Toby Keith Leads CMA Award Nominations

Jimmy Buffett, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow all received mentions when the nominations for the 37th annual CMA Awards were announced Tuesday morning (Aug. 26) at the Grand Ole Opry House. Country veterans Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton each received nominations, too, but two of today’s most successful female artists — Shania Twain and Faith Hill — did not.

With nominations in seven categories, Toby Keith leads the pack for the 2003 awards show. He’s nominated for entertainer and male vocalist of the year, in addition to an album of the year mention for Unleashed. Keith also picked up song, single, music video and vocal event nominations for “Beer for My Horses,” his duet with Nelson.

The CMA’s official press release describes the nominees as an “eclectic mix” — a fair statement, perhaps. The more difficult description involves exactly what it all means.

In addition to a shutout for Hill and Twain, who both released new albums late in 2002, the Dixie Chicks scored just two nominations — one for vocal group and the other an album of the year nod for their multi-platinum Home. The Chicks’ publicist recently announced that the North American leg of the band’s Top of the World tour grossed $61 million to be in third place — just behind the Rolling Stones and the Elton John-Billy Joel tour — as the highest-grossing tour so far in 2003. And despite rave reviews throughout the tour, the Chicks were not nominated in the entertainer of the year category. Apparently, CMA voters still aren’t looking past the controversy that erupted over Natalie Maines’ criticism of President Bush before their tour began. But the Dixie Chicks have certainly kept country fans entertained, if not exactly in the way the CMA prefers.

Cash, who is up for trophies at Thursday’s (Aug. 28) MTV Music Video Awards, received four nominations, including album of the year for American IV: The Man Comes Around. One of the album’s tracks, “Hurt,” is nominated for single and music video of the year. Cash is also nominated in the vocal event category for “Tears in the Holston River,” a collaboration with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Parton was nominated for female vocalist, an honor she last received in 1976. Alabama, who have embarked on their farewell tour, returned for a nomination in the vocal group category. The band last won the award in 1983. Another ’80s superstar — Randy Travis — received a single of the year nomination for “Three Wooden Crosses,” which also netted a song of the year nomination for songwriters Doug Johnson and Kim Williams.

Rock and Crow’s duet on “Picture” is nominated for vocal event. Buffett’s vocal event nomination resulted from his work with Alan Jackson on “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Buffett was nominated in 1977 for the CMA’s single of the year for his signature song, “Margaritaville.”

In addition to Cash, other artists getting four CMA nominations are Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley. Jackson, Nelson, Tim McGraw and Darryl Worley each received three nominations. Kenny Chesney, the Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Joe Nichols and Blake Shelton received two nominations each.

The nominations were announced by McBride and Rascal Flatts during CBS-TV’s broadcast of The Early Show. The CMA Awards show takes place Nov. 5 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Vince Gill, who is not among the nominees, will host the CBS broadcast for the 12th consecutive year.

Calvin Gilbert has served as’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.