself.

Like aftershocks following an 8.0 quake, this evening's rebel odd couple sent shockwaves through some of the most unexpected places. Rascal Flatts talked about their evening of the night before, when Kid Rock invited them up to his hotel room to sing "The Grand Tour" and selections from "O Brother Where Art Thou," and when asked if he'd ever written a song with the 'F' word in it, Best New Vocalist winner Phil Vassar joked that he'd written songs where the inclusion of the 'F' word might have helped.

Brooks & Dunn and Jackson were the night's biggest winners. Jackson's winnings were due primarily to his song "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)." When asked backstage if songs of social commentary like this one are harder to write than more typical love songs, Jackson said he never even intended to write a song about 9/11 and that it almost wrote itself.

And when told that they had broken Merle Haggard's record of 15 ACM awards, Ronnie Dunn shunned the idea of ever trying to compete with The Hag by saying they'd probably need a few more lifetimes to ever match what he has done.

Representatives from the makers of the 'O Brother Where Art Thou?" soundtrack were conspicuous in their absence. Producer T Bone Burnett was not present to accept any of the three awards this surprisingly successful album won, and his outsider perspective would have no doubt breathed life into this stuffy suit and tie event. To paraphrase another Coen brothers film title, the man who wasn't there made a big difference.

Trick Pony, who one took home the award for Top New Vocal Group Or Duo, spoke backstage about how they'd recently recorded "Whiskey River" with Willie Nelson for their upcoming album. And when asked, they said they'd be more than happy to one day also sing with Kris Kristofferson, so they could then brag about having recorded with all four Highwaymen.

The ACM Awards program is about as exciting as reading the tabulations on a Soundscan chart, but if Nashville and radio ever open their doors to musicians with the kind of energy Kid Rock exudes, maybe the 'F' word (for Fun) will become an accurate description of their awards ceremonies.