Top 10 ACM Awards Moments
The ACM Awards always have their share of memorable moments. From emotional acceptance speeches to surprise winners, top-notch performances to unexpected duets, fans are buzzing for days after the yearly awards show.
While there are certainly plenty of notable moments throughout the 50-plus-year history of the ACMs, The Boot has selected the best of the best — the most memorable of the memorable — and created a Top 10 list that includes superstars such as Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney and Loretta Lynn. The following moments are certainly ones that won’t easily be forgotten.
Rascal Flatts and Steve Martin Pay Tribute to Earl Scruggs
Banjo player Earl Scruggs passed away on March 28, 2012, just days before the 2012 ACM Awards. It was certainly a sad time in country music, but the ceremony’s musical tribute to the bluegrass legend by Rascal Flatts and Steve Martin was a bright spot in the evening. Even before Scruggs’ death, the trio and Martin were one of the most-anticipated performances lined up for the awards show, and boy, did they deliver. They performed the Flatts’ lead single at the time, “Banjo,” which was a perfect pick to commemorate and celebrate Scruggs. After all, he popularized the “Scruggs style,” a three-finger banjo-picking style that helps define today’s bluegrass music.
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert Win Twice With “Over You”
When Blake Shelton and his then-wife Miranda Lambert accepted two ACMs for the song they penned together, “Over You,” emotions were flying high. After all, the tune was inspired by a tragic, life-changing event in Shelton’s life: He was 14 years old when his 24-year-old brother Richie died. Lambert included the song on her Four the Record album, and it ended up winning both Song of the Year and Single of the Year at the 2013 ACM Awards.
“I’ll tell you something, I’ve learned so much from this human being standing next to me, a lot of things about myself. She blows me away,” Shelton said in their acceptance speech for Song of the Year. “I used to think I was a decent songwriter until I started hanging out with her, and she really taught me how to write a good song, and this is proof of it. Thank you so much baby, I love you.”
George Strait Nabs Entertainer of the Year
In 2014, George Strait performed the final concert of his touring career — and proved his longevity, talent and pull as a country superstar by winning the highly coveted Entertainer of the Year Award, which he last won in 1989.
“Wow,” he said. “I’ve always said I had the best fans in the world, and I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case.”
There’s no better way to go out with a bang than by winning one of the biggest awards in country music — and the cowboy rode away with another gleaming trophy to add to his case.
Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan Take on Hosting Duties
Two of country’s biggest stars, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, fully took over Reba McEntire‘s ACM Awards hosting duties in 2013. And as fans know, when you put the funnymen together, they’re going entertain you. While Bryan was initially hesitant about filling McEntire’s high-heeled shoes, when he found out that Shelton would be his partner in crime, he agreed.
“When I heard it was me and Blake, I was like, ‘Oh God,'” Bryan recalls thinking. “This is something the fans have got to see, even though I know I’ll be the brunt of a lot of jokes and a lot of ridicule from Blake.”
It proved to be a smashing success.
ACM Awards Move to Sin City
Since their inception in 1966, the ACM Awards were held in California, primarily in Los Angeles. But in 2003, the ceremony headed to Las Vegas, and every year since, country music has infiltrated Sin City each spring, and the ACMs have become synonymous with the vibrant city — cowboy hats and all. Although the 2015 ACM Awards were held in Arlington, Texas — a move to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary — the show headed back to Vegas in 2016.
Kenny Chesney Wins First Fan-Voted Entertainer of the Year Award
When the Entertainer of the Year winner is being announced, all of the nominees wait with bated breath. It is, after all, the night’s most prestigious recognition, and from 2008 through 2015, it was partially dependent on fans’ votes. The first year the award switched to fan voting to determine the winner, Kenny Chesney emerged on top, beating out Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, George Strait and Rascal Flatts. In recognition of this honor, Chesney received a 50th Anniversary Milestone Award from the ACMs in 2015.
Reba McEntire Hosts the ACM Awards
Reba McEntire‘s fiery red hair became a staple at the ACM Awards, as she hosted the ceremony many, many times throughout the years. She had her first stint as a host in 1986, with Mac Davis and John Schneider, then she returned in 1988, with Hank Williams Jr. In 1993, McEntire hosted with Randy Owen and George Strait, and she and Alan Jackson co-hosted in 1994 — and then the singer hosted the awards solo from 1999-2010. During her last two years as host, in 2011 and 2012, McEntire co-hosted with Blake Shelton, then decided to pass the torch fully over to her fellow country star.
“I’m a huge Blake Shelton fan,” McEntire said when she made her announcement.
Brooks & Dunn Nab 27 Trophies
Throughout their illustrious career, Brooks & Dunn have been a force to be reckoned with. They began making music together in 1990 and began winning ACM Awards soon after — 27, to be exact. Their first awards, in 1992, included Top New Vocal Duo of the Year and Vocal Duo of the Year. Since then, they’ve gone on to win a slew of different ACM trophies, including Single Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Video of the Year, Song of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year (with Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow) and the Humanitarian Award. They currently hold the record for the most ACM wins and have won Vocal Duo of the Year a whopping 16 times!
Loretta Lynn Becomes the First Female Entertainer of the Year
Loretta Lynn was a massive force in paving a path for women in country — and her efforts accumulated into an ACM Entertainer of the Year Award in 1976, the first time a female had ever won. Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, John Denver, Mickey Gilly and Lynn were all vying for the trophy, and when Lynn’s name was announced, the audience went wild, with a standing ovation and deafening cheering.
“I’d like to say that I sure am proud. And I want to thank all of you,” she said with a broad grin during her acceptance speech.
Alan Jackson’s ACM Awards Protest
When Alan Jackson‘s mad, you’d better watch out. The singer protested the ACM Awards in 1994 in his own unique (and rather hilarious) way, both on the red carpet and on stage. While his peers were dressed to the nines, Jackson showed up on the red carpet in what can only be described as a muscle shirt. Then, when he took the stage to play “Gone Country” (still wearing the shirt), he began singing, and his band began playing — sort of. It soon became clear that Jackson’s drummer, Bruce Rutherford, was playing without drumsticks, and the whole band was actually playing to a track. The producers of the show had told Jackson that he needed to perform with a track, and he was not a happy camper … so he stuck it to the man and showed them what happens when you tick Alan Jackson off!