On the afternoon before the CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards, the lights are up and the stage is set. Surrounded by shades of orange and yellow, host Kathy Najimy practices her jokes, and Travis Tritt lingers backstage before rehearsing the show’s rousing finale with his band. The only thing missing at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville is the huge crowd of screaming country fans, eager to see who wins -– and they’ll be here soon enough.
Airing live on CMT Wednesday (June 12) at 9 p.m. ET, the show promises to keep home viewers entertained as well. The first-ever Flameworthy Awards will be creating their own history, so Alan Jackson ’s good-humored opening number, “Work in Progress,” will be especially appropriate.
“It’s show business,” says Brian Philips, CMT senior vice president and general manager, speaking about the values driving the Flameworthy production. “In country music you want to respect the tradition and put on a great show at the same time.
“You see guys like Brooks & Dunn who have embellished country music with show business,” he explains. “The whole world is in love with that [Neon Circus] tour, so maybe we can take a lesson from guys like that. We’ll deliver a great show, while also staying true to the music.”
Brooks & Dunn themselves are part of the Flameworthy proceedings in a segment being kept secret until showtime. The duo rehearsed Tuesday night on a closed set, and producers are tight-lipped about what the pair –- recently named the Academy of Country Music’s entertainers of the year -– might have planned.
Martina McBride will perform with a 12-piece string section. Najimy’s animated alter ego, Peggy Hill, star of FOX TV’s King of the Hill, is slated to make an appearance. Taped segments will feature former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri, Kiss’ Gene Simmons and rocker Melissa Etheridge.
Alison Krauss & Union Station, Earl Scruggs and keith urban will collaborate in an extended segment saluting bluegrass and acoustic music, and fan favorites Kenny Chesney , Toby Keith and Sara Evans all have coveted performance slots.
And, oh yes, there’s the matter of the awards themselves. Fans have voted already for winners in 11 Flameworthy video music categories including hottest video, “lol” (laugh out loud) video, love your country video and fashion plate video.
One by one, the winners will be announced by presenters including Tennessee Titan Eddie George, Trading Spaces carpenter Ty Pennington, Austin Powers’ Mini-Me (actor Verne J. Troyer) and country artists including Chely Wright , Jamie O’Neal , Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Trace Adkins , among others.
Near the beginning of the show, viewers will learn the names of the five finalists for Flameworthy video of the year. During the next two hours, they will vote at CMT.com for video of the year, and the winner will be announced just before Tritt closes the show with his performance.
The Dixie Chicks , slated to receive the first Flameworthy Video Visionary Award, will watch the two-hour ceremony from front-row seats. Following the show, they’ll debut their new video, “Long Time Gone,” in an exclusive world premiere on CMT’s CMT Wrap Party, 11-11:30 p.m. ET.
As warm-up to the main event, Trick Pony and Rascal Flatts will perform on CMT Most Wanted Live (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). Then Rascal Flatts and Gary Allan will be part of the CMT Flameworthy Awards Pre-Party (8-9 p.m. ET), which will capture the excitement of the stars’ red-carpet walk into the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
For now, though, it’s calm inside the arena. Television cameras are everywhere. Stagehands mill around backstage with security guards, reporters and set designers. Outside, workers are building a stage for special editions of CMT Most Wanted Live and tourists are peeking around the downtown honky-tonks with cameras of their own –- waiting until time to file in for the Flameworthy awards.