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Bentley, Jackson, Hunt, Rucker win ACM honors

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 – Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson, Sam Hunt and Darius Rucker were among those received by Academy of Country Music as recipients of Special Awards from the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards.

Honorees will be celebrated during the 12th annual ACM honors an evening dedicated to recognizing the special honorees and off-camera category winners on Aug. 22 in Nashville.

ACM Cliffie Stone ICON Award - Jackson will receive the Cliffie Stone Icon Award. This award is presented to a country music artist, duo/group or industry leader who throughout their career has advanced the popularity of the genre through their contributions in multiple facets of the industry such as songwriting, recording, production, touring, film, television, literary works, philanthropic contributions and other goodwill efforts.

ACM Gary Haber Lifting Live Award - Rucker will receive the award presented to a country music artist, duo/group or industry professional who is devoted to improving lives through the power of music, has a generosity of spirit, and is committed to serving others, voted on by the ACM Lifting Lives Board of Directors. Rucker has raised more than $1 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through the "Darius & Friends" all-star concerts and tournaments - blending his two loves of music and golf. In his hometown of Charleston, S.C., Rucker serves on the board of the Charleston Children's Hospital and, for 15 years running, has staged the "Homegrown Concert" to raise money to buy school supplies and other necessities for local public-school children.

ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award - Hunt receives the award presented to a country music artist, duo/group or industry leader for a specific, unprecedented or outstanding achievement in the field of country music during the preceding calendar year. Hunt's single "Body Like a Back Road" broke and reset the genre's one-week streaming record 14 times during the year. The song spent a record 34 weeks atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

ACM Mae Boren Axton Service Award - Mickey Christensen, Chris Christensen and Eddie Miller (all awarded posthumously). This award is presented to an outstanding country music artist, duo/group or industry leader in recognition of years of dedication and service to the Academy of Country Music. Nightclub owners Mickey and Chris Christensen and performing songwriter Eddie Miller, along with performer Tommy Wiggins, co-founded the organization that became known as the Academy of Country Music. Chris acquired a stake in a jukebox company while Mickey owned and operated venues like Pike's Canteen, C&M Corral and the Red Barrel Niteclub. Two of the first musicians they hired were Buck and Bonnie Owens. West Coast entertainers started dropping by the Red Barrel, including Miller and Wiggins. A conversation led to an idea to emulate the Oscars and create an awards show. The earliest banquets took place at the Red Barrel before the first official ceremony was held at The Hollywood Palladium on Feb. 28, 1966. An Oklahoma native and former railroad worker, Miller wrote country hits like "Release Me," (Ray Price, Kitty Wells), "I Love You Honey" (Patsy Cline), "There She Goes" (Carl Smith) and "Thanks a Lot" (Ernest Tubb).

ACM Jim Reeves International Award - Rob Potts (awarded posthumously) received the award presented to an artist or industry leader for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world. Potts cultivated a country music connection between Australia and the U.S. Potts and his business partner Michael Chugg established the brand of CMC Rocks leading to festivals like CMC Rocks the Snowy, CMC Rocks the Hunter and CMC Rocks QLD. Potts died following a motorcycle accident in Australia last year at 65.

ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award - Bentley received the award presented to a singer-songwriter who is continuing the legacy of The Hag by following his/her own path, crafting great songs and epitomizing his spirit through genuine performances and great storytelling. Berg has written major country hits across four consecutive decades. A Nashville native, Berg and co-writer Bobby Braddock scored a number 1 hit in 1983 with "Faking Love" by T.G. Sheppard and Karen Brooks. Berg was just 18 at the time. Four years later, Reba McEntire recorded "The Last One to Know" as the title track to her 1987 album. Trisha Yearwood recorded Berg's "Wrong Side of Memphis," "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," and "Everybody Knows," while Patty Loveless sang "I'm That Kind of Girl" and "You Can Feel Bad." Berg secured an ACM Song of the Year nomination for Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine." Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter released their rendition of "You and Tequila" in 2011, leading to another ACM Song of the Year nod. She has written singles for Suzy Bogguss, Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Linda Ronstadt, Gretchen Wilson and more. Berg was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008.

Wilson composed classics for George Jones, Charlie Rich and Tammy Wynette. Wilson grew up in Kentucky and moved to Nashville as a teenager after joining a gospel group. He spent much of the next decade pursuing a performing career until a song he co-wrote, "Baby, Baby (I Know You're a Lady)," hit number one for David Houston in 1970. Wilson's songwriting catalog grew to include Jones signatures like "A Picture of Me (Without You)," "The Grand Tour" and "The Door." Wilson co-wrote three of Rich's number one hits: "The Most Beautiful Girl," "A Very Special Love Song" and "I Love My Friend." Wynette found success with Wilson compositions such as "I'll See Him Through," "He Loves Me All the Way," "My Man" and "Another Lonely Song." Wilson signed Keith Whitley to RCA and co-produced several Kenny Chesney albums. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996. Wilson passed away in 2017.

ACM Songwriter of the Year Award - Previously announced winner Rhett Akins will receive the award. Akins landed on the ACM Awards ballot 20 years ago in the New Male Vocalist category, thanks to hit singles like "That Ain't My Truck" and "Don't Get Me Started." A list of Akins' recent hits includes Dustin Lynch's "Small Town Boy," Jon Pardi's "Dirt on My Boots," Blake Shelton's "I Lived It" and Akins' son Thomas Rhett's "Star of the Show" and "Life Changes." Luke Bryan's "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day," Jason Aldean's "When She Says Baby" and Shelton's "Honeybee" and "Boys Round Here."

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