Carrie Underwood had never delivered an acceptance speech at a music awards show, but all of that changed Monday night (April 10) with two wins at the 2006 CMT Music Awards.
Keith Urban picked up the biggest award of the night — the video of the year honor for “Better Life.” Other winners at country music’s only fan-voted awards show included Billy Currington, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. Hank Williams Jr. accepted CMT’s Johnny Cash Visionary Award for his career achievements.
“This is my very first acceptance speech, so I made a list,” Underwood said in accepting the breakthrough video of the year. “First of all, thank you fans so much for voting for me again. You have no idea what it means to me.”
Underwood read an extensive list that included her record label, management company and publicists. She also singled out Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and Brett James, the songwriters responsible for her first No. 1 hit, “Jesus, Take the Wheel. The American Idol winner’s debut album, Some Hearts, was released in November and has already been certified triple platinum for shipments of 3 million copies.
Returning later in the show to accept the female video of the year award for “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” Underwood indicated she isn’t taking her early success for granted.
“I have the best fans in the universe,” she said. “Thank you so much, everybody who voted for me. You don’t know what it means to me to know I have that kind of support. All the other ladies in the category, I idolize you guys, so this is just amazing. Everybody in the country music industry has been so awesome to me. My mind is just blown by how nice everyone has been and how everyone’s opened their arms to me and just been so great.”
Fan voting continued through the awards show in the video of the year category. Urban accepted the trophy from Kenny Rogers.
“Thank you to everybody at home that voted for this,” Urban said. “Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it. Everybody that couldn’t make it here tonight, I want to dedicate this award to all you guys at home. I wish you were here in this party — because it is happening.”
In accepting the Johnny Cash Visionary Award from Gretchen Wilson and Kid Rock, Williams read several definitions of the word — visionary — including “marked by foresight,” “having the nature of fantasies or dreams,” “one who has visions given to speculative or impractical ideas” and “a dreamer.”
“You know what?” Williams said with a knowing grin. “I’m not any of those things.”
He made references to Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of the disaster at the Sago Mine in West Virginia, and his own accident in 1975 when he fell while climbing a mountain in Montana.
“Johnny and June [Carter Cash] were standing by the bed in Montana when I came around,” he said. “That’s why I went to see Randy McCloy over in West Virginia. I went to his birthday party yesterday, and a real country boy has really survived, and I’m so proud.”
Williams went on to cite Cash and other country music pioneers who came before him.
“My father changed and molded country music,” he said. “Johnny Cash changed and molded country music. Waylon Jennings changed and molded country music. I’m just a guy that’s another carpenter in a long line, and there’s a lot more new ones here tonight.”
In accepting the male video award for “Who You’d Be Today,” Chesney said he had a personal connection to the song and video.
“I think everybody has lost somebody before they were meant to, and Shaun Silva and I did this video to help us all remember those people,” he said. “I’ve got my own people that I did this song for.”
Rascal Flatts won in the group/duo category for their poignant video, “Skin (Sarabeth).”
“Thank you to Joe Henry and Doug Johnson for writing an amazing song,” lead vocalist Gary LeVox said. “We were so humbled to be the ones to have done it.”
Nettles collected the collaborative video for her work with Bon Jovi on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
“How cool is this?” she said. “I know Bon Jovi and the guys are in Japan. …. I accept this on their behalf. Obviously, it was a great experience. Thanks to all the fans who voted. … This is the most fun awards show that happens every year.”
Sophie Muller won the video director of the year honor for her work with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw on “Like We Never Loved at All.” Hill accepted the award on Muller’s behalf.
“Thank you, fans, very much,” Hill said. “She would say that in a British accent. … She’s a fantastic director, one of the greatest that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. She’s in London editing another video for me for a song called ’Stealing Kisses.’ It’s amazing. It was an honor to work with her, and I know she would … thank the fans and she would thank hair and makeup. There was a lot of hair. There was a lot of makeup. It was just very exciting to do it.”
Currington thanked video director Roger Pistole, his record label and the fans after winning the hottest video award for the steamy “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right.” Paisley and Parton were not present to receive their shared award for most inspiring video of the year for “When I Get Where I’m Going.”
Host Jeff Foxworthy began the evening by having the good humor, if not the expert moves, to attempt some fancy footwork alongside actress Lisa Rinna, best known these days for her work on TV’s Dancing With the Stars. This was a country show, after all, so the music was Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” and Foxworthy and Rinna were teaming up for an imaginary program titled Line Dancing With the Stars.
Adkins opened the show with his mega-hit, and the evening included live performances of other up-tempo songs, including Toby Keith’s “Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” Wilson’s “All Jacked Up and Sugarland’s “Down in Mississippi.” Other performances included Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most,” Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe,” Hill’s “The Lucky One” and Chesney’s “Beer in Mexico.” Urban closed the show by inviting a group of Gulf Coast residents still displaced by Hurricane Katrina to join him as background vocalists on “Better Life.”
The show also included Dwight Yoakam’s tribute to Country Music Hall of Fame member Buck Owens, who died suddenly last month following a performance at his club in Bakersfield, Calif.
“Buck Owens was the best friend that country music could have ever hoped for, especially in the early 1960s when country music had moved away from the traditional honky-tonk sounds of the ’40s and ’50s,” he said.
Yoakam read a statement Owens had run in 1965 as an advertisement in a fan publication. In it, Owens promised to stay true to country music. However, Yoakam acknowledged that shortly after the ad was published, Owens released a single of a Chuck Berry song.
“It was pointed out by a writer at the time that no matter what song it was, when Buck Owens sang it, it indeed became a country song,” Yoakam said. “Buck wasn’t always clearly understood, but he always meant what he said. Buck always kept his promises to me and the millions of country music fans who loved him. All of us will miss him dearly.”
The 2006 CMT Music Awards show was broadcast live from The Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville.