From here on out, Toby Keith cannot complain that he doesn’t win any industry awards.
“I always kept hoping this night would come,” he said, accepting the entertainer of the year trophy at the Academy of Country Music awards on Wednesday night (May 26). “Let’s all go party tonight and rock it out here in Vegas, all right?”
Keith, who often complains about being shunned by the industry at awards time, also took trophies for top album (Shock ‘n Y’all), video (“Beer for My Horses”) and male vocalist. Prior to this year, he had won only two ACM awards, as last year’s entertainer and album of the year for How Do You Like Me Now?! for 2000.
Martina McBride, who won her third consecutive female vocalist trophy, said, “I think this is a really exciting time for country music, and I’m just proud to be here. It just means a lot to me. Thank you so much.” Fans also voted McBride as the Home Depot Humanitarian Award winner.
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” took two awards, for single and vocal event of the year. (Buffett was not on hand to accept.) Indeed, collaborations provided some of the evening’s musical highlights. Alison Krauss traded verses on “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad Paisley, and Loretta Lynn was accompanied by Vince Gill on “Miss Being Mrs.” In addition, LeAnn Rimes invited Dan Tyminski to harmonize on a new song. Montgomery Gentry opened the show with “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” followed by a performance of “When the Sun Goes Down” by Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker.
Later, Keith and Chesney joined Willie Nelson to sing one of the legend’s concert favorites “Stay a Little Longer.” The younger stars then presented him with the Gene Weed award, for special achievement.
“I’ll be honest with you. When I first heard about this, I thought they said ‘the green weed award,’ and I said, ‘All right!’” Nelson joked. “But the Gene Weed is even better.” Ray Price, a fellow Texan and musical contemporary of Nelson’s, was given the Pioneer Award prior to the broadcast.
Though nobody had heard of her three months ago, Gretchen Wilson revived the three-hour show with “Redneck Woman,” hitting every dang note with fierce attitude. Once through, she stepped aside — actually, she ended up in the mosh pit — after introducing her boisterous buddies, Big & Rich. Judging from their carnival-like routine, they’ll be right at home in Las Vegas.
Randy Travis accepted song of the year for “Three Wooden Crosses,” saying, “It’s great to be back again. It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve been nominated for anything actually.”
He continued, “I was doing an interview a while back, somebody said, ‘Do you think recording a gospel album may have hurt your career?’ I said, ‘Well, no. It’s the first time I’ve been nominated in quite a few years, so I can’t say that it hurt me that much.’”
Dierks Bentley earned the top new artist trophy, beating out Pat Green, Buddy Jewell, Josh Turner and Jimmy Wayne. Accepting the award, Bentley said, “I want to thank God for all my blessings. He’s already given me so much this year. I’m going to ask Him forgiveness in advance, because I’m going to raise a little bit of hell tonight.”
He added, “I want to thank my mom and dad, who are here tonight. I want to thank all the nominees for doing a great job on behalf of country music — especially my buddy Pat Green. You’ve got too many records out to even be in this category, dude.”
Rascal Flatts captured the top vocal group award, their second win in that category. After Joe Don Rooney thanked the band’s families and Gary LeVox thanked God, the orchestra swelled due to time constraints, not giving Jay DeMarcus a chance to make a comment.
The show was top-heavy with performance, causing the show to run about 10 minutes over. In fact, within the first 45 minutes, only one award had been given — the predictable top vocal duo award, which went to Brooks & Dunn.
“Life is good,” Ronnie Dunn said at the podium. “This makes us feel young. We’re very glad to be here at this stage of the game. You have no idea.”
Reba McEntire hosted the show, with an opening monologue that zinged Wynonna’s drunk driving arrest, Tim McGraw’s $1,000-an-hour “poker teacher” and even Las Vegas entertainer Roy Horn, who was nearly killed by a white tiger last year.
The ACM Awards will be rebroadcast on CMT on Saturday (May 29) at 5 p.m. ET/PT.
Entertainer of the Year
Top Male Vocalist
Top Vocal Group
Home Depot Humanitarian Award
Top Female Vocalist
Top New Artist
Video of the Year
“Beer for My Horses,” Toby Keith and Willie Nelson; produced by Mark Kalbfeld; directed by Michael Salomon
Vocal Event of the Year
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”; produced by Keith Stegall; Arista Nashville
Album of the Year
Shock ‘n Y’all, Toby Keith
Song of the Year
“Three Wooden Crosses”; performed by Randy Travis; written by Douglas Johnson, Kim Williams; published by Mike Curb Music BMI, Sweet Radical Music BMI/Kim Williams Music ASCAP, Sony ATV Tunes ASCAP
Gene Weed Special Achievement Award
Single Record of the Year
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett; produced by Keith Stegall; Arista Nashville
Top Vocal Duo
Brooks & Dunn