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Memorable CMA Awards Acceptance Speeches

The Boot looks back at some of the most memorable CMA Awards acceptance speeches through the years, from those that made us laugh to those that had us wiping away tears.

Taylor Swift
Horizon Award (2007)
“I can’t even believe this is real. I want to thank God and my family for moving to Nashville so that I could do this, and I want to thank country radio. I will never forget the chance you took on me. Brad Paisley, thank you for letting me tour with you. Scott Borchetta, everybody at Big Machine Records and the fans. You have changed my life. I can’t even believe this. This is definitely the highlight of my senior year!”

The Judds
Vocal Duo (1988)
“You’re the melody in my life. Am I the harmony in your life?” Naomi said to Wynonna, who replied, “Depends on what day it is.”

Garth Brooks
Entertainer of the Year (1991)
“This is cool. It’s funny how a chubby kid can just be having fun, and they call it entertaining. I know this embarrasses these two guys every time I say this, but I don’t think any entertainer is anything without his heroes. I love my Georges — George Strait and George Jones — and I want to thank you guys for being so good to me. No offense, Mr. President. I didn’t think about that. Sorry.” (President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush were in the audience laughing.

Willie Nelson
Hall of Fame Induction (1993)
“Thank you very much! I really thought you had to die to get here, so I went ahead and dressed up, just in case.”

Terri Gibbs
First Horizon Award Ever (1981)
“This is so exciting! Would you believe this time last year, I was sitting home watching this on television?” (Gibbs is blind.)

Reba McEntire
Female Vocalist (1984)
“If I had everybody on stage to thank, we couldn’t get everybody up here ’cause there’s just too many people, but I personally want to come after the show to hug your neck and give you a kiss … The first time me and Mama came to Nashville, she told me, ‘Reba, I couldn’t do this so I’m living my life and my dreams through you.’ This is for me and Mama. We thank you!”

Hank Williams Jr.
First Video Award Ever (1985)
“Well, I never thought I’d win a video award first from the CMA. I try to make a little audio, too, a little bit. But you’d have a big fight on your hands if you tried to get this away from Bocephus!”

Kenny Chesney
Entertainer of the Year (2004)
“I’m so proud to be in country music. I love country music with all my heart. I take pride in doing what we’re doing. I stay up at night on the road thinking of ways to make my show better, and a lot of guys taught me how to do that. Conway Twitty taught me how to do that. George Strait taught me how to do that, and my buddy Tim [McGraw] taught me how to do that and a lot of people did. [Music starts playing.] You can turn that off. I’m fixin’ to stay up here. I waited 12 years. You’re not going run me off in two minutes. You can turn it off the TV. We’re going to be here awhile.”

Don Schlitz, Paul Overstreet
Song of the Year for ‘Forever and Ever Amen’ (1987)
(Schlitz and Overstreet were also nominated in the same category for the Randy Travis hit ‘On the Other Hand.’) Don Schlitz: “I think we’re the first people to ever win and lose at the same time. I’m not real sure how to deal with it, but I’m going to ask Paul to go home and be philosophical and resigned, and I’m gonna go out and party all night long!”

Randy Travis
Male Vocalist (1988)
“After all that, I find myself trying to remember what I just won.” (Randy said this after Dolly Parton sat on his lap in the audience while announcing him as one of the nominees for Male Vocalist of the Year.)

Vince Gill
Male Vocalist for the Second Time (1992)
“Well, now I know how Michael Jordan feels to repeat. This is very cool. My only goal tonight was to be a good host, and that really took my mind off these awards, but this puts my mind right back on them. My other goal is to change clothes more times than Reba. I don’t know if I’m gonna get it accomplished, but we’ve got two hours. Watch what happens, kids!”

Merle Haggard
Hall of Fame Induction (1994)
“I’ve had 30 days’ notice. I’m not used to getting notices for such things. I’ve had notices for evictions. I had a guy call me up at one time on a Monday to tell me he was gonna whip me on Friday [laughs]. I have a lot of people to thank. I’ve had a lot of help.”

Martina McBride
Best Video for ‘Independence Day’ (1994)
“This is too much excitement. I just might have this baby right here!”

Diamond Rio
Best Vocal Group (1994)
Lead singer Marty Roe: “We want to thank our wives for being at home while we’re not.”

Ray Price
Hall of Fame Induction (1996)
“Thank you. It’s about time. I was beginning to feel like Susan Lucci.”

Buck Owens
Hall of Fame Induction (1996)
“He stole that line — that Susan Lucci line. I told it to him backstage.”

Le Ann Womack
Single of the Year for ‘I Hope You Dance’ (2000)
Producer Mark Wright: “We got this notice that said producers weren’t supposed to talk, but I can’t read. I’m from Arkansas.”

Toby Keith
Male Vocalist (2001)
“What are we gonna do now? Thank you, Nashville, and the music industry. This is truly a great honor. I think it’s cool that I have Jesus Christ in my life, and I think it’s cool that we can get together here tonight and live in a free nation and do this thing, because every time we get together and celebrate our accomplishments we kick the evil right in the teeth.”

Porter Wagoner
Hall of Fame Induction (2002)
“I like to think of myself as a link between the real pioneers of country music and the stars of today and tomorrow. I’ve had the great fortune to call many legends my friends and watch some of my closest friends become legends [gestures toward Dolly Parton]. You’d think that when a man receives he highest award in his chosen field, his ego would go plumb through the ceiling. But, you know what? I’ve never felt more humbled in my whole life than I do tonight.”

Brad Paisley
Album of the Year for ‘Time Well Wasted’ (2006)
“First and foremost, to the country music fans: I love you, too … To Joe Galante, Butch Waugh, Skip, everybody at country radio for playing my songs; for my wife, Kim, who said I should thank her first — close, right? Let me think, who else? My father, who when I was growing up used to haul gear. He was no good at music, but he would haul gear in and out of places and he has a bad back now, and it’s an amazing thing that he did all that for me. And Rob Beckham, my booking agent, who says I never thank him.”

This story was originally written by Deborah Evans-Price, and revised by Carrie Horton.

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