Country fans will be front row, center, Wednesday (June 13) for the TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards. For the first time, TNN and CMT will simulcast the only fan-voted country music awards show. (8-11 p.m. ET/PT on TNN and 8-11 p.m. ET on CMT). The best seats in Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center have been reserved for the fans, while artists, presenters and other celebrities will sit in the right and left wings, next to the stage.
The annual awards show takes place on the eve of the 30th International Country Music Fan Fair, a four-day festival, Thursday through Saturday (June 14-17), which moves to downtown Nashville this year. Organizers hope to draw record numbers by scheduling the event over a long weekend and providing more flexible ticket pricing.
Lee Ann Womack and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw will host the star-studded gala. Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, Billy Gilman, Brad Paisley, Jo Dee Messina, Jessica Andrews, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery, Lonestar, Montgomery Gentry, Phil Vassar, SHeDAISY and Chris LeDoux all will perform.
Fan-favorite LeDoux will make his first TV appearance since undergoing a liver transplant on Oct. 7. Charlie Daniels, playing fiddle, will back the cowboy singer and ex-professional bronco rider on "For Your Love." LeDoux received his transplant after being diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis. He returned to the road June 10 in San Jose, Calif.
Jewel will join John Michael Montgomery on Montgomery’s recent No. 1 hit, “The Little Girl.” Jewel will sing the harmonies handled by Alison Krauss on Montgomery’s recorded version of the heart-tugging song.
The presenters’ roster is packed with superstar wattage, too. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will help hand out trophies, as will Martina McBride, Chely Wright, Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior in The Sopranos), Sara Evans, K.T. Oslin, Pam Tillis, Jewel, rodeo favorite Ty Murray, Charlie Robison, Neal McCoy, Kathy Mattea, Mark McGuinn, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Sherrie Austin, Sons of the Desert, Terri Clark and Eric Heatherly.
Jackson has the most nominations with nods in eight categories, followed by George Strait, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw with seven each. (Because Hill could pick up awards as co-producer of "Let’s Make Love" she could win as many as nine trophies). Host Womack received six nominations — four came from her critically praised collaboration with Sons of the Desert on "I Hope You Dance."
Country superstar and 14-time Grammy winner Gill will receive the Country Weekly Career Achievement Award. The honor is presented to a living country music artist whose professional recording career has spanned 15 or more years and whose songs and performances have made a lasting contribution to the tradition and heritage of country music. The recipient is selected by the writers and editors of Country Weekly based on fan nominations. After accepting the award, Gill will perform "When I Call Your Name." Country legend Kenny Rogers received the first Country Weekly Career Achievement Award in 2000.
Besides the Career Achievement Award, a total of 12 fan-voted awards will be handed out. A deserving country artist will receive the Minnie Pearl Award for humanitarian activity. The recipient is selected by a blue ribbon panel made up of individuals connected with the Minnie Pearl Foundation and TNN officials.
Award winners were selected by fans’ votes tallied through ballots posted in issues of Country Weekly and through online votes at country.com and Country Weekly’s Web site, at countryweekly.com. Fans also voted via 900 numbers.
TNN has produced and telecast an annual, fan-voted country music awards show since April 1988. Country Weekly became a new awards show partner with the 2000 event. CMT became a partner this year.
Womack says she’s looking forward to the challenge of her first-ever TV hosting job. "I’ve hosted a few radio shows and I have had a blast with it," she says.
"It’s probably in my blood, you know. My dad was a radio guy, so I probably came by it honestly. I love it. " And, she added, laughing, "I like being in charge."
By evening’s end, Womack also could be happily in charge of six trophies, and the fans will go away pleased, knowing their votes determined the winners.