Wednesday, November 2, 2016
– Garth Brooks won the biggest honor of the night at the 50th Country Music Association Awards, Entertainer of the Year.
"Very sweet," said Brooks. "Wow. It's cool." He proceeded to thank his management, band, road family and his wife, Trisha Yearwood.
"Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful run," he said. "The people. Thank you so much for showing up for this tour."
"We are so damn lucky to be part of this thing called country music," he said.
Thomas Rhett won the first award of the night for Single of the Year for "Die a Happy Man." Lori McKenna won Song of the Year for "Humble and Kind."
Rhett thanked the "Lord for opening the doors to make this all happen for us." He thanked his wife who was the inspiration for the song.
"God, this is a dream come true," Rhett said. "This is going to go in a special place."
The honor came after an opening featuring current and past stars singing hits. Vince Gill strummed Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" with the Hag's youngest son "Ben, helping out. Alan Jackson sang "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and Dwight Yoakam "Guitars, Cadillacs."
The opening ended with Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever Amen" with Travis singing "Amen." Co-hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley seemed to give him support.
McKenna's "Humble And Kind" was a hit for Tim McGraw. He accompanied her onstage. "Oh good Lord," said McKenna." I have a job in this town because of this guy's wife...I thank god every day that I get to write for a living."
Faith Hill, who is McGraw's wife, cut several McKenna songs, giving her a break in Nashville. Hill was in tears during McKenna's speech.
Maren Morris won New Artist of the Year, ostensibly for her hit "My Church," which she had just performed. "I can't win this award after performing," she said. "This is so crazy. I have amazing seats tonight."
"Last year, I sat across the street at a bar and watched this show," Morris said through tears. "I never thought as a songwriter I'd be here today."
Eric Church won Album of the Year for "Mr. Misunderstood," released one year ago as a surprise disc. "I'm not sure what's better, winning the award or Faith Hill fixing my tie," he said after Hill, presenting the award, did so. "We started this a year ago. We surprised everybody with this album. We trusted the fans, and we gave it to the fans first. It's because of the fans that this happened, and I love you."
Brothers Osborne won New Artist of the Year. "I hate to be the one to say I didn't prepare a speech," said TJ Osborne, "I didn't." He said he expected to be thanking Florida Georgia Line. "If we can do, you can do it," said his brother John. "Whoah."
Little Big Town took the Vocal Group of the Year honor.
Kenny Chesney was honored with the Pinnacle Award, only the third act to win it - Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift were the other two.
""Standing up here in this spot tonight looking at a lot of friends and a lot of heroes that have touched my life in so many ways, take a kid from East Tennessee and show that this was possible," said Chesney.
"To me, it means connection with a lot of people that have invested a lot of their life in me," he said, adding, "Thanks for loving the music. Thanks for giving me an amazing life."
Carrie Underwood won the Female Vocalist of the Year award for the fourth time. She gave a slew of thanks. I've just become suddenly stupid," she said. "I love you all. God bless you guys. I love you so much. I don't know what else to say."
Guitarist Dann Huff previously won the Musician of the Year award.
Dolly Parton won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. "This is such a great compliment. This is such a wonderful night."
"Referring to winning the Willie Nelson award, "This is an absolute high for me," she said to laughter.
"I really am very proud to receive this," Parton said.
"I just want to thank everybody for letting my little girl dreams come true," Parton said, adding, "I had a big speech, but they wouldn't let me give it."
Chris Stapleton won Male Vocalist of the Year. "I've gotten to be a fan so much tonight," he said. "I've cried just watching everybody, music I've grown up on."
"It means so much to get to be a part of country music," he said. "These are the best people in the world."