Kenny Chesney’s acceptance speech for entertainer of the year was cut short during Tuesday night’s (Nov. 9) telecast. However, when he visited with reporters backstage, he finally got to speak his mind.
“I wanted to thank a lot of people who dreamed this dream with me,” Chesney said, speaking about twice as fast as usual. “When you do what I do for a living, it’s an unbelievable, emotional roller coaster ride. There are a lot of highs, a lot of lows and a lot in the middle. When you have a team like I have with you — family and friends and everybody who goes through that with you — when I hurt, they hurt. When I’m happy, they’re happy. … So many people felt every emotion with me, and I just wanted to thank them.”
The entertainer of the year award was the last trophy handed out at the awards show. Chesney was unable to deliver a complete acceptance speech because CBS wanted to ensure that the telecast end as scheduled at 11 p.m. ET.
“It kind of sucks they wouldn’t let me talk,” he said backstage. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I just wanted to thank the CMA and music industry for accepting me.”
Chesney secured his first CMA victories ever by also capturing the album of the year honor for When the Sun Goes Down. (As artist and producer, he took two trophies for the album.) The victories signal a shift toward younger male stars, such as Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, who also won major trophies. Meanwhile, superstars such as Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and George Strait went home empty-handed.
“I’ve got to tell you, I wanted to win male vocalist of the year,” Chesney added, “but when they said Keith Urban’s name, I was the first person to stand up. I am so proud of Keith. He toured with us for two years, and I taught him everything I knew!” Chesney then cracked up and darted off the stage.
Coming backstage moments after his win, Urban could barely form sentences. While standing in front of the reporters, he practically whispered, “I’m really, really grateful. I’m speechless, really. It’s really amazing.” But as he drifted back to earth, he added, “I still feel like a newcomer. That’s why the nomination caught me off guard, too. It seems like that you get a half-a-dozen albums under your belt before something like that comes your way.”
Paisley and duet partner Alison Krauss won two awards — for musical event and music video — for “Whiskey Lullaby.”
“I knew as soon as I heard her vocal on there, and the way it turned out, that it was going to be a remarkable song,” Paisley said. He added that his label chose it as the third single, but he initially wanted to release it in the fall. He also humbly conceded that his label made the right decision.
Krauss had a simple explanation to why she accepted the invitation to sing with Paisley: “Well, Brad and I made out one time,” she deadpanned. After the laughter died down, she noted Paisley sent her the song, he loved bluegrass music and one of her Union Station band members had played with Paisley in the past.
“I thought it was beautiful when I heard the track and what they were doing with it,” Krauss said. “I was happy to be a part of it. When I heard the finished thing, I said, ‘This is beautiful.’ They did an amazing job.”
Martina McBride, who won her fourth CMA female vocalist trophy, stepped on the stage in the reporters area to find three extremely outrageously dressed men — think lime green hair and fur collars — waiting for her. She courageously marched up anyway and was presented with a stunning $100,000 necklace of sapphires and diamonds from Johnathon Arndt Gallery of Jewels, designed especially for the winner of the female vocalist trophy.
“Wow!” she shouted when they opened the jewelry box. “That is gorgeous!” Because she wasn’t already wearing a necklace, one of the men immediately helped her put it on, leaving her looking positively radiant and overwhelmed. “Does this come with a bodyguard?” she joked.
After spending a few minutes in front of the reporters, McBride was about to be whisked away but, surprisingly, wanted to stick around to answer more questions.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, really, the whole thing,” she said of her latest win. “It’s bigger than I ever dreamed. You think, ‘Oh, I hope I get to win female vocalist of the year one day,’ and I was frankly very happy with one time. So, this is just above and beyond, and to be in the same company as Reba McEntire … you know how I feel about that. She’s the best.”
Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” won two CMA awards — for best song and best single. McGraw shared the latter award with his co-producers Byron Gallimore and Darran Smith.
“I have to say, Byron’s been with me since the beginning of my career,” McGraw said. “He’s one of the only guys — the only guy — in town that believed in me early on. He stuck with me even when he thought I wasn’t any good.
“Darran has been my bandleader and my guitar player throughout my entire career. Fourteen years ago, the first time I met Darran, I picked him up at Stiffy’s nightclub on his 30th birthday. He got in the van with us pulling a trailer, and he’s been in the van with us pulling a trailer for my whole career. Now he’s producing our records with us, and he won his first CMA. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Smith joked, “We’re hoping to get a bus real soon. Get out of that van and trailer.”
Gretchen Wilson felt grateful for her Horizon award but also told the reporters about her daughter Grace’s fourth birthday party the previous day. (Grace’s actual birthday was Tuesday, and Wilson wished her a happy birthday during her acceptance speech.)
“I had a two-hour window yesterday to give my daughter a birthday party, but I think it’s the best one she’s had yet,” Wilson said. “I was able to invite 10 or 12 children over, and we had pony rides. We jumped on the trampoline for a while and had birthday cake and presents. It’s the first real birthday party she’s had with other children around, and I think she had a good time.”
Wilson also assumed Grace was still awake to see the victory.
“She’s a night owl,” Wilson said. “She stays up pretty late every night. She’s a little rock star, so I think she was still watching when I said happy birthday to her. I really haven’t had a chance yet to call home to see if she’s still up, but I will here in a minute.”
Brooks & Dunn won their 12th CMA award for vocal duo, and they also hosted the ceremony.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been here that everybody was on the show,” Kix Brooks said. “There weren’t any holes. Usually there’s always somebody out. You have a Tim or a Faith or a George or a Shania — somebody that’s not there. And everybody was there. I thought that was pretty amazing.”