NASHVILLE SKYLINE: CMA Awards Do Right With Glen Campbell Tribute

Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley Give Him Roses While He's Still Here

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Sometimes the CMA Awards shows get some things horribly wrong. No examples are necessary. You remember those glaring moments well. But sometimes the CMA Awards shows get things perfectly right.

This year, the CMAs got the Glen Campbell tribute pretty much right. As you probably know, the 75-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame member is now experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, with his symptoms already displaying. Even so, he has recorded a final studio album, Ghost on the Canvas, and has embarked on a final concert tour.

Campbell is one of country’s highest profile hitmakers, with such classic songs as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Southern Nights” and “Gentle on My Mind.” As he and his wife Kim looked on from the audience at the 45th CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Campbell appeared to enjoy and appreciate his tributes.

Besides being a stellar pop and country vocal stylist, Campbell has been one of the premier guitarists in rock, pop and country music. He played on Beach Boys hit sessions and toured as a member of the band and played on Frank Sinatra’s major recordings and countless others, as well. But he also came into country music with some epic hits. And those songs still stand up remarkably well.

With Campbell’s stellar songwriter Jimmy Webb sitting in on piano at the CMA Awards show, three of country music’s best and most expressive guitarists and singer-songwriters spelled out their musical salutes to Campbell onstage. Webb’s compositions “Galveston,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” got the appropriate deliveries they deserved.

Veteran guitarist and superb singer and stylist Vince Gill formed “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” into an epochal package of a saga. Keith Urban came to take “Wichita Lineman” into a rural epic tale. And Brad Paisley conveyed “Galveston” back into the plaintive anti-war song it had been from its beginning. For the first time since the Campbell tribute began, Glen’s eyes lighted up, he straightened up and flashed two thumbs up and began singing along with “Galveston.”

So, for me and for everyone else with similar sentiments, those were the high points of the 45th annual CMA Awards show.

Some other memorable moments from the show, presented purely at random:

“Look at that dress! My Lord!” — my wife, commenting on one of Carrie Underwood‘s more revealing garments.

Taylor Swift‘s frankly imperfect but extremely expressive acoustic performance of her song “Ours” impressed me quite a bit. Best song line of the night: Swift’s “people throw rocks at things that shine” from that song.

Whatever happened to country rock? Remember when appearances on the CMA Awards by the likes of the Eagles caused cardiac arrests by country diehards? That was heresy then. Now, a lot of people tell me that they really miss that.

Now, full-blown rap beats are accompanied by what appear to be nearly-nude Vegas strippers and that now seems to be routine. Why not try recruiting some real Daisy Dukes or Hooters employees or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to be country dancers instead of these gamy-looking strippers? How about getting some wholesome, old-fashioned, decent-dressing, cut-off jeans-wearing, down-home soft-core porn dancers? How are Chevrolet-driving mom and pop and grandpa and grandma reacting to all this at home? Doesn’t matter, the demographers say. The old-timers don’t count in their audience metrics.

Some random blogger comments observed about the CMAs:

“Here are your country stars of today: Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie and Miss Piggy.”

“Who was that guy onstage with Sugarland?” (It was pop singer Matt Nathanson, who wrote the pop song “Run” they were singing.)

“Why is this show all about guys in tight jeans and ball caps?”

“Good to see one of The Band Perry brothers wearing Seinfeld’s puffy shirt.”

“Where is Ronnie Dunn?”

“What would Cash and the Hag say about all this?”

“Where is Alan Jackson?”

“Never thought I would say that Kenny [Chesney] is the most country guy around these days, but …”