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Toby Keith, the Chicks and the ACMs

Country Standard Time Editorial, June 2003

No one particularly dominated the Academy of Country Music awards show with the wealth spread around many acts. Nothing wrong with that.

In a surprise, Rascal Flats won a few awards. In the biggest non-shocker of the event, Brooks & Dunn won again as well for the umpteenth time as best duo.

Well there were a few other surprises actually. For starters, the biggest award of the night - entertainer of the year - went to Toby Keith. Keith was there earlier in the evening when he did a duet with Willie Nelson on "Berry For My Horses."

But when Reba and Vince Gill announced Keith had won the entertainer award, he was nowhere to be found. What a strange occurrence especially considering his earlier prominence.

So the next day, Keith says in a press release he was not expecting to win the award at all and was writing a song with Willie right in the middle of the awards show.

Credit Keith with perfect timing. After a tough night of not winning until the last award was doled out, Keith decided to get up and not await the results. That may be true, and it also may be true that he was writing with Nelson, but somehow musicians ought to show sufficient respect for their fellow country musicians. Everyone wants to win, but even those who don't usually stay in their seats.

Keith also was on the receiving end of some apparent negativity. The Dixie Chicks, mired in controversy over lead singer Natalie Maines' negative comments against President Bush in March, did a satellite hookup from an Austin concert, playing one of their songs. Maines sported a shirt that read "FUTK." One can assume Maines was not wishing Keith a good evening.

But such action doesn't exactly raise the level debate. Keith knocked the Chicks weeks ago over their London comments criticizing President Bush.

Whatever happened to meaningful debate? The Chicks are better than that, we hope. And so is Toby Keith.